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Hornblower likely to charter Tahoe Queen

Rob Bhatt

The Tahoe Queen berthed at Ski Run Marina on Tuesday afternoon served as both a glimpse of the past and the future.

Lake Tahoe Cruises, Inc. President Patt Herfindal said the stern-wheeled paddleboat was moved for the day to Ski Run to accommodate a photo request. She could not confirm who made the request, but she expects the vessel to return today to Timber Cove Marina, where the boat has been berthed since February.

Negotiations continue on a contract that would allow Hornblower Dining Yachts to begin operating the Tahoe Queen at Ski Run Marina by Memorial Day.

However, Herfindal estimates the deal is still about a week away.

Hornblower President Terry MacRae could not be reached for comment Tuesday about the status of the talks.

Last week, however, he was confident the parties would reach an agreement for Hornblower to charter the Tahoe Queen, at least initially.

“The focus right now is on a charter agreement,” MacRae said. “It’s just the most expeditious way to get the boat operating at Ski Run Marina.”

MacRae compared a charter agreement to a lease on the boat. Neither he nor Lake Tahoe Cruises officials ruled out a future sale of Lake Tahoe Cruises’ stock and assets to Hornblower.

Lake Tahoe Cruises operated the Tahoe Queen at Ski Run Marina from 1983 until the company was evicted from the site in February. Prior to the eviction, marina owners Michael Phillips and Dena Schwarte signed an agreement authorizing Hornblower to take over tour boat operations at Ski Run.

MacRae has already named Roger Murphy to serve as his general manager for operations at Lake Tahoe. Murphy, 60, reportedly oversaw operations for the Blue and Gold Fleet at San Francisco Bay’s Pier 39 for nearly 20 years.

Herfindal was named president of Lake Tahoe Cruises about a week after the Feb. 26 death of her younger brother, Joe Thiemann, the company’s founder and majority owner.

Herfindal on Tuesday said one of the obstacles of selling the company and the Tahoe Queen to Hornblower is Lake Tahoe Cruises’ outstanding debts.

Lake Tahoe Cruises officials have been trying to negotiate settlements with creditors for several weeks.

Among the creditors is the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. Last week, LTVA officials rejected Lake Tahoe Cruises’ offer of $2,000 to settle a $3,900 debt with the promotions agency.

Meanwhile, Michael Thiemann has been serving as the special administrator for his deceased brother’s estate. Joe Thiemann died without a will, and the future of his holdings – $3.1 million in personal property and $1 million in real property – is being settled in probate court.

Among the claims filed against the estate is $1.4 million sought by Crissy Kengla, widow of Thiemann’s former partner Henry P. Kengla.

The claim alleges that Joe Thiemann failed to make a $15,000 payment owed on a 1981 loan from Kengla. The claim also asserts Thiemann did not fully pay Kengla 30 percent of Tahoe Queen food sales revenue in 1983-86 as promised when the loan was made.

The $1.4 million claim includes interest dating back more than 10 years, according to court papers filed by Kengla’s attorney, Dale Sare.

Sare did not return phone calls placed to his South Lake Tahoe office.

Michael Thiemann on Monday said Kengla’s claim has no merit and will be disputed.

“By our calculations, she (Crissy Kengla) owes us money,” he said. “We have paperwork that shows all the payments were made. The records are clear. All the things she says do not exist.”

In related news, a toxicological analysis revealed Joe Thiemann’s blood alcohol level was .18 percent at the time of death, South Lake Tahoe police reported. The level is slightly more than double the legal limit for drunken driving.

Thiemann was shot to death by Vernon Vernaza after Thiemann attempted to fire two shots point-blank at Phillips.

Vernaza, 19, who resides with Phillips, does not face criminal charges because the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office determined his actions were in self defense.

Police Detective Larry Olson said U.S. Department of Justice investigators have not yet completed their analysis on why Thiemann’s gun jammed during the attack, inside Phillips’ house.


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