Historians try to identify wooden boat near Obexers | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Historians try to identify wooden boat near Obexers

HOMEWOOD – When engineers with a company that manufactures submersible watercrafts came to Lake Tahoe to test out their new toy, underwater excursions turned up more than silt.

“One day we were done with testing and just went down to look around and we found it,” said Andy Lyons, director of manufacturing with the Davis-based Alstom Schilling Robotics. “It was completely chance.”

Nearing the end of a two-week stint in the area, the group ran across an estimated century-old boat on Aug. 3 after heavy winds blew their barge over the wreckage. Resting 300 feet below the lake’s surface, the vessel was found about 400 yards offshore from Obexer’s Boat Company in Homewood.

The Alstom team, along with Matt Daniels of Tahoe Marine and Excavation and Brian Johnson of BJ’s Barge Service, hauled the wooden boat up from the depths and towed her into shallow water on Aug. 7. Daniels had contracted the barge for the group’s use, and Johnson was brought on board because of his extensive salvage experience.

“We had taken a rope down – 300 feet of rope with a slipknot in it,” said Lyons. “We hooked onto it at about 10 o’clock that night and had it at the surface around one o’clock.”

Lyons explained that the boat had been found on the lake’s bottom, sandwiched between a rock and a piling. He believes that a portion of the craft’s roof was torn away by the piling when the boat was raised. The boat also had an engine, which dropped out during the ascent.

Carol Van Etten, a local historian and author of three books about boats, was invited out to study the find. Although the boat resembles two specimens in Etten’s “Lakers and Launches,” the Lady of the Lake or Shamrock, the author could not positively identify it.

“It’s probably a boat of the 1880s,” Etten said, adding that the engine modification pointed to a 1930s or 1940s sinking. “The style of it is turn of the century.”

Daniels and Johnson have their own theories: perhaps it was an old work boat for Obexer’s Marina, or maybe a sister ship of the Lady of the Lake or Shamrock. So far, the boat’s name and owner have remained elusive.

Because oxidation will cause nearly instant deterioration, the boat has not been lifted out of the water; barely 50 yards offshore, the wreck now rests in a considerably less shallow grave than before.

“The experts are saying we should leave it in the water until we’re ready to restore it,” Lyons said. “It’s in really good shape.”

All three parties involved in the discovery – Alstom, Daniels and Johnson – hope to give the boat to the Tahoe Maritime Museum to be restored and maintained.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy it,” said Johnson. “This is history here, this is a jewel of Tahoe.”

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