ELLSWORTH, Maine — Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News host and television personality, has donated his 68-foot sailboat to the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.
“Not a sailboat, the sailboat,” Rivera said about Voyager in a phone interview from his office at Fox News in New York City.
The aluminum ketch, which Rivera considers almost a member of his family, will be used to train MMA students to operate and maintain small vessels, said Jennifer DeJoy, director of college relations.
Rivera sailed the boat to Maine this month and spent the night at MMA on Tuesday, where the school hosted a reception for him and his family.
Rivera said parting with the Voyager was a decision he went back and forth on three or four times. He excitedly recalled sailing with his family to Tonga, near the international dateline on Dec. 31, 1999, where they were among the first people to experience the new millennium. He also sailed the Voyager up the Amazon River, a trip that was featured on the Travel Channel.
A demanding work life has made it difficult for Rivera to use the boat, so he decided to give it up.
“It was like selling one of my family, so I couldn’t do that. So I wanted to find an appropriate beneficiary,” he said. A friend suggested the Maine Maritime Academy, an idea that Rivera liked because he had spent a fair amount of time sailing the boat in Maine.
“I met so many of the cadets and the staff there,” he said about his trip to MMA. “They were so eager and enthusiastic and such good sailors. It was a bittersweet moment but it just feels like the right thing.”
MMA student Hollister Poole said, “We’re hoping to do Newport to Bermuda [distance sailing race] on the boat this summer.
“Geraldo made a great donation to a great school,” she added.
Rivera said he was particularly encouraged by MMA’s success with getting graduates placed in jobs.
“We are honored that Geraldo Rivera felt that Maine Maritime Academy would be a good home for Voyager, and that our students can provide the care and use the boat deserves,” DeJoy said.
The sailboat will be used to help train students enrolled in MMA’s vessel operations technology program and small vessel operations program, said assistant professor Rick Miller. The students will earn sea hours and training time that they need to receive a limited Coast Guard license and to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. When these students graduate, they will be able to operate vessels such as tug boats and boats that supply wind power and oil rigs, said Miller. He added that some students have already been out on the Voyager for a sailing elective.
The Maine Maritime Academy has 60 training vessels, according to the school’s website. Another of MMA’s well-known boats is the schooner Bowdoin, which takes cadets on a months-long training voyage to the Arctic.
Voyager was designed by the naval architect and yacht brokerage firm of Sparkman and Stephens and built in 1972 for Thomas Watson Jr., the former president of IBM, Rivera said. Watson spent part of the year in North Haven where his family had a compound, a fact that also pleased Rivera because he feels the boat has come full circle.
“It was just one of those things where you feel karma,” he said.