The fascination with rumor has to do with a given tale’s mysterious origins, its frequent disregard for scrupulousness and a general, albeit sometimes remote, relationship to plausibility.
Rumors have a wild, unbridled, lawless nature and their validity is nearly always completely up for grabs.
Last Friday, a 76-foot classic motor yacht from the 1920s, said to have once been owned by the notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone, sat alone wistfully leaning on The BoatYard’s cement in Marina del Rey awaiting her destruction.
It was the last stop for Duchess III, whose life was shrouded in rumor for so long.
It will never be known for certain whether this luxury yacht was indeed one of Capone’s many extravagances, since almost everything Capone did could be argued away as rumor.
The reasons are well documented as to why the bootlegging kingpin couldn’t be indicted while he was ruling an underworld — his name never appeared on any substantial documentation and he was seldom anywhere near any of the infamous crime scenes.
The Capone connection to the boat comes from a purported connection to a renowned gangster named Dutch Schultz, who is thought to have sold it to Capone in Florida in the late ’20s after Capone had been run out of Chicago.
The vessel is reported to have been a creation of respected boat builder/designer Ed Monk, who was responsible for many classic wooden designs through the 20th century.
Duchess III eventually found her way to the West Coast and spent her last years in the Ventura area.
Owners had lofty ideas about making the boat an attraction and/or business such as a bed-and-breakfast or a dinner theater, but the economic realities of operating and maintaining a vessel that size soon thwarted any chance of the 76-foot classic ever finding a lasting home.
“I bought it on October 1st of 2005,” said final owner and Las Vegas resident Saundra Reed. “I never saw it until January 30th. As I walked down the dock that day I was told that we were going to be evicted.”
Since the boat had no engines and was not considered seaworthy, Reed was faced with the daunting reality of trying to find a place for an enormous dilapidated wooden boat that couldn’t move under its own steam.
She devoted all her time to trying to solve the problem, but was unsuccessful in finding a home for the boat and, sadly, she also learned that simply selling or donating the boat would prove to be impossible.
Reed e-mailed the mayor of Las Vegas, the Navy and people in the movie industry, and she even offered the boat to Heidi Fleiss, but nothing panned out.
There was interest from some of the people she contacted, but financing the logistics would always kill the deal.
“It would have cost $50,000 to truck it Las Vegas,” said Reed. “And it would have cost $50,000 to equip the boat with engines to keep it in Southern California.”
Reed eventually had to locate a yard that could salvage the boat for a rate she could afford and the vessel ended up in Marina del Rey at The BoatYard.
“Regardless of Al Capone,” Reed said of the Duchess’s importance, “she’s 80 years old. It was a medical ship, it shuttled prisoners to Devil’s Island, it was a mail ship. That girl was around longer than I will be ñ and now I guess she’s dead.
“It’s a shame.”