Hemingway’s Wheeler Playmate

Ernest Hemingway Aboard Pilar

Ernest Hemingway aboard Pilar, circa 1950. Wikipedia Commons photo

It may not have been a microskiff but it it certainly showed its owner’s love of customization. Ernest Hemingway modified Pilar–a 38-foot Wheeler Playmate–to suite his flair for the dramatic:  from installing steel plates on the hull for his personal anti-Uboat campaign to replacing the fixed fighting chair with a swiveling barbershop model to pursue ever-larger fish.  (Hemingway was probably the first modern angler to boat a giant tuna on rod and reel.)

The boat also attracted journalists with larger-than-life imaginations.  Now Hemingway’s niece, Hilary Hemingway, wants to set the record straight, and turn the Pilar story into a movie while she’s at it. “‘He loved that boat,’ Hilary Hemingway said. ‘He had it longer than his first three wives,’” writes  Rod Clarke in Florida’s News-Press.

Sixty years ago this month, the Hemingway’s classic The Old Man and the Sea was featured in Life magazine and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

I’m convinced that if Hemingway had begun fishing in Keys in the 70s rather than the 30s, it would have been on a flats skiff.

  • Levis Minford

    Not to nitpick, but that photo is from 1955, not 1950 as he has the fresh scars from the Kenya plane crashes (yes two) at the end of 1954. (Wilkepedia misinformation I suppose).
    I saw Pilar a few years ago at his Finca Vigia; although it was under a roof of sorts it looked a bit neglected. I understand that there has been a recent effort to restore the boat.
    The Rybovich brothers are mistakenly credited as having “invented” the flybridge as Pilar had one at least ten years before the first Rybo was built.
    You’re right about his probably having a flats boat if he were alive and in the Keys in the 70′s; most likely a Willy.

    • Marshall Cutchin

      Interesting, Levis, thanks for the corrections and history lessons.