Keepers of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential yacht, which is berthed at Jack London Square, are preparing for the 2013 Pickin' on the Potomac Bluegrass program. The Oct. 18 event will feature banjo master Bill Evans.
Dockside tours of the refurbished USS Potomac begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the concert at 7:30. It all takes place at 540 Water St., in Jack London Square. Tickets are $25 per person.
Proceeds will go to support children's educational programs presented by the Potomac Association, which offers tours and helps maintain the USS Potomac.
"Our association has developed educational curriculum about the ship for area schools, and we do outreach to schools throughout the Bay Area," said Marti Burchell, the association's executive director. "Many of our volunteers are individuals who have served in the armed forces, whether it by the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or Army. We have a board of governors, administrative volunteers, a ship's maintenance crew, as well as our trained history docents."
Since the yacht opened to the public in 1995, a quarter of a million people have visited and sailed aboard the USS Potomac, which underwent a 12-year, $5 million restoration as a memorial to the 32nd president who led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II.
The Potomac is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also is a city of Oakland landmark.
What became know as the "Floating White House" was originally commissioned the USCG Cutter Electra in 1934. Two years later, it was renamed for the river that flows through the nation's capital. At that time, the vessel was specially outfitted to accommodate Roosevelt, who had limited mobility because of a bout with polio.
During his presidency, FDR frequently relaxed on aboard the yacht, entertaining guests and dignitaries, most notably Britain's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
After the president's death in 1945, the yacht was sold to a series of owners, including, at one point, Elvis Presley.
By the early 1980s, it had ended up in San Francisco Bay, at Treasure Island, and was about to be sold for scrap before being rescued by a group of volunteers who formed a nonprofit group to raise rehabilitation funds. The Port of Oakland agreed to have the vessel berthed next to the ferry dock.
Currently, the Potomac is open for dockside tours on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. History cruises on San Francisco Bay take place May through November, and it is possible to charter the ship for special parties and events, such as weddings and anniversaries.
The Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and from noon to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. I especially recommend the award-winning video about the Potomac's history, its hard times and resurrection. The center also has books and other videos about the life and times of FDR, as well as historical photographs from the yacht's heyday.
The Potomac Bluegrass Series concludes with a performance on Nov. 21 by the Kathy Kallick Band.