During the 85 years she’s been afloat, Conquest has been owned by a flapper whose ghost is now said to haunt a Washington hotel, participated in a world war, hosted First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, made a Playboy Playmate of the Month look reasonably nautical, housed a seasick parrot, and won the Newport Harbor Yacht Club Opening Day Commodore’s Award and Werner Trophy. Conquest has seen a lot, but In 1929, Donald L. Rheem, an industrialist and yachtsman from Orinda, CA ordered this one-of-a-kind tri-cabin cruiser from the Stephens Brothers shipbuilders in Stockton, CA. Originally named the Colonel Rheem, delivery of Stephens Brothers hull #572 was received in August of 1929. Original details such as etched Art Nouveau mirrors, solid brass portholes, fittings and stanchions, and gleaming Burmese teak can still be seen throughout the boat. Donald Rheem sold the Colonel Rheem to the president of the Standard Oil Company of California in the early 1930’s, and the boat was renamed The Colonel. However, Donald’s wife, Alice Rheem, later bought the boat back in the mid ‘30’s. Alice was known to be pretty wild. Described by relatives as a flapper and a socialite, Alice partied in San Francisco, cruised The Colonel around the Bay Area, and generally behaved badly until her husband decided it was time for In 1938, in an attempt to get his wife under control, Donald Rheem bought a mansion on a tranquil cove in the San Juan Islands, and shipped Alice – and The Colonel — off to live there. Alice’s new home, the Moran Mansion (now part of the Rosario Resort and Spa), was purchased from Seattle mayor and shipbuilder Robert Moran and is located on beautiful Orcas Island in Washington State. Alice Rheem passed away while living on Orcas Island, and the hotel’s website says she still haunts certain rooms in the Rosario Resort and Spa today.
The Colonel returned to the Bay Area.
Like many yachts of this vintage, the boat was commandeered by the Navy when the United States entered World War II. The Navy primarily used her as a VIP vessel for inspecting the fleet. During this time she hosted a number of dignitaries, including First Lady Eleanor After the war, the Navy sold the vessel to a private owner. Several owners from Northern and Southern California have since enjoyed using and maintaining the boat. Her name has changed over time (other names included Ardbaugh and Royal Oak), but the last few owners have kept the name Conquest. Even when Conquest was used as the setting for a Playboy centerfold shoot featuring Baywatch’s Erika Eleniak in 1989, the boat’s dignity and grace prevailed through The current owners, Jim and Kathie Wolcott, found Conquest at the San Rafael Marina, where she was sitting for sale in a covered berth. They took ownership about a week later, in January 2005, and after a few repairs had Conquest brought down to her current home at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. Conquest was in good condition, but the Wolcotts still found enough repairs and improvements to keep them entertained for several years. Autopilot, marine electronics, VacuFlush heads, hot water and refrigeration may not be authentic to the 1920’s, but they definitely make for a more enjoyable boating experience. The throaty 1956 Chrysler hemi engines required no change, and keep Conquest cutting through the water without difficulty. Although she may look like a museum piece, Conquest has become the perfect family boat. The Wolcotts, their two sons, and their small (and occasionally seasick) parrot cruise Conquest whenever possible. During the summer, Conquest can regularly be found at Moonstone Cove in Catalina, usually with a stand-up paddleboard tied to the swim step and her crew of spear fishers, hikers and scuba divers getting ready to enjoy the evening festivities. Alice Rheem would be pleased.