A new commercial shuttle boat with a familiar name was taken out for a joy ride on Lake Tahoe Monday, a day that marks the 125th anniversary of the launching of its historic predecessor.
The M.V. Meteor, named after the workhorse logging steamer that sank somewhere in the lake in 1940, was christened in style and made a ceremonial run to Emerald Bay from the Ski Run Marina from which operator Hornblower Cruises plans to use it for skiing shuttles this winter.
“What a better way to see the lake than to be on the lake,” Hornblower Cruises General Manager Carol Chaplin said before boarding her guests.
The company plans to replace the Tahoe Queen morning runs this winter with the Meteor shuttles to and from Tahoe City seven days a week, Director of Marketing Andy Chapman confirmed.
The Queen paddlewheeler will remain operating on the same schedule for the afternoon jaunts.
Local historian Lyn Landauer told the assembled group how intriguing it is that the modern Meteor could be motoring over the (S.S.) Meteor buried deep in the lake, and passengers wouldn’t even know it.
City, environmental and transportation officials along with recreational warriors are enthusiastic about the idea of more waterborne transit on the lake that will serve to link the north and south shores. The hope is that using watercraft for transportation will reduce traffic on the highway and give visitors and residents more options to play outdoors.
Steve Teshara of the South Shore Transportation District pointed out that the highway somewhat retired boats in the 1940s to make way for Americans’ love of the automobile. He finds it interesting now that many people are more enthused about leaving their cars at home to fly over the lake.
And that it does.
The Meteor traveled at about 27 knots, as reflected by the waving hair and big grins of its passengers Monday. The Meteor left the dock at 12:20 p.m. and five minutes later passed the Queen, which left at 11:30 a.m. Both sets of passengers waved at each other.
“This boat is like a sports car in terms of handling,” Capt. Grant Tuttle said. He equated the difference between the Meteor and the Tahoe Queen to that between a Corvette and daddy’s Buick.
Hornblower eventually wants to use its new smooth-riding, powerful boat to shuttle kayakers and cyclists back and forth, if it secures the necessary permits. The Meteor, which will be covered, will run this winter on a temporary-use permit.
Hornblower has been awaiting a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency permanent-use permit to run the boat, built in 1993, that pulled into town in July, but the bistate governing board won’t take up the matter any earlier than October, TRPA head Juan Palma confirmed. Meanwhile, a simple plan revision to Hornblower’s operating permit that TRPA expects to make within the week at the staff level will allow the cruise line to replace one boat with another for the early runs.
The cruise line’s engineer is expected to determine how to set up ski racks in the back of the boat. It may involve pulling out seats in the 100-passenger boat.
“I’m so thankful the private sector will step up to the plate,” South Lake Tahoe Councilwoman Brooke Laine said, referring to the need for waterborne transit options. “It’s long overdue.”
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