M/Y Honey Fitz restored to its days of glory in the JFK era.
Charles Modica is a class act. Not only is he a very successful businessman, but most importantly, he is a passionate classic yacht restoration hobbyist. Modica is well known by many as the founder and chairman of St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada.
Modica is also the developer of many real estate projects. His most recognized project locally is the creation of Love Street, a one-of-a-kind retail and dining destination catering to locals and tourists alike. Located in Jupiter, Florida, Love Street was created together with his longtime friend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath.
At a special lunch Thursday with 300 invited guests, Modica shared his passions as a boater. Starting as many do with a 13-foot Whaler as a young boy, the boat bug was in his veins. From there he followed a passion to restore numerous classic yachts, large and small. He simply enjoys the ability to transform a neglected boat with good bones back to its original state.
When the opportunity surfaced in 2020 to restore the most famous classic yacht of all, the former presidential yacht Honey Fitz, Modica was all in.
Built in 1931 by the Defoe Boat & Motor Works in Bay City, Michigan, for Montgomery Ward tycoon Sewell Avery and christened Lenore, the 93-foot wooden boat was bought by the U.S. government to serve as a patrol boat during WWII. It later served as the official presidential yacht under five different presidents: Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon.
Although the name of the yacht was changed four times, it was JFK who chose the one that stuck: Honey Fitz. In 1971, the yacht was sold by the U.S. government to a private owner. Since then, it fell into various stages of repair and disrepair until Modica learned of its availability in 2020.
Modica assembled his “A” team for the ultimate restoration: recreating the yacht’s glory days of the Kennedy era. Veteran boat expert Capt. Greg Albritton led the team as project manager, along with Brad London, a longtime Rybovich hull-building and wooden boat expert, and his company, Total Refit. The entire team spent nearly three years bringing Honey Fitz back to life — and back to its original look.
During its down years, the yacht’s 23-foot aft deck was enclosed, but during the restoration project, it was decided that the yacht needed to be as it was intended, so the enclosure was removed. Oddly enough, one necessary update was required: Raising the deck 3 inches. “Turns out that people are taller today than they were back in 1931, when she was built,” Modica mused.
Scheduled to reside in Jupiter, Florida, Honey Fitz will be elegantly kept. The yacht will be used for limited fundraising events and limited charters, but in no way will it be over-commercialized or neglected again. At least, not under Charles Modica’s watch.
As always, there are many large shiny yachts at the Palm Beach International Boat Show, but sitting brilliantly at the north end of the show is this year’s undisputed Queen: M/Y Honey Fitz, a presidential masterpiece that represents a major piece of American history.