Woodies on the Water

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The 36th annual Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegnace took place on the north shore of beautiful Lake Tahoe from August 7 to 9, 2008, coinciding with Hot August Nights, down the hill in Reno. A short one-hour blast from Reno, up the twisty mountain road and you arrive at the Sierra Boat Company, the host marina for the Concours.

This year’s feature marque was Boats of the 1920s. These boats were produced during a time of adventure and excess, which eventually helped boat builders to implement mass production techniques. The catalog cover boat was a 1924 26.7 Nevins Gentleman’s Runabout named Baby Skipalong. After years of storage, she was meticulously restored by Ed Scott II, bringing her back to her original glory for the 2008 concours. Looking at her sitting amongst some of her peers, one can only imagine her competing some 78 years ago.

Another notable boat was the legendary Thunderbird, originally commissioned in 1939 by millionaire George Whittell. This outstanding 55-foot commuter boat was built with a distinctive stainless steel cabin top, and powered by twin 1000-plus horsepower V12 aircraft engines—definitely my favorite of the show. Later in her life, casino magnate Bill Harrah acquired her and she cruised Lake Tahoe with the likes of the Rat Pack and other famous entertainers. Today the boat resides at the Thunderbird Lodge and is owned by a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting some of Nevada’s historic treasures.

With nearly 70 classic wooden boats built from the mid teens through to the late 1960s, this annual event is a must-attend for any enthusiast. All of these boats showed their individual style through their unique hull designs and various powerplants, and I found myself in awe of these magnificently crafted “Woodies on the water” as I watched their gleaming hulls reflect off the blue depths of Lake Tahoe.

Taking the time to leave Reno’s Hot August Nights and go up to Tahoe is certainly worth the trip. The classic wooden boat hobby appears to have the same kind of attraction and addiction as the classic car hobby. I imagine now the next thing is for me to buy a restored wooden boat.

Next year’s event takes place June 19 to 21, and applications are already being accepted. Tickets go on sale January 1. For more information, visit www.laketahoeconcours.com.

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