Tahoe’s woodies celebrated at Concours d’Elegance

A CENTURY AGO, JAKE OBEXER saw a bright future for pleasure boats at Lake Tahoe. He partnered with Standard Oil to build a marina on the West Shore and became an agent for Gar Wood speedboats at his Obexer’s Boat Co.

Built by Garfield Woods—the first man to go 100 m.p.h. on water—these elegant boats featured beautiful mahogany exteriors, luxurious appointments and powerful engines.

The “woodie” speedboats helped usher in a new era of boating on Lake Tahoe in the Roaring Twenties. Wealthy capitalists including Henry J. Kaiser, Leland Stanford Scott and R. Stanley Dollar were piloting speedsters with names such as Baby Skipalong, Short Snorter and Mercury.

In the summer of 1940, real-estate tycoon George Whittell introduced the largest and most elegant of all mahogany hulled “woodies” to Tahoe—Thunderbird.

“Fifty-six feet in length, the Thunderbird is quadruple mahogany planked, with her underside copper sheathed,” writes E.B. Scott in The Saga of Lake Tahoe. “This marine ‘futura’ reportedly cost $87,500 to complete and originally carried four engines totaling 1600 h.p.”

This summer, boating enthusiasts can see Thunderbird, Baby Skipalong and Mercury at the 39th annual Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance Boat Show on August 12-13 at the Sierra Boat Co. on Tahoe’s North Shore.

The event—the nation’s premier wooden boat show—is a compilation of more than 75 of the best vintage boats from North America. The Marquee Class for 2011 is “Gar Wood—the Gentleman’s Runabout.”

This year’s event returns to its traditional dates in August when the weather is glorious, the water warmer and the atmosphere bustling with summer activities for the entire family.

“After holding the show on Father’s Day weekend in 2009 and 2010, we are excited to return to our traditional August dates,” says Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation President Dave Olson. Also this summer, Obexer’s Boat Co. in Homewood celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Each “woodie” is a work of art. The boats are restored “as delivered from the factory standards.”

Boat entry classes for this year’s Concours include Lakers & Launches; Outboards & Canoes; Pre-War Runabouts; Blonde Deck Chris-Craft Runabouts; Century boats; Rivas & International Entries; Race Boats; and Sedans & Commuters.

In addition to the exquisite boats on display, the Concours offers sponsor displays, give-aways, live music, and a food and beverage court. For more information and tickets, visit the website at LakeTahoeConcours.com.

The Tahoe Maritime Museum in Homewood allows visitors to explore “woodies” and the history of boating on Lake Tahoe year-round.

Its boat collection rivals many maritime museums in the nation. There are more than 30 vessels, as well as a vast collection of photographs and memorabilia. The museum also is home to a large collection of outboard motors.

Aquaplanes and water skis also are on exhibit, showing the progression from the earliest models made of barn doors.

The museum is open every day except Wednesday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m., during the summer.

(photo credit: Steven Lapkin, h2omark.com)

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