Doug Hazlitt, owner of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards in Hector and Hazlitt's Red Cat Cellars in Naples, is the proud owner of a 63-foot Alden schooner built for the late Gen. George S. Patton, now moored in Watkins Glen.
According to the Martha's Vineyard Gazette, the "When and If" was built in 1939 in Wiscasset, Maine for Patton, a U.S. Army colonel at that time. "She is a fine boat," says Nat Benjamin, co-owner of the Gannon and Benjamin boatyard in Vineyard Haven, Mass. which did a restoration after the When and If was almost destroyed in a storm. "She was built to sail around the world and she is still capable of doing it."
Ross Gannon told the story of how she got her name at her 1994 re-launching ceremony, saying "She was launched . . . during the buildup of World War II. He (the general) said he expected to use it when and if he returned from war." Revered newsman Walter Cronkite presided at that ceremony. Speaking of the quality of the schooner Cronkite added, "I had the privilege of knowing General Patton as a correspondent during World War Two. Everything had to be perfection with Patton. That's what made him the great general he was."
Unlike Gen. MacArthur, Patton never returned. After playing his part in the campaign across France and Germany and the liberation of Europe, he died following an automobile accident in France in 1945. His widow, children and grandchildren sailed frequently, though. In 1970, the family donated it to the Landmark School north of Boston, to teach sailing for learning disabled children.
After its near destruction and restoration, the schooner was bought by Candace and Paul Ruitenberg in 2007 for $650,000. They mostly sailed around Martha's Vineyard in the summer and in the Caribbean in the winter, and allowed the vessel to be used to raise money for nonprofit causes on the island. They especially loved to take Island children out for sails.
The schooner was appraised at $680,000 in 2010, but the results of the Ruitenberg's divorce and bankruptcy put the When and If in Hazlitt's reach. "I never thought I'd be able to afford a yacht as famous as the When and If."
Hazlitt is the previous owner of the Malabar X, another designed by the famous New England marine architect, John Alden. He sailed her as a day cruiser on Seneca Lake, won races and regattas along the east coast, and cruised in the Caribbean. Hazlitt sold Malabar X in 2009 to an owner in Barcelona, Spain, and she now sails the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. He describes the Malibar as "more built for racing, but the When and If is more for cruising." She is designed to carry 17 guests and three crew.
While Hazlitt declines to name a specific sum paid for the When and If, saying only it was "inexpensive, the needed repairs were not." It has spent months at Cayuga Wooden Boatworks at Beacon Bay Marina on Cayuga Lake being replanked and caulked by in Dennis Montgomery and a team of five men under a temporary structure. It only returned to the water recently, and arrived in Watkins Glen on Saturday.
"It's in better shape now than its been in 40 years," says Hazlitt who plans to complete the restoration, re-rig, and sail it on Seneca before next summer. But ultimately, the When and If is destined for other waters. While he loves Seneca Lake, Hazlitt plans to take the masts back down, motor to Lake Ontario, re-rig again, then sail down the St. Lawrence, and charter the boat in Nova Scotia and Maine, with the occasional winter cruise to the Caribbean.