Newport Harbor has seen its share of large yachts through the years.
There was the Motor Ship Stranger at 230 feet; the Goodwill at 161
feet, the Pioneer at 172 feet; and the Steam Yacht Stranger at 175 feet.
However, the largest yacht to ever enter Newport Harbor is the Motor
Yacht Vida, at 234 feet.
This large clipper-bowed diesel yacht considered Newport Harbor her
home port from 1939 to 1942. Vida had a beam of 34 feet and a draft of 12
feet. She was powered with two Winton diesel engines, having 422 brake
horsepower each. With this power, she could cruise at 16 knots.
Cambrioas, her original name, was designed by Cox and Stevens of New
York and built by Pusey and Jones of Wilmington, Del. in 1930. When Earle F. Halliburton, a member of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, acquired the
yacht, her name was changed to Vida, the name of his daughter. Vida was
registered in Honduras where Halliburton had extensive oil and cattle
Vida was usually moored at the old county dock near the Arches.
However, many times she anchored in the Lido Turning Basin. The yacht’s
boats were lowered and a shore boat service was established to Newport
Harbor Yacht Club.
Vida was a very “active” yacht. Cruises were made to Alaska, Mexico
and Honduras, as well as weekend trips to Catalina. She was fitted with a
Gyro Stabilizer System, which, when “turned on,” provided a smooth ride
for the guests.
In early 1942, Vida was requisitioned by the Navy. However, before
turning the yacht over to the Navy, Halliburton had the ship’s saluting
cannon removed. This was donated to the Newport Harbor Yacht Club where
it stands today adjacent to the flag pole and is used on ceremonial
After an extensive conversion to a war ship, Vida was commissioned as
the USS Crystal (PY-25) on Feb. 21, 1942. After a training and shake down
period in the San Pedro area, Crystal reported for duty with the Hawaiian
sea frontier in May 1942.
From May 1, 1942 to Nov. 8, 1945, Crystal led an active naval life.
She was based at Midway Island where she operated with destroyers on
anti-submarine patrol. Crystal was also sent to the Western Pacific as a
weather station ship.
On Nov. 17, 1945, she was sent back to San Francisco. The USS Crystal
was decommissioned from naval service on March 6, 1946, and offered to
Halliburton, who decided against accepting his yacht due to the high cost
of putting her back into “yacht condition.”
Crystal was acquired by other people who used her as a freighter and
passenger vessel in Central and South America.
EDITOR’S NOTE: John Blaich is a Corona del Mar resident and volunteer
at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum. About once a month, he writes
histories of interesting boats that graced Newport Harbor.