Tahoe event boasts classic old boats
CARNELIAN BAY, Calif. (AP) – For many, wooden boats are the stuff of which dreams are made – instant time machines that take us back to the days when Humphrey Bogart and George Raft ruled the cinematic waves and when Audrey Hepburn blew kisses under the stars.
Alas, are those days gone forever?
Not at all. They are, in fact, being toasted and celebrated Thursday through Aug. 16 at Lake Tahoe.
Once again, it’s time for Wooden Boat Week and the Concours d’Elegance antique boat competition. As its name suggests, this is, indeed, a gathering of elegance.
John Erman of Homewood, Calif., in many ways is typical of the wooden boat owners who participate in the annual event. First he had to find the boat of his dreams – Doubleplay, a rare, 17-foot-8-inch Hacker Craft Speedster built in 1935 – and then he had to restore it.
”We finished restoring Doubleplay a little less than a year ago,” says Erman. ”I’ve only had it in the water two times since then. I wanted it to remain in its perfect state for the Concours d’Elegance.”
”They’re classics,” says Bernie Atkinson, a Ford dealer who splits his time between Carnelian Bay, Calif., and Portland, Ore. Atkinson owns Oh Danny Boy, a 1929 Chris Craft that is 26 feet long.
”I make sure it gets plenty of tender loving care from me,” says Atkinson. ”For instance, I just applied 10 coats of varnish to Danny Boy. It was in pretty rough shape when I bought it back in 1990, but it had all its original equipment, which is what you look for when you’re buying an antique boat.”
”A few of the planks were cracked, so I replaced them and then went to work rebuilding the engine which was an A-70 V-8. I do all the mechanical work myself.”
Back when the craft was built in Algonac, Mich., five months before the Great Depression the all-mahogany boat sold for $4,000. Today, Atkinson says, it’s worth about $100,000. It won first place a few years ago in the Concours d’Elegance competition and this year will lead the parade of boats at the festival.
”Danny Boy is an Irish song about a father letting his boys go off to war,” Atkinson says. ”My oldest brother got killed in World War II, so I’ve named the boat in his memory. Danny Boy brings out the sentiment and romance in everyone.”
The concept of ”practical” shouldn’t be applied to the world of wooden boats. Take Scott Bryant, owner of the Terralina, a 19-foot-4-inch Century built in 1967.
”The original owner’s widow donated the boat to a kid’s charity after her husband’s death,” Bryant says. ”The charity then sold it to me for $675 about four years ago. It was a wreck, but I eventually found out that it had a real, real special engine a Chrysler Marine Hemi and started restoring it. I guess that by now I’ve probably sunk about $24,000 into this project. It’s a one-of-a-kind boat.
”There was even a letter hidden away in it from the lady whose husband used to own the boat. It just said how much her late husband had loved and treasured everything about the boat and how she hoped the new owner would do the same for it.”
On Friday and Saturday, the public will have an opportunity to view up close more than 125 fine old wooden boats that are tied up at the dock of the Sierra Boat Co. in Carnelian Bay. They also will be encouraged to vote for their favorite ”People’s Choice” vessel while eating, drinking and making musically merry all of which activities are included in a single-day ticket for $20 or a two-day tickets are $25.
Official viewing times will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m Friday and Saturday, and tickets can be purchased at the gate. And don’t forget to check out the boat-restoration demonstrations while you’re there. Learn how master craftsmen turn sanding, staining and varnishing into an art.
But wait, there’s more.
During Wooden Boat Week there are more than enough other events to delight and amuse even the sorriest curmudgeon. On Sunday, you can watch the Parade of the Woodies, which proceeds from the Tahoe Yacht Club along the west shore of the lake to Sugar Pine Point State Park, where parking costs $5. And Monday brings the Woodie-Over-the-Bottom Regatta on the lake, which is usually more of a good-humored rally than a killer-race.
Also worth looking into is the ”Tahoe and the Wooden Boat” Art show that runs through August at the North Tahoe Art Center in Tahoe City. This exhibit features images of classic wooden boats and antique runabouts that have ”home-ported” at the lake.
On a more upscale note, there are fashion shows, formal dinners, elegant luncheons and lake cruises. Reservations must be made in advance through the Tahoe Yacht Club and many of the ”dressier” events are sold out.
All proceeds go to the Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation, which distributes the money to local charitable and cultural organizations.
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