Christina sails from Tahoe Keys to Black Rock City |

Christina sails from Tahoe Keys to Black Rock City

Dylan Silver

Stepping on to the playa at Burning Man is like scuba diving in the most far-off waters.

To the primeval, it’s a deluge of stimulation. Anomalies of fire, color, costume and sculpture prance and pepper the barren space, one after another, overlapping and overwhelming.

More than can be imagined rolls over the hard dirt floor of Black Rock City in the form of art cars, mutant vehicles dandified so ornately it’s hard to believe the parts were once known to man. There’s life-sized golden dragons and larger than life butterflies, busses completely covered in faux polar bear fur, peacocks, rolling couches and a fire-breathing reptilian chariot made completely from kitchen utensils.

But last year, above all the motorized moving mania, stood one monumental art car: Christina, a 65-foot-long, 25-foot tall, 35,000 pound yacht, it’s massive hull painted with the turquoise waves of Lake Tahoe. South Lake Tahoe-based excavation contractor Captain Flipper Manchester of F.B. Inc. pulled the boat from the Tahoe Keys (he was actually hired to destroy it), plopped it on a cement truck chassis and spent the September week cruising the desert. Along with the massive dancing woman sculpture, the conspicuous sand dune temple, and the elaborate structure topped by the infamous Man, Christina was unforgettable.

From anywhere on the Playa, the yacht could be seen, but barely anyone knew how it came to be there. Manchester, a fourth-year Burner without ties to any of the major Burning Man organizations or funding, built the land vessel in relative secrecy. Spending nearly $15,000 of his own money, he hired a crew to work full time for a month, rented three semitrucks to move Christina and paid the Nevada Highway Patrol to escort him over Kingsbury Grade.

“When I pulled that boat up, I actually got in line with everybody else,” Manchester said. “Everything just came to a complete stop. Everybody was on it.”

More than 6,000 people, including myself, took a voyage either on one of the two decks or in the black-lit carpeted cabin, where just about anything could’ve happened in the dark corners. Officials like the firefighters, event organizers and even one of the part-owners of Burning Man were so enthralled by Manchester’s work, they requested private jaunts. By the end of the fete, Christina was awarded Art Car of the Year.

This year, Manchester is working to improve the craft with better handrails, a louder sound system and pyrotechnics. A fundraiser, featuring Opulent Temple DJs and a performance by the Tahoe Fire Dancers, is planned of for April 23 in the MontBleu Theatre. Unfortunately, Christina won’t be traveling from her current resting place in Gardnerville for the event.

“It’s quite an operation to move this thing,” the captain said.

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