1934 – The Cruise of the Albatross

Marine News – The Albatross, an auxiliary schooner owned by Lester Dent ran aground Sunday morning in the storm which hit last Saturday. The boat was hauled out at the repair yards of the East Coast Ship and Yacht corporation in Noank.  The ship was one of the many victims of Hurricane #7 of 1934.
Source: The Day (New London, Connecticut) Saturday, September 15, 1934, page 10

1934 Atlantic Hurricane #7 track

The first voyage of the Albatross under the ownership of Lester Dent began on Monday, October 22, 1934. The ship set sail from New York head to Miami, Florida. The crew consisted of Captain Rentz and able seaman Michael Webber. Martin Baker, Dent’s new secretary was also aboard.
Source: The Morning News, Friday, October 26, 1934

The Albatross

Trouble started almost from the first. An unnamed ship appeared a scant two days later, on Wednesday, October 24, 1934. The steamer B. F. Macomber rescued three men some ten miles off the Delaware Breakers.

B. F. Macomber

The unknown vessel had become disabled on Tuesday morning due to engine failure. The men had hoisted a distress signal which was sighted and answered by the steamer B. F. Macomber some ten miles off the Delaware Breakers in rough seas. Captain Toulson of the B. F. Macomber said the men required some first aid due to their exposure to the rough seas. The Albatross was towed into the breakwater at Lewes, Delaware and anchored. The men aboard the distressed boat did not identify themselves. The only identification seen on the craft was the custom house number, K-9420 on the stern.
Source: The News Journal, Wednesday, October 24, 1934

The Albatross appeared in a follow-up article on Thursday, October 25, 1934. The three men had come ashore on Wednesday afternoon to seek repairs to a broken exhaust pipe on the yacht. The article noted that Captain Rentz had participated in the New London to Bermuda yacht race in June. He came in third place. Captain Rentz noted that after his engine failed, he had reefed his sails due to the harsh northwest winds. The ship was taking on water when he decided to raise a distress signal. The article noted Rentz, and Weber were from New York while listing Tulsa, Oklahoma for Martin Baker.
Source: The News Journal, Thursday, October 25, 1934

“Captain Rentz is an expert yachtsman with long experience in sailing. In the New London to Bermuda race, he sailed the racing sloop Cyclone in Class B, winning third place.

After their ship was repaired, the men elected to travel up the Delaware River to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The Albatross entered the canal on October 30. This canal was over a hundred years old when the Albatross traveled from the Atlantic Ocean to Baltimore Harbor. In 1906, the federal government purchased the canal and expanded it. The canal had been widened and deepened making the old locks obsolete and allowing for a seal-level route along its entire 14-mile length. The ship reached Baltimore and left on November 3, headed for Miami.
Source: Daily Press, Tuesday, November 13, 1934
Source: The Baltimore Sun, Sunday, November 11, 1934

On November 10, 1934, the coast guard cutter Apache was ordered to search for the Albatross.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, Sunday, November 11, 1934

U.S.C.G Apache

Monday, November 12, 1934; “Missing Schooner Object of Search” – Lester Dent and the Albatross appear in the news once again. The boat is overdue, and the Coast Guard is searching for it.
Source: Pensacola News Journal, Tuesday, November 13, 1934

Tuesday, November 13, 1934; “Owner Searching for Missing Craft” – The articles stated the ship has been missing nine days since leaving Baltimore. Dent is noted as saying that some misadventure must have overtaken the boat on its journey to Hampton Roads.
Source: Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia, November 13, 1934

That is the last mention of the lost ship, Albatross, in the newspapers. The ship turned up sometime in the next five weeks. On December 21, 1934, Lester Dent wrote to John Nanovic indicating he was including an outline. The letter also mentioned work on the Albatross. Dent planned to be in Jacksonville, Florida in a few days. The address cited on the letter is Charleston, South Carolina. Dent speaks poorly of the town.
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_f4

The Albatross next appeared in Hartford, Connecticut on January 8, 1935. An article noted that Lester and Norma Dent arrived in Hartford on Tuesday. Martin Baker was also along. They planned to spend three weeks.
Source: Hartford Courant, Sunday, January 13, 1935

“Cruise of the Albatross

The whereabouts of the Albatross between November 3 and December 21 is still a mystery. There is a document in the Western Historic Archives titled “Cruise of the Albatross.” It is a four-page write-up of which a little over two pages covers a strange account of these missing days. Dent crafts a story about receiving a telegram from Baltimore, Maryland. The missive came from his secretary, Martin Baker. The gist of the telegram was that Captain Rentz and Michael Weber were planning to steal the ship. Baker writes that they will eventually be in Norfolk. Dent states that he drove to Norfolk and contacted the coast guard. He then spent the next two months driving around Chesapeake Bay and searching for the ship. Eventually he found himself at the Norfolk post office on other business. While standing in line there, he noticed a pitiful human wreck waiting in the line. This person turned out to be Martin Baker who had just been rescued by the coast guard. Dent learned that the boat had been hidden in various remote locations along Chesapeake Bay for the past two months. Dent conveniently omits the problems the craft had before arriving at Baltimore in his narrative. It is noteworthy that Dent made no mention of piracy in the November 13th article that appeared in the Newport News. This item is likely some piece Dent crafted for an appearance before a group. It is a great item for a speaking engagement but as a historical document it leaves much to be desired.

The document is typically full of hyperbole and exaggeration as are many of Dent’s written comments pertaining to his upbringing in the west. There may have been a plot to steal the ship but documentation supporting such activities are still missing. I suspect the ship broke down again and marooned the crew in some backwater. 

Lewes, Delaware to Norfolk, Virginia through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

The Albatross continued to appear in Dent’s correspondence and occasional newspaper articles, but its influence was waning. A letter from Writer’s Digest dated March 15, 1938, was one of the last times the ship appeared in correspondence. It was not a significant notation. The letter is address to “Captain, Yacht Albatross,” Miami, Florida.
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_f6

The Dents were moving into a new phase of their life and the Albatross was left behind. On April 5. 1938, the Dents departed New York City aboard the Queen Mary for an extended European vacation. After returning to the United States, Lester and Norma Dent were in Tulsa, Oklahoma in December. They were touring the town looking for ideas about the home they plan to build in Missouri.

May 1, 1939, found Lester Dent renting a house in La Plata from Roy Sampson of Kirksville. Dent sent him a rent check for six months up until September 15.
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_7

The July 31, 1941, issue of the La Plata Home Press reported that the Dent home was under construction in La Plata.
Source: La Plata Home Press  (La Plata,  Missouri) Thursday, July 31, 1941 – Page 1

Dent mentions the Albatross in a writeup dated October 3, 1943. Dent states he has had over one thousand stories and articles published. He states that he created Doc Savage in 1933 and has written approximately 160 Doc Savage novels. Readers should note that at the time this piece appeared there had only been 127 Doc Savage stories published in the Doc Savage Magazine. Dent states that he lived about his boat, the Albatross from 1933-1936. He says he spent brief stints living in Cuba, various island in the Bahamas, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, and Mexico during 1932, 1933, and 1935. Dent states that during this time he did explorations which qualified him for membership in the Explorers Club and that he is still a member.

The Western Historical Manuscript Collection contains a biographical piece Lester Dent wrote when he was 39 years old. The piece is undated so it could have been written anytime between October 12, 1943, and October 11, 1944. Dent begins his narrative by talking about his schooner, the Albatross. He provides a colorful and imaginative descriptions of the ship. In closing, he notes that he sold it to an “agriculturalist” and later heard that the ship was lost on a reef off the coast of Haiti.
Source: WHMC Folder CA5115_13