South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic at marina all weekend
Amid the Fiberglas boats in the Tahoe Keys Marina, 72 wooden classics bobbed gently at the dock on Friday.
The boats are part of the fifth annual South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic presented by the Lake Tahoe Chapter of the Northern California Antique and Classic Boat Society.
The boats come from throughout Northern California and in all different shapes and sizes. From the elegant, 55-foot behemoth the Thunderbird to the 13-foot racer My Darling Lolita, the boats offer a diverse picture of Lake Tahoe’s history.
“It’s historical, it’s like a museum. To be able to see all these boats here, it’s a unique opportunity,” STWBC Chair Steve Caplan said.
For the past three years, the Classic has been held in honor of the Dollars, a Lake Tahoe family that worked in the timber and steamship industries. Several of Robert Stanley Dollar Jr.’s boats were on display Friday, one of which evoked some fond memories from a STWBC attendee.
“I remember watching Stanley Dollar drive that boat,” Bill Boezinger said, pointing at the 1924 Baby Skipalong.
Boezinger and his wife own a cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake and have made it up to South Lake Tahoe from their home in Orange County, Calif., every year since the Classic began to see the old boats and relive a bit of history.
Caplan estimates that the Classic brought in about 3,000 people last year, with about 60 percent of those attendees coming in from out of town.
Many of those boat aficionados come to see the five antique Dollar boats, and the sleek, aluminum Mercury stole much of the attention on Friday.
The Rolls Royce of racing boats, the Mercury is Franc Casey’s dream. He restored the 1925 boat in 2002 after it had lain dormant for years because of a nasty tendency to catch an edge at high speeds.
“She had a history when she got to a certain speed, she’d flip, so they packed her up.” Casey said.
With a new 600 horsepower engine, the boat, now owned by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, can still reach speeds of about 60 mph. Casey drives it about once or twice a year when it’s not on display at Sugar Pine Point State Park.
“It’s my favorite boat. She just lays down flat and goes like a rocket. She’s a dream,” he said.
As Tahoe residents and visitors alike wandered the dock casually, officials wearing STWBC shirts and holding clipboards boarded some of the crafts for a thorough inspection. Their job is to judge the boats, comparing the vessel not to the other boats in the marina but to the original classic, Judge Don Curtis said.
“The boats are not compared with each other. Each is capable of being first. We only compare it to what it would have looked like when it was built,” Curtis said.
The classics have a lineage just like a painting or a thoroughbred, and Curtis said judges rely on owners’ research to determine what that original boat would have looked like.
A boat that hasn’t had one bolt replaced can score 100 points on the judge’s scorecard, although it only needs a score of 92 points for a first place. But a change as simple as adding glue can cause a score to fall, and Curtis said he’s never seen a 100-point vessel.
“It’s only when you start looking at the details that you find things not as they should be,” Curtis said.
He said he would award 100 points if he saw a boat that merited it, he said.
The award ceremony will take place on Saturday, July 28. Proceeds from the STWBC will benefit the Boys and Girls Club and Kiwanis Club of Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Heritage Foundation, the Sierra State Parks Foundation and the Thunderbird Lake Tahoe Preservation Society.