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Classic boats invoke nostalgia, pride at South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com

A small flotilla of classic boats filled the Tahoe Keys Marina for the eighth year in a row Friday and Saturday.

More than 60 boats, including several from the Tahoe Maritime Museum, occupied the slips for the South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic.

This year’s theme paid homage to the swinging music and style of the 1950s, including fiberglass boats with unique fin designs. The event also brought with it a lot of history and personal experiences for boat owners in attendance.

Layne Davis and his crew of Sea Scouts, SSS Challenger from San Jose had just wrapped up a boat project that had taken more than three years to complete.

“We had a lot of fun building it,” Davis said Saturday morning while some Sea Scouts put final touches on the boat’s exterior.

The boat, a 17-foot modified Glen L Cracker Box design, was part of a project teaching young adults about boat-making and seamanship, the overall goal of the Sea Scouts program.

“We literally just finished it Wednesday night and Thursday morning,” Davis said. “We’re still doing little things.”

Davis said that the boat took three-and-a-half years to build because of the rotation of kids through the program.

“The hardest thing to do is to let the kids screw up,” Davis said. “You just got to work with them because they are learning.”

He said the process included several weeks of just sanding the frame by hand.

“At the start and the end of the day, it just looks the same, but they started to realize how much nicer it looked,” Davis said.

Naming the vessel tends to be more of a challenge than building it, according to Dan Kroman, also with Sea Scouts.

“The name hasn’t come to us yet, but we’ve got a list to pick from,” Kroman said.

The boat received a nod during the awards ceremony Sunday for first in the modified/new build class, Skipper’s Choice and Kid’s Choice categories, as well as second for People’s Choice.

Other touches of history came in the form of restored boats once owned by celebrities like baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.

DiMaggio’s boat, the Joltin’ Joe, now owned by the city of Martinez, Calif., took more than five years to rebuild for a group of carpenters.

John Wendt, one of the carpenters who worked on the boat, was a fountain of knowledge, noting that New York Yankees gave the boat to DiMaggio in 1949 for his accomplishments in baseball.

The boat was donated to the City of Martinez in 1991, by which time it had fallen into disrepair.

Wendt said the 22-foot Chris Craft pleasure craft was rescued by Martinez Public Works Director Dave Scola in 2010 and rebuilt by Sons of Italy in America, Diablo Valley Lodge #2167 and Local Carpenters Union 152.

Every Saturday for five-and-a-half years, volunteers restored the boat from the original frame and using materials from the boat’s era to complete 85 percent of the vessel.

“We started in March 2010 and we just finished this past Monday,” Wendt said. “This was the first boat I got involved with, but it was expensive hobby.”

Wendt said the boat reflected people’s interest in maritime history.

“It’s just like classic cars,” Wendt said. “People like to see old boats.”


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