View Full Version : Anyone seen articles on "Groote Beer" Dutch sailboat?

02-16-2002, 10:46 PM
I have family in Holland busy refurbishing "Groote Beer", an old Dutch Botter, a 67 foot sailboat built during World War 2. They are compiling a history of this intricately carved boat which spent it's time until recently in the USA, but was originally commissioned by Hitler's aid, Herman Goering. They have heard rumors of articles in WoodenBoat in 1978, and in Nautical Quarterly in 1979 or 1980. Can anyone help? Thanks! :rolleyes:

Bob Cleek
02-17-2002, 03:35 AM
So Groote Beer is back in Holland! I've wondered what happened to her over the years. She used to be here on SF Bay and was active in the Master Mariner's races in the 70's. Then she went up to Washington, I think. She was quite a boat. Odd for these parts, being a botter. God! She had some incredible carving on her below. She's been photo'd in books like "Down Below" by Matthew Walker and a few other "boat porn" coffee table books. Good to hear she's getting a refit. I've heard the Hermann Goering story, too. Supposedly, he commissioned the boat, but it was never finished during the war... which happened to coincide with Herr Goering's lifetime. Story was the builders kept embellishing her, taking their time, so that they'd stay employed. However, I wonder if the story is really true. I've heard a lot of stories like that about boats which, in the end, proved apochryphal. Actually, having been in Holland and examined a few fine yachts (nobody does YACHT like the Dutch!), I would say Groote Beer's fine accommodation finish is not completely unheard of. Lots of fine joinerwork and carving on the old Dutch yachts. Keep us posted on her progress!

J. Dillon
02-17-2002, 10:53 AM
I remember that boat. She was on the east coast US in the late 80's early 90's. My partner and I were given the opportunity to deviler her down to the Virgins for a extensive refit. We boarded her in Marmanneck NY where she was anchored out for a look see. The thing I remember the most was how unseaworthy she appeared even for Long Island sound. The steering was all fouled up and hard to turn the wheel. Upon ispection a lot of her teminals points involved ended in a sheet of ply wood epoxied to the inside of her planking. Her main cabin was massive and impressive with fine joinery but the hull, rigging, sails and guts were a mess . A lot of the engine including the shaft were scartered about the hold. The then owner had extra pumps lashed to the deck with bungee cord.

We decided not to touch her risking life, limb and license.

About a year later I spied her across from the Farley state marina Atlantic city NJ where we docked while on another delivery. I asked the dock attendent about her and he said" Yea, she sent out a Mayday and was towened in here by the USCG a while ago. She sank at the dock with a cargo of kiddy porn aboard. The owner got away but there were all kinds of leins on her."

Didn't see her again for a while until about 6 or 7 years ago when I spotted her in Cove Marina Norwalk Ct where some one was patching her up do it your self style.

Sounds like somebody did a good job if she indeed make it back to Holland again. There must be some stories associated with that boat.


03-07-2002, 11:14 PM
Some years ago I saw an article in Northwest Yachting, mainly recounting her history on the west coast. I don't know how well they keep records, but you should give them a shout. There was interesting information in the article about the boat participating in the Transpac while she was owned by the Johnson family (of Windward Passage fame.) More remarkably, she sailed back on her own bottom. Sailing a flat-bottomed boat with leeboards downwind to Hawaii was brave and foolish, but sailing it upwind from Hawaii is still more remarkable.

Art Read
03-08-2002, 02:07 AM
I believe the novel, "The Shipping News" has a "cameo" appearance by her. Perhaps with a fictionalized name?

03-08-2002, 06:35 PM
Yep, the Groote Beer sailed in the Transpac in 1947, the first one after WWII. She got stuck in the calms among the Channel Islands for several days, and IIRC came in last. Her crew got a wonderful reception when she finally arrived. In Honolulu everyone was really ready for a party, and they sure put on a doosy for the Transpac crews.
I'm sorry to hear that the old botter has fallen on hard times. We all inspected her with great curiosity and admiration for the joinerwork and carvings. I suppose inevitably, we called her "Root Beer."

A. Mason
03-10-2002, 08:59 PM
I have extensive information regarding "Groote Beer" in the early to mid-1950s, when she was owned by Charles Donnelly. This information includes a scrapbook of 8x10 B&W photos; newspaper clippings; and magazine articles, both American and English. The English material includes her lines, profile, and arrangement, though I believe the arrangement has a major error - the fireplace is missing. The photos include the fireplace both before and after the delft tiles were installed.
Magazine articles include "The Rudder," "Esquire," "Yachting World," and "Motor Boating."

Jack van Ommen
11-18-2009, 01:59 PM
The boat you saw was not the "Groote Beer" because she was then on the West Coast

11-18-2009, 02:08 PM
I have the Nautical Quarterly article on her. In it, it states that concentration camp craftsman carved her interior and that they took their time doing so to avoid being sent back to the camps.. I have it somewhere, I'll see if I can find it and post it.

wizbang 13
11-18-2009, 02:59 PM
Shipping News was also a movie. Think the boat was in it. I saw her near Paulsbo 10 years ago.

Peerie Maa
11-18-2009, 02:59 PM
This thread was about her:

Lew Barrett
11-18-2009, 04:56 PM
Good memory, Nick. Here are the two older threads (picked out directly) as well:



The second link is not directly focused on the GB, but it sneaks in bcause of the Goering mythology.

Jay Greer
11-18-2009, 08:05 PM
I work skippered the Groote Beer one summer in the early seventies in Newport Beach CA The owner was a woman who wanted to sail the boat to Tahiti. I talked her out of that Idea. It was truly a magnificent example of wood working skill.

11-21-2009, 09:53 PM
What does the name mean? Great Bear?

boater bill
05-16-2010, 11:16 PM
Thanks for all the history. I was on the crew that delivered her from Sausalito to Seattle for Stewart Anderson. Very unique vessel and we had an interesting trip.

01-20-2011, 07:26 PM
What does the name mean? Great Bear?

It means great bear, but it's also the name of the constellation known in the US as Big Dipper

Mililani Mike
02-21-2013, 10:18 PM
My sister crewed this boat from Honolulu to Portland with her husband John and their 18 month old daughter Heather in 1958.
The skipper was her cousin Don Johnson who was hired by the owner Bob Johnson to take the boat back to the West Coast after Bob Johnson sailed the boat to Honolulu in the Trans Pac. The boat was given to the Sea Scouts to use as a training vessel. The trip took 36 days. I have a copy of newspaper pictures and a letter from my sister I will send you if you are still interested. How is the refurbishing going?

Tom Jackson
02-25-2013, 08:03 AM
See Currents, WoodenBoat Nos. 175 and also Jack Van Ommen's article on botters in WB No. 228. See also Van Ommen's website, http://www.cometosea.us/?page_id=1796. GROOTE BEER is a wonderful boat, and I crossed paths with it several times, when sailing on Lake Washington, and later when it was a liveaboard in Warrenton, Oregon. There are a lot of myths about it, picked up and perpetuated by Annie Proulx in The Shipping News, but Jack has done a lot of good work to debunk the misinformation.