How often does one get drawn to a boat at a
boat car show? For me? It’s rare. I do appreciate the unique, especially when accompanied by a decent story. We’ve all seen the amazing restoration on dilapidated automobiles, but how many had to be raised from the bottom of a lake? How many were 123 years old?!!!
The long and sleek boat, “The Cathedral” was accompanied by a poster that told its story.
There is a lot here to discuss. First off: Naptha. I had never heard of this ‘low grade’ gasoline. After a short amount of reading it appears Naptha is more of a general term for specialty products we are familiar with, namely: white gas (aka. camp fuel for lanterns).
The root of the word is used around the world is used to describe diesel fuel and crude oil. Both camp fuel and diesel fuel being considered low grade types of refined crude oil...
I’m sure the owners were happy when the Naptha powered engine was ditched in favor of the Union Marine engine. I don’t know what the original engine looked like but look at the replacement - Beautiful! I’d set it in my living room had I no boat for it to power. Maybe a now-common-ish engine coffee table?
Now the part about moving it in 1924? Well this was waaaaay before the interstate highway system. Roads were not nearly developed as they are today and historically the Sierra Nevada Mountains have been devastating to travel (think: Donner Party).
This map doesn’t tell the whole story about the pain it must have been to move the boat from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe. That is until you take a look at the legend.
From SF you’ll notice most of the roads are ‘Pavement Completed’ but as you move farther east into the mountains this changes. Going to the north end of the lake the roads turn into ‘Grading Completed’ and “Authorized by Special Acts - Maintained by the State, unpaved’.
If I’m deciphering this correctly the road to North Lake Tahoe is graded but unpaved? Sounds like a washboard drive for several hours... with an antique truck towing a 21' boat!
Even worse would be the road to South Lake Tahoe (Fallen Leaf Lake is just south of the southern most point of Lake Tahoe). The road is all unpaved but at least it is ‘maintained by the state’. We all know the government has always been excellent at maintaining roads... right?
Lastly, this boat was sunk by its owners in 1951. Why? It doesn’t say, but I’m picturing an alcohol, pleasure cruise related incident. Seriously though, they probably sunk it as it was junk by 1951. It was probably the cheapest way of disposing of the boat, which in 1951 was already 56 years old.
Look on your local Craigslist for any boat 56 years old. Do you want any of them? Very few will be worth putting any money into to keep alive. They probably thought the same way back in the day. I’d sink a boat given the opportunity - another box on the bucket list complete.
The boat lay at 60' of water for 21 years. Anywhere else this would mean raising half or less of a boat due to deterioration. Lake Tahoe on the other hand, has been known to preserve everything. Especially things that deteriorate quickly, like dead things! Authorities have been pulling dead bodies in well preserved condition out of the lake, sometimes up to 20 years later! I’m not kidding - read this!
I am happy I stopped next to this old boat and took a minute to read the poster. It really shed some light on something that ordinarily I would have passed up. But I have had boat on my mind recently.
With an engine ready to fix up and a family member’s boat to sell... my mind has been floating... or sinking...?
If you’re curious to see and read more about the Cathedral: