Search for “The Wackiest Ship in the Army”
re Double Eagle 3 Masted Schooner
110' LOA (85' of deck),
33 foot beam
Below is the “Teepee” in the 1940’s
My maternal grandfather Caleb Crandall built his dream ship in 1930. After retiring from a career in the US Navy, Caleb traveled to the Bahamas and built a truly amazing vessel for its time. The hull was made from only naturally curved timbers to reduce stress, and both the main mast (a single 75’ length) and the fore mast were stepped directly on deck. This technique was very unusual for the period. Caleb supported the masts with finger thick cables or guy wires that he “tuned” every day. As a result the main cabin area below was completely unobstructed by mast supports. To protect against the danger of reefs, the bottom was filled with a layer of cement. Caleb also filled the bow with marine batteries that were charged by the diesel engine for all the ships electrical needs. The finished double masted schooner was 85’ of teak deck (110’ overall), her beam was a wide 33’ and she drew 15’ and he christened her the “Teepee”.
Caleb had been divorced from my great grandmother and had remarried a younger woman named Tony. Together they sailed for a while then did some research work for the US Navy, while chartering now and again. Caleb’s goal was to sail the Tee pee to the Naval base at Long Beach Harbor, California to show his buddies his work, but he never made it. I’ve been told he died at sea one day while waiting for his coffee. His new wife and a crewmember sailed the Teepee back to the islands. Soon after, Tony remarried a Mexican national.
This is where the story gets strange. Some time later Tony was struck by lightning and died. The ship, by Mexican, law went directly to the new husband and out of my family. He sold it some short time later. Skip forward to the mid 1950’s. Bob Wian (founder of the Bob’s Big Boy hamburger franchise) was sitting at the bar of Hotel Guaymas on the beach in Guaymas, Mexico. Bob was having shooters of Double Eagle scotch, or so the story goes. Looking up he saw a dilapidated two masted schooner anchored in the bay as a signpost for the Hotel. It was, as fate would have it, none other than my grandfather’s ship, the Teepee. Even given its sorry state he fell in love with her lines, purchased her from the Hotel, and brought her up to his homeport in Newport Beach, California. There he completely restored her and renamed her the Double Eagle. She became the flagship of his fishing fleet, and later his pleasure craft. His good friend Bob Sloan, a well-known skipper in the area, sailed her for him. Wian had friends in Hollywood, and when the film “The Wackiest Ship in the Army” * (1961 starring Jack Lemmon) was a success, Bob Wian rented the Double Eagle out to his friends in Hollywood to make the TV series of the same name (1965 starring Jack Warden and Gary Collins) where she appeared in every episode.
The Double Eagle’s skipper Bob Sloan also fell in love with the ship, so he and his wife Monica built their own schooner after her lines. She is beautiful 70’ gaff rigged schooner named the Spike Africa, and is well known on the west coast.
Now the story gets hazy. The Wian’s sold or gave the Double Eagle to a man named Kenny Thorell and there I have lost the trail. Some rumors say the Double Eagle was involved later in smuggling, some say she has been seen in the Bahamas. I had one fellow say she was for sale in San Diego around 1990.
I’m in my mid 40’s and have been trying to locate my grandfather’s schooner for about 20 years. I was named after my grandfather, and I suppose some of his inventiveness rubbed off on me. I make my living as a toy inventor. My wife and I co-invented the toy “Furby” that was the big craze in ’98 and ’99. We’re still inventing toys, but looking to possibly retire on a ship of our own someday. It is too much to hope for that I’ll find my grandfather’s schooner, but it’s a great hunt and a wonderful dream
Thanks for spending the time to read all this. If you have news or clues (or corrections!) please email me at this address. I promise to let everyone know how it all turns out.
*The ship used in the film was the schooner “Fiesta” and shot in Hawaii.
Above is the renamed “Double Eagle” in the 1960’s
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