Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Boat Company’


Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

In her long life, Perlita Too has been very fortunate to pass through the hands of people who valued her status as a rare and unique boat, worth preserving. Nearing the end of a good run, Perlita found Alan Furth, the Eclectic Collector. Lucky boat yet again, she became a part of Alan Furth’s expansive wooden boat collection; yet unfortunate that he never actually got around to restore this important Riva Tritone.

Alan Furth was likely the largest wooden boat collector in the hobby. He had over 75 boats in his collection; I have a good handle on this since I cataloged them for him in 1990. Alan was one of the first at Lake Tahoe to insure his boats with Hagerty Marine Insurance when they launched their innovative Agreed Value insurance policy for classic wooden boats in 1984. I began shortly after, insuring both classic boats & cars with Hagerty. (Thanks Carla)

I met Alan Furth at an ACBS meeting in 1985, then again at Lake Tahoe when I purchased a small restoration shop in 1988; Lake Tahoe Classic Boats. Alan continued as a restoration customer of mine, and it was during the cataloging of his collection that I discovered Perlita Too in a barn kludged together of metal shipping containers, on his farm in California’s Sacramento Delta.

behind bushes and small trees.......

behind bushes and small trees.......

under the bird***t.....

under the bird***t.....

seeing the light of day for the first time in 17 years......

seeing the light of day for the first time in many years......

Alan purchased Perlita from third owner Bob Burnand (see IN GOOD COMPANY) sometime before 1985, and although it was no longer a running boat, Alan registered it with the DMV. He said it was the easiest way to keep track of his boats.

all legal like.......

all legal like.......

Just a few of the other boats in Alan’s collection……

Baby Watercar and Dodge 'Em

Baby Watercar and Kamaiena (renamed Dodge 'Em) 1935 Dodge

BR 21 052 21' Cobra

BR 21 052 21' Cobra

Trusted assistant claims 'her' Riva.....SF 418

Trusted assistant claims 'her' Riva.....SF 418

Alan loved to illustrate his fascination (obsession) with speed and boats by the story of how in 1946 he was chased and cornered by the Military police off the occupied port on Kyushu.  To prove that all the “kamakazi” boats had not been demolished he got one working and was testing its limits, “after all he said the Japanese engines were built on the blueprints of a 1937 Chevrolet… and I was running a tank outfit, I had all the tools and there wasn’t much to do with your time” . One can only imagine the discussion when they caught up with this US Marines Captain.

The marine engines were always an important part of his collection.  No doubt it was the Scripps V-12 that had lured him to Perlita and make her part of his collection.  Would Alan have restored the superchargers as an important part of her history? Maybe so, maybe so……..

Alan tests his newly re-powered Riva Super Florida with a Holman Moody Ford V8

Herb Hall, owner of The Sierra Boat company has one the most researched and documented Gar Woods on the planet for sale. Originally built for the New York boat show in 1939, it is one of only two of this model built that year. It was delivered new to Lake Tahoe the same year and has spent most of its life on this lake. It is also one of only 10, 28′ Gar Woods built from the factory with the Scripps 302 V-12 engine. This rare & unique GarWood was part of Alan’s collection at one time.

After Alan retired from the Board of Southern Pacific Railway, he and his wife Virgina and son Andy spent their summers at Lake Tahoe. Dick Clarke of Sierra Boat Company fed Alan a steady stream of interesting boats, some rare and unique, some commonplace. By the early 1990’s Alan had decided to “thin the herd” a little bit; that was when I had the plum job of finding and cataloging all of the boats. No easy task either; boats were stored in 4 locations around Lake Tahoe, on 2 ranches, in 2 locations in the San Francisco Bay area, and even in another boat shop on the east coast.

Some rare boats changed hands in that time, including historic Gold Cup racers Chloe (ex-Delphine) and Baby Watercar, a 1923 Dodge Gold Cup; Schools Out, a 1924 Cupernall launch; Big Sky, a 1946 Stancraft Torpedo; a Hickman Sea Sled Sedan; and 3 Gar Wood triple cockpits; one with a Rolls Royce V8 marine engine, one of two ever made by the Rolls Royce factory.

SUPER-COLLECTOR featured in Motor Boating & Sailing/August 1992 by Kimball Livingston

Alan & Virginia on board Oski III, built in 1926 by Stephens Brothers. Oski III, was a former coaching launch for the U.C. Berkeley crew. Motor Boating & Sailing/August 1992

My boatshop associate, who had a long history with Alan, said “just watch, there’ll be a new boat coming before these are all gone…..” Too right too; a few weeks later we got a phone call; “I found this great old racer, with a Packard Gold Cup motor!” The eclectic collector at his best.

IN 1990 CASUDI wrote, directed, and produced a documentary about the Tahoe wooden boat scene called “DOING THINGS THE OLD WAY”, narrated by Peter Graves. She interviewed Alan Furth aboard one of his very favorite boats in the collection, a former San Francisco Bay pilot boat, the Jerry Daily, crafted by Anderson & Christofan in 1928.

The Jerry Daily one of Alan's favorites.........

Of the total number of boats in Alan Furth’s collection, I estimate that he must have restored at least 30. However, there may have been a few more, since there are many wooden boat restorers who could claim to have had Alan Furth as a client.

It is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime situation that a person has the opportunity, the wherewithal, and most importantly the passion, to put together a collection like Alan Furth did. He will be long remembered for his part in collecting and preserving a great many classic wooden boats for our hobby. Although Alan passed on to the “boatyard in the sky”, and most of his collection was sold, his wife kept a couple of boats (including a one-off Philbrick triple that I nearly sank……)

Footnote: I recently met perhaps the next collector-of-wooden boats-extraordinaire; sometimes to be found in Calgary…….in between boat purchases and restorations…….a few months ago he found a yard with barns-full of boats…he got one and sent it to a restoration shop, and has his next one picked out…..and in the meantime bought another because “it was so cheap, I couldn’t pass it up…….” Yup, he’s deep in the grip of ‘collecting’……

Do you have an Alan Furth story? I would love to hear it…. comments below and/or email me.