The Most Famous Fishing Boat of All Time is Launched

The Tradition Returns

For 50 years, the Wheeler Family – father and five sons – built yachts of the highest quality.

The Wheelers built their boats with only the finest materials available at the time. They were hand crafted and built to last. It was this reputation for quality that drew Hemingway to Wheeler in 1934.

This famous boat and its legacy have inspired the Wheelers to introduce an exact copy of the original Wheeler Playmate which Hemingway loved so much. It will have the classic look of the original, but will conform to today’s ABS and US Coast Guard standards with modern equipment.

Background photo by Billy Black.

The New Wheeler 38

Fame and Fish:
The Legend of Pilar®

They say Ernest Hemingway caught his first fish at three, and never got over it.

When Ernest Hemingway was ready to order his first and only fishing yacht at the age of 35, he trusted only Wheeler Shipyards to build it.

Papa demanded a quality in craftsmanship that only Wheeler could deliver. Hemingway’s Pilar not only out-fished and out-performed all of the other fishing yachts of the time, but in the thirty years Hemingway owned her, she had survived four hurricanes by riding them out at sea.

It was testament to the ship’s strength and the captain’s courage.

The Pilar

The Wheeler Shipyard Corporation was founded in 1910 by Howard E. Wheeler Sr. in Brooklyn, New York. The rest, as they say, is history.

Wheeler thrived by building beautiful, highly-regarded yachts with inherent value. As their reputation grew so did their line of quality yachts, the largest design stretching to 85 feet.

By 1921 Wheeler Shipyard needed more room, so in 1941 the company purchased an additional 21 acres at Whitestone, Long Island. From here Wheeler produced a fleet of ships for the Navy and Coast Guard to help defend America during World War II.

At the height of the company's production more than 6,000 employees worked at the yard, including Mr. Wheeler and his five sons. The shipyard was even equipped with a stage and grandstand with space for several thousand people for entertainment and boat launchings.

Wheeler built over 3,500 hulls during the 50 years that Wheeler Shipyard Corporation was in production.

Among many of these were sea-skiffs, motor cruisers and custom yachts.

Wheeler built what is considered to be the most famous fishing boat of all time, Ernest Hemingway's 38-foot 'Pilar', in 1934. This is the boat from which he wrote “The Old Man and the Sea” and “Islands in the Stream.”

The Wheeler family is bringing the 38' Playmate back to life using 21st century technology and production techniques. She's a modern-day heirloom with unparalleled pedigree.