Lake Tahoe man talks about saving the Christina; Boat-car to be docked this weekend at Hard Rock
Charles “Flipper” Manchester, 56, has been snow plowing Lake Tahoe roads since he was 13.
He also owns a construction company, F&B Inc. handling excavation, demolition, and underground work on seminal Tahoe projects like the Round Hill Mall and Heavenly gondola footings.
While that pays the bills, his joy comes from being the creator of the restored Christina, a 65-foot long, 35-foot high boat that originally plied the waters of Lake Tahoe.
Hired to demolish her after she sat in dry dock at Tahoe Keys Marina for years, he decided instead to save her. Manchester transformed the Christina into Cinderella, from a decrepit boat into one of the world’s most unusual art cars for annual sailing adventures on the Playa at Burning.
Manchester recently talked about all things Christina.
Q: What possessed you to take a boat you were hired to demolish and turn it into an art car to roam the Playa?
CM: I had been to Burning Man and when I saw the Christina, the vision hit me. It just struck me that this could be a great art car and different from the others. Most were smaller and couldn’t take on passengers, which I knew would make it a hit. It hit me right then and there. Then it became a matter of how to convert it.
Q: What was the reaction among friends and acquaintances when they realized you were going to do it?
CM: Everyone said I was crazy. I said I’ll figure it out. With my construction company I had metal lying around that could be utilized — various towers and beams and torn down construction. Originally, I thought to build a structure with platforms and moving parts, maybe ski lifts coming up and down. People step on and off. But then I saw Christina and realized its 35-foot height would allow riders to see all over the desert horizon. That concept of visibility made it all come together. The Christina has been designated “Queen of Black Rock” on three occasions. Now, so many people come up and thank me, telling me it’s their favorite art car, riding it is the most fun they’ve had. There are people from around the world who’ve told me the Christina is why they travel to Burning Man. They’ve looked at photos and said to themselves, “We have to go. Your boat inspired us to come.”
Q: How much have you invested to transform the Christina from a boat that once plied Tahoe’s waters to one that sails the Playa?
CM: Originally it took about $35,000, but with annual expenses: upkeep, improvements, paint, sound system, transportation, lighting systems, motors, I’d estimate $150,000.
Q: What’s the feeling to know the Christina has come full circle — from Tahoe, saved from demolition, down to the Playa and back — where she’s now recognized as a Tahoe institution?
CM: It’s so rewarding to have her back here in Tahoe. I’ve given her a lot of love over the years. Out in the desert we couldn’t give her as much attention since it was such a long distance for workers to travel for upgrades and repairs. And the elements were harsh, too. Now we have the time to really keep her nice and take care of her with maintenance we always wanted to do but didn’t have time.
Over the years, it’s been a love/hate relationship. I ask myself sometimes, ‘What were you thinking? Why am I doing this to myself?’ It takes a lot of effort to get everyone organized and work to get it together. But once it’s out there running around and seeing so many people having fun, the joy it brings to everyone is worth it.
Q: How did the “Christening of Christina” and “Docked at the Hard Rock” celebration come about?
CM: Executives of the Hard Rock who’ve attended Burning Man and heard her story approached me with the concept to bring her home. They saw the Christina as a vehicle to continue what goes on in the Playa for Burners throughout Northern California, Nevada and beyond. They recognized that it’s more than a party — how it moves people, and determined a way to have a good time, promote art and benefit local non-profits. The entire concept resonated with me. Everybody who knows her and local burners from Tahoe/Reno are all going to be there. I’m excited that the boat will be here and am looking forward to hanging out with my friends and having some fun.
Q: Do you have a favorite story or memory of the Christina on the Playa?
CM: No, not just one, rather many with the same theme. It’s always been a lot of fun. To see the joy on people’s faces from the experience of riding the Christina with 150 other people, everyone sharing the good times. From a personal standpoint, it’s become even more enjoyable for me when I can ride along with the group, not as the driver but as a passenger. Now that I’ve trained other crew members to drive, I can take part. The first few years, I was the only driver.
Q: What’s the future hold for the Christina?
CM: I planned to take her back down to Burning Man, and she might be going to other events like Coachella Valley, Las Vegas Electric Daisy. I have some folks in Seattle asking me to bring her up there to keep the vibe alive. From a transport standpoint, we’re installing metal plates enabling us to pull her apart and reassemble fast. Making it so tear-down and reassemble is fast for transport. And yes, I’d do it all again.
Q: How’d you get your nickname?
CM: When I was six-months old they told me I flipped around a lot.
If you go …
What: “Docked at Hard Rock”
When: The “Christening of the Christina” will be from 6:30-10 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 31.
“Docked at the Hard Rock” will take place at 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2.
Where: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe
Tickets: $35 for one day / $60 for both days
Question and answers submitted by Weidinger Public Relations.