TODAY   |  May 02, 2013

Inside JFK’s yacht, restored to former glory

NBC’s Kerry Sanders takes a tour of the newly restored Honey Fitz, once a symbol of Camelot as it cruised the waters of the Potomac, Palm Beach, and Hyannis with JFK and Jackie Kennedy lounging on the deck.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now a major makeover for the presidential yacht made famous by john f. kennedy . kerry sanders in west palm beach , florida. and kerry , we were going to bring you this story a little later on. we've seen a storm moving in. time is of the essence . kerry , take it away.

>> well, i'm onboard, this is arguably one of the most famous wooden ships in america. the passenger onboard here, well, he made these sunglasses iconic. i don't need the sunglasses this morning. as i step out here, take a look at this boat. it has fallen into disrepair. but after two years of loving attention, behold the beauty.

>> all right, mark, stern to starbird.

>> it's actually an honor. like being onboard a piece of art history .

>> it was a symbol of camelot . crews in the waters along the potomac, palm beach , and hyannis. many times with jfk and the first lady lounging on the open back deck.

>> what i've learned about jfk is his love of the sea and his love of family and privacy and the time he spent on this boat must have been very special to him and his family.

>> the 93-foot wooden ship was originally built in 1931 as a luxury cruiser. she was later pressed into service for world war ii as a coast guard patrol boat . then became the presidential yacht for harry truman and served under five presidents. truman, eisenhower, kennedy , johnson, and nixon. but her most famous era was as the pleasure vessel for president kennedy and his family.

>> when you think of jfk and the presidency, a lot of the images are of jfk on this yacht with jackie and john jr. and caroline and their cousins.

>> jfk named the yacht after his paternal grandfather, john francis fitzgerald whomever just called honey fitz .

>> if the walls could speak, could you imagine? can you imagine the meetings that have gone on?

>> t honey fitz was host to heads of state and kennedy family trips.

>> they are the iconic images of a generation. moments our nation shared together. now that the majestic honey fitz is back, a symbol of camelot endures. a texas oil executive bought the honey fitz in 1998 for $5.9 million. that oil executive's father was a classmate of kennedy 's during the future president. the honey fitz was a far cry from camelot when it arrived. it was a two-year labor of love.

>> mechanically, it is as close to original as possible.

>> one difference in the restoration, the aft was closed the way nixon had it. inside, just one state room . but most of the interior was restored as it was during camelot . jfk 's desk and pictures of the kennedies aboard their beloved ship. and now it'll be used to host charity events.

>> it's a national treasure and thankfully it's alive and well today.

>> were jfk alive and well today, what would he think of this?

>> i think he'd love it. he'd probably say toss the lines off and let's go for a ride.

>> so the honey fitz is going to begin a charity tour going up the coast. it's going to be used to raise money for children affairs as well as for veterans. and as i sit here at kennedy 's desk, let me throw it back to you guys at the studio.

>> well done.

>> yeah, kerry , thank you.