Tahoe yacht turned Burning Man art car hits the playa for eighth voyage
A 65-foot yacht that once cruised the waters of Lake Tahoe is making its eighth voyage across a much different landscape — the Black Rock Desert at Burning Man.
South Lake Tahoe excavation contractor Flipper Manchester turned a yacht that was dry docked at the Tahoe Keys Marina for years — and he was in fact hired to demolish — into an art car that is well-known in Black Rock City for its great views and even better parties.
“The marina asked me to come down and take a look at this thing to find out how long it would take to smash it and haul it off to the landfill,” said Manchester. “But when I climbed up on it and could see so far in all directions, it all came together and I thought, ‘I want to take this to Burning Man.’”
Manchester split the boat — which is 25-feet tall and weighs 35,000 pounds — into three pieces and hired three semitrucks and a Nevada Highway Patrol escort to get the boat over Kingsbury Grade and out of the basin.
With the help of donated labor and roughly $20,000 of his own funds, Manchester put the boat on the chassis of a cement mixer, painted turquoise waves around the hull of the boat, and outfitted it with a sound system and lights. It was ready to hit the playa.
“It carries 100 – 150 people on it,” said Manchester. “And when you stop, you get swarmed with everyone trying to get on it.”
The vessel, which kept the name Christina from its Tahoe days, won Art Car of the Year at its Burning Man debut.
Every year Manchester uses roughly $15,000 of his own money and donations to make improvements to the boat, which stays at a ranch near the Black Rock Desert along with many other art cars.
“We tore out all the bedrooms down below and made a huge ultra lounge,” said Manchester. “We have had famous DJs from around the world play on this boat.”
Manchester also hires a crew of Marines to drive and work security on the boat during Burning Man.
“We have cameras all over it. Spotters on the ground. Everyone is radioed up,” explained Manchester. “The boat moves along at less than 5 miles an hour.”
Ask most Burners why they keep coming back to the festival year after year, and the answer is often along the lines of “it’s hard to explain.” Manchester is no different: “You have to experience it in person to understand how incredibly cool it is out there.”
Justin Curtis, a Truckee resident and the regional Burning Man contact for Tahoe, agrees.
“It’s almost hard to describe, but it’s like going to another planet for a week,” said Curtis, who is responsible for connecting Burners in the region during the rest of the year through events.
“(Christina) is quite an impressive art car. It’s a great representation of Tahoe,” added Curtis. “That connection between Tahoe and the ancient Lake Lahontan that was once encompassing this whole region. You can see it from a long distance. It’s part of this trend of bigger and bigger art cars there on the playa. They’ve been so solid for many years now and that helps build the legacy.”
Curtis said it’s hard to estimate how many Burning Man attendees come from Tahoe, but his Facebook group Tahoe Burners has more than 1,500 members.
“I think Tahoe has always had an impact on the Burning Man event and Burner culture,” said Curtis. “I think a lot of that has to do with the proximity, but also the same things that draw people to Tahoe also draw people to Burning Man — a sense of adventure and that outdoor extreme environment.”
Burning Man started Aug. 26 and runs through Sept. 3.