Boat takes an 80th anniversary spin
The 1926 aluminum race boat formerly known as the Cigarette IV, now called the Mercury, celebrated her 80th birthday in style speeding across Lake Tahoe’s early morning glass-like waters Tuesday.
The Mercury was built with precision; as the first all-aluminum speedster she was constructed with 979 pieces of duraluminum fastened with 14,250 rivets, 7,087 bolts and 238 screws. The original engine was a Curtiss V-12 aircraft engine that produced 625 horsepower, said Bill Lindemann, a Sierra District interpretive specialist and Mercury project manager.
After sporadic racing victories and a recorded top speed of 58.868 miles per hour as the “World’s Fastest Boat” in 1926, the Mercury went into hiding.
Over a decade later she reappeared, re-christened as the Mercury, racing the waters of Lake Tahoe. A fuel fire and heavy damage sent her back to the boathouse in 1940, and was only occasionally released for leisurely cruises around Carnelian Bay.
The boat was left to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, re-gifted to the Sierra State Parks Foundation, and finally found her way to the Sugar Pine Point State Park Boathouse for storage.
Seventy-five years after her first victory in the President’s Cup on the Potomac River in 1926, the Mercury was restored and re-re-powered with a V-8 to go back in the water under her own power.
With the new engine, even at 6,226 feet above sea level, the Mercury runs as efficiently now as she did 80 years ago with the V-12 engineered to speed to victory on Manhasset Bay, N.Y.
California State Park employees and volunteers were invited Tuesday to take a boatride on the Mercury down around Rubicon Bay.
“This is [the superintendent’s] way of paying back seasonal workers, or volunteers, who work hard and don’t get paid much. Or at all,” said Lindemann of the Mercury’s 80th anniversary.
“This is a treat,” said Park Ranger Mike Rominger alongside his son, Andy. “[You] don’t get to go on the Mercury very often.”
The boat and the publicity are good for the park, said Lewis Grove, a volunteer docent. Restoration and maintenance relies greatly on public donations.
“People like to support things they enjoy doing, so this is good for that,” Grove said.
Learn more about the history of the Mercury on the state parks Web site at http://www.parks.ca.gov, or visit the lustrous speedster at the Sugar Pine Point State Park Boathouse.
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