Note: Story and photos submitted by Kelly Williamson, a member of the Okanagan and Pacific Northwest ACBS Chapters.
One of our favorite late season boat shows is Mahogany and Merlot on Lake Chelan, WA. The event was held October 5th to 7th 2018. Mahogany and Merlot is an ACBS-PNW sanctioned event done in cooperation with the Hydroplane and Race Boat Museum. The event includes vintage hydroplane racing, an ACBS show (affectionately referred to as Mahogany Row) and a classic and custom car show. For my partner Jenni Medina and I, one of the draws to Lake Chelan in October is spectacularly nice fall weather and its close proximity to our summer home in British Columbia. Daily highs of up to 80 Fahrenheit and lots of sunshine are very much appreciated.
The weather in western Canada has been exceptionally poor this fall with a strong low pressure system parked over Alaska driving artic air down to where our home is. The day we left to pick up the 1954 22ft Chris Craft Custom Sedan at the Shuswap Lake and head to Washington State, the first major snow storm of the year arrived. Before the end of the day there was 12 inches of snow at home but thankfully by that time, we were long gone. There were a few scary moments in the Canadian mountain passes, but we made it out of range on the storm without incident.
Lake Chelan is a 50.5 mile (81.3km) long lake in North Central Washington state. Before 1927, it was considered the largest natural lake in the state. Upon the completion of Lake Chelan Dam in 1927, the elevation of the lake was increased by 21 feet (6.4 m). The city of Chelan is at the south end of the lake near the dam and is about a two and a half hour drive south of the border. At the north end of the lake is the community of Stehekin. Stehekin is a small quiet place with about 75 fulltime residents and is in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area just south of the North Cascades National Park. These wilderness areas are administered by the National Park Service. Stehekin is the Native American word for “the way through” and has been an important mountain pass for centuries before the first British-Canadian explorer David Thompson arrived in 1811 bringing with him the fur trade. For many years the ACBS-PNW has coordinated a pre-show event consisting of a 2 day boat trip up Lake Chelan to Stehekin.
Last year (2017) was our first opportunity to participate in the Stehekin pre-event. We were impressed enough with the Stehekin experience to do it again this year. The Stehekin trip has been coordinated by Dick Dow of Seattle, a former President and current Secretary of the ACBS-PNW. Dick Dow did a wonderful job of answering questions and helping us understand what’s involved.
There are no roads into Stehekin. The only way to get there is by boat, float plane, ferry or on foot. The boat ride from the city of Chelan to Stehekin is about 50 miles (80km). With the modern Mercruiser V8 in Joy Ride, we were able to make it up the lake in an hour and a half at about three quarter throttle and no stops. Normally all the boats in the Stehekin trip travel up together. This is a very good safety idea as most of the classic and antique boats headed up the lake are still sporting the original mechanical equipment. Additionally, later in the day, the wind can pick up and create some dangerously large waves. Boats have been lost in the lake in the big waves. The main group left Chelan at 9:00 am. We travelled alone in the afternoon as we were late getting to Chelan due to poor weather up north. We made it as fast as we could, without stops as I was nervous about afternoon wind and waves.
In 2017 we were able to get to Chelan the night before and connect with the group travelling up in the morning. On arrival at the marina we were greeted by a lovely couple from Washington state, Joe and Marie Frauenheim. They were very kind with us and invited us to breakfast the next morning, before the ride up the lake. That turned out to be an excellent opportunity to meet more of the fine folks participating in the pre-show event. Jenni and I are very grateful for Joe and Marie for taking us under their wing. Last year we followed Joe and Marie up the lake and were fortunate enough to be lead to a few fun stops along the way. The stops included Graham Harbor and Domke Falls.
This time we arrived at the North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin later in the afternoon, in time to get checked in and reserve a seat for supper. Dick Dow graciously invited us to join their larger table which turned out to be another opportunity to meet a few more new people.
The North Cascades Lodge is a wonderful place to relax and unwind. There are only 28 rooms most of which have a stunning lake view. The rooms are rustic and quaint but clean and comfortable. With the rooms there are no televisions, telephones, cell service, wifi or minibars. There is very slow wifi service available at the General Store if communication is necessary. There is a nice restaurant in the lodge and reservations for supper are strongly recommended. It was so quiet in the room at night that while lying in bed I could hear the blood moving through my ears.
The next morning Jenni and I headed out to walk about Stehekin. At the Marina in front of the North Cascades Lodge the boat’s owned by the boat show group were stunning in the morning light.
The weather and the scenery that day were spectacular. The area around Stehekin in the Lake Chelan Recreation Area is renowned for the hiking opportunities. There are many miles of well documented trails to use. We didn’t prepare for any serious hiking but we did walk the two miles into the village to the Stehekin Pastry Company for a latte and an early lunch. There was a picture worthy scene around every bend.
After returning to the North Cascades Lodge marina we wanted to take Joy Ride out on to the lake. Stehekin “the way through” had been occupied by Native Americans long before European Explorers first mapped the area. We had heard that there were some ancient petroglyphs on the rocks at the shoreline that are visible by boat. I suspected that with the construction of the dam in 1927 and the subsequent 21 foot increase in the lake level that much of that type of archeological remains were underwater but we were told by the National Park Service staff that there were many examples still within view.
We didn’t leave ourselves much time to look along the shoreline. There was a cliff directly across the lake from the lodge where we were able to find one example of an authentic Native American petroglyph. I later learned that this was a well-documented petroglyph site called Painted Rock. By the look of the art work, I think the artist wants us to know he was a successful hunter. I thought this was very interesting and when we come back again I will reserve more time to look.
On a walk out south of the lodge, we found the trailhead of the Lakeshore Trail that goes many miles down the east shore of the lake. I took the photo below from the trailhead. We didn’t go far down the trail but I suspect there are many spectacular views along the way. I want to reserve some time to walk some of the Lakeshore Trail the next time boat in.
Near the Lakeshore Trail trailhead is the Golden West Visitor Center. The National Park Service staff was wonderful about helping to explain the history of the area and provided information pertinent to the visit. A stop in at the visitor center is worth the time.
At 9 am on the day before the Mahogany and Merlot show, the group fired up their boats and made the trip back to the city of Chelan. There wasn’t much wind and the water was mostly calm except for a short section with a little chop. The temperature that morning was pretty cool. I saw Brenda Chrystie take out a big blanket to cover up with and I remember thinking the 54 Custom Sedan was pretty well suited to this type of boating. The shelter from the damp cold was pretty nice. We got ahead of the group and decided to make a brief stop at Domke Falls.
The group arrived at the public marina at Don Morse Memorial Park about midday and started parking boats. While other boats were arriving in the afternoon we went to check in to Campbell’s Resort.
We very much enjoyed the pre-show activity of travelling up Lake Chelan to Stehekin. It was a 100 mile round trip and is by far the longest excursion we have done with a classic boat. After some experience in the hobby, I think I enjoy the boating activities even more than the shows themselves. There was a really good group of people to travel with. We made a few new friends this time and had fun visiting with friends we met previously. Stehekin was low key and relaxed with ample opportunity for activities. So far it has been one of the best boat show activities we have participated in. We are contemplating taking our children with us the next time and making a mini family vacation out of it.
The Mahogany and Merlot show went very well this year. Weather held out and we had a really good time. As this article is already getting long, I think it would be best to continue the story and talk about the Mahogany and Merlot boat show in a second article.