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Vega I (S.P. 734)


The Navy retained the name carried by this vessel at the time of her acquisition. 


(S.P. 734: tonnage 276 (gross); length 175'0"; beam 20'4"; draft 7'9" (mean); speed 15 knots; complement 69; armament 1 3-inch, 1 6-pounder, 2 machine guns)

Lyndonia, a steel-hulled, steam yacht designed by Charles L. Seabury and built in 1907 at Morris Heights, N.J., by the Gas Engine & Power Co. & the Charles L. Seabury Co., was acquired by the Navy from the noted Philadelphia publisher Cyrus H. K. Curtis on 5 September 1917. Given the identification number S.P. 734 and converted for Navy use at the Philadlephia Navy Yard, the former yacht was placed in commission there on 4 December 1917, Lt. Cmdr. John J. McCracken in command.

Lyndonia departed Philadelphia on 22 December 1917 bound for Bermuda in company with Venetia (S.P. 431) and tugs Gypsum Queen (Id.No. 430) and Montauk (Id.No. 1213). At 10:20  a.m. the following day, Lyndonia blew two tubes in her forward boiler; at 6:00 p.m.  all tubes in the after boiler blew as well. As the ship slowly lost steam, she signalled Venetia of her plight. Accordingly, at 6:20 p.m., Montauk passed a hawser to Lyndonia and took her in tow. On Christmas Day, while en route to the Virginia capes, the remaining boiler tubes blew, leaving the ship without any steam whatever.

As if losing steam were not enough, 10 minutes later, the hawser parted, leaving Lyndonia adrift for nearly 20 minutes before she was again taken in tow. Subsequently,  Bellows (Id.No. 323) towed Lyndonia to the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., where the yacht underwent repairs in dry dock.

Lyndonia got underway on 4 February 1918 for New London, Conn., and arrived off the Delaware capes the following day, only to encounter heavy ice floes that blocked further passage. She accordingly returned to Norfolk and remained there into the spring, serving as dispatch and mail boat in the Chesapeake Bay. During that tour of duty, on 20 February 1918, the ship was renamed Vega.

On 22 April 1918 Vega sailed for Philadelphia. Arriving there the following day, she was attached to the Fourth Naval District and based at Cold Spring Inlet, near Cape May, N.J., for patrols off the New Jersey coast.

On 25 June 1918, Vega sighted a ship resembling a surfaced submarine at long range. Going to general quarters, Vega altered course to close the unidentified craft and flashed recognition signals and challenges in Morse code. The ship would not respond, however, and Vega opened fire with her 6-pounder forward -- firing six quick shots before the target hove to. Upon closer investigation, the unidentified vessel turned out to be Skandeborg, a Danish merchantman bound from Cuba to New York with a general cargo of mostly sugar. No member of the Danish ship's crew knew Morse code, hence her seeming reluctance to reply to Vega's challenges.

The warship continued her operations out of Cold Spring Inlet into the fall of 1918. During that period, she also undertook local escort duties.

On 28 October 1918, following repairs at the New York Navy Yard, Vega sailed south to Annapolis, Md., where she arrived three days later to commence duties as a training ship for midshipmen at the Naval Academy. She remained in the Annapolis vicinity from 1 November to 4 December before she got underway for Pensacola, Fla., on 5 December.

Reaching Pensacola three days before Christmas of 1918, Vega conducted local operations out of Pensacola until 22 March 1919, when she got underway for Philadelphia. The yacht remained at the Philadelphia Navy Yard through the spring and summer months, and was decommissioned on Friday, 13 September 1919. She was subsequently sold to Charles H. Crocker, of San Francisco, Calif., on 20 December 1921.

Robert J. Cressman

Updated, 6 April 2022

Published: Wed Apr 06 13:05:06 EDT 2022