USS Sylph (PY-5)

For other ships of the same name, see USS Sylph.
Norfolk Naval Shipyard, circa late 1905
Name: USS Sylph
Builder: Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding and Engine Works
Yard number: 295
Completed: 1898
Acquired: June 1898
Commissioned: 18 Aug 1898
Decommissioned: 27 Apr 1929
Fate: Sold privately, fate unknown
General characteristics
Type: Steam yacht
Displacement: 152 tons
Length: 123 ft 8 in
Beam: 20 ft
Draft: 7 ft 6 in
Speed: 15 knots

USS Sylph (PY-5) was a steam yacht that served as a Presidential yacht from the late 19th century through to the early 1920s. A converted yacht, she was purchased in June 1898 from her builder, the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding and Engine Works, of Chester, Pennsylvania, and commissioned on 18 August 1898 at the Norfolk Navy Yard. She was the third U.S. Navy ship to bear the name.

Service history

Soon after commissioning, Sylph was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard, where she served as a yacht for the President and other high officials. President McKinley was the first President to use her. In 1902, she began alternating with first Dolphin then Mayflower as the President's yacht, and she also served the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the same manner. President Theodore Roosevelt frequently cruised in Sylph to his summer place at Oyster Bay, New York, and President William Howard Taft used her for excursions off the New England coast during the summers of his term.

More often, Sylph cruised up and down the Potomac River, near Washington, D.C.. She went on sightseeing excursions in Chesapeake Bay and to George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, Virginia, on the Potomac just below Washington. Among her famous passengers, the yacht numbered the King of Belgium and the Crown Prince of Sweden.

Woodrow Wilson was the last President to use Sylph as the presidential yacht. After his term of office, she operated from the Washington Navy Yard for the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Navy and often marked pleasure cruises to Mount Vernon with patients of the Naval Hospital embarked. On 24 January 1921, she was called upon to carry the body of the late minister of Sweden down the Potomac and through the over Chesapeake Bay to Hampton Roads.

Sylph continued in special service at Washington throughout her career. On 17 July 1921, she received the alphanumeric designation, PY-5. She continued to cross the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers until 19 November 1928, when she moored at the Washington Navy Yard to remain for the rest of her career.

Decommission and sale

On 2 April 1929, Sylph was taken in tow to Norfolk, Virginia. On the 27th, she was decommissioned there, and her name was struck from the Navy list two days later. On 26 November 1929, her hulk was sold to Mr. Frank B. Clair of Brooklyn, New York.

Fishing career

Later, the Sylph served as a deep sea fishing vessel, open to the public and operating out of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. She later sank in a storm during a fishing voyage.


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