Was Granma Built in New Orleans?

I’m on a mission, and I’m asking for your help. I’m researching the boat that Fidel Castro used to “invade” Cuba in 1956. Granma was her name, and her 1,200-mile voyage from Mexico to eastern Cuba marked the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. She had belonged to an American businessman living south of the border who sold her to a Castro supporter.

Cuba is replete with academics and historians, so Granma’s story is well documented post-1956, but none of the Cuban chroniclers has shown much interest in the boat’s origins. Maybe I haven’t read the right book or talked to the right person yet. Specifically I would like to know who built Granma.

The 92-year-old man who bought her from the American and turned her over to Castro tells me that she was built in New Orleans. The Mexican bill of sale says the boat was built in 1943 — smack in the middle of World War II, when U.S. shipyards were turning out military craft almost exclusively.

So did Granma begin her life in the military? The hull kind of has that look. But look closely at her traditional sheer. It sweeps upward to the bow, unlike most small Army and Navy craft of the war. Certainly PT boats and even “crash boat” rescue craft sported the reverse sheer that has characterized many recreational powerboats since. Many of these military boats were repurposed as recreational craft after the war, but no amount of civilian modification was likely to change their sheerlines.

The author poses in front of a mural in Tuxpan on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, which shows Granma being provisioned for the invasion of Cuba. Tuxpan was the departure point for Raul Castro’s historic 1956 expedition. Among the 82 men on board was Che Guevara and Castro himself.

The author poses in front of a mural in Tuxpan on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, which shows Granma being provisioned for the invasion of Cuba. Tuxpan was the departure point for Raul Castro’s historic 1956 expedition. Among the 82 men on board was Che Guevara and Castro himself.

Higgins Industries of New Orleans was busy in 1943 churning out PT boats and the famous Higgins landing craft that “won the war.” Did the company have the time or inclination to produce a one-off yacht? Or was the 1943 date on the bill of sale incorrect? (Another written source put Granma’s completion in 1939.)

I’ve cast a wide net, seeking an answer to this most basic question. What American shipyard begat Granma, a tough little ship that changed the world? If you have any thoughts, reply here or send an email to me at pswanson@aimmedia.com. This is the beginning of a hell of a story.

 

4 thoughts on “Was Granma Built in New Orleans?

  1. My first impression on seeing the picture is that it was made by Huckins, like Higgins, also of PT fame. The Fairform Flyers as they were known features the Quadraconic Hull, seaworthy and relatively fast for the day.

  2. Dear Soundings
    She sure looks like a Fairform Flyer to me.

    The deck house is 40s vintage Chris craft.

    Guy Mathews

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