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Wooden boats take center stage in Newport Beach

Wooden boats take center stage in Newport Beach


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If you go

What: Inaugural Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 7

Where: Balboa Yacht Club, 1801 Bayside Drive, Corona del Mar

Cost: Free

Parking: Free parking and shuttle from Newport Beach Country Club (1600 East Coast Highway, Newport Beach) to docks at Balboa Yacht Club

Info: or 949-673-3515

In his first year as organizer of the Wooden Boat Festival in Newport Beach, Ralph Rodheim has encountered a problem he hopes continues in the years ahead.

“I had to turn away five boats already,” Rodheim said.

With limited dock space at the Balboa Yacht Club, the inaugural boat show on June 7 will feature 46 boats in the water and on land, giving showgoers a glimpse at the vessels of the past.

It’s the saltwater answer to Lake Tahoe’s Concourse d’Elegance, with owners coming from all over Southern California to showcase their vintage wooden power boats and sailboats.

“These boat owners are similar to car collectors,” Rodheim said, who has his own 33-foot, 1948-built sailboat entered in the show. “You collect them, you polish them … there’s a sort of kinship that develops between owners.”

While Rodheim’s boat was built at South Coast Shipyards in Newport Harbor, he has been able to get boat owners from Oceanside to Santa Barbara to participate, bringing their Chris Crafts, Garwoods, and Matthews classic boats to the harbor ranging in size from 80 feet to a 45-inch children’s rowboat.

For Allen Stewart, Balboa Yacht Club member and Newport Beach resident, the show is a welcome surprise.

“I found out about it from a flier that was put on my boat,” Stewart said.

His vessel, a 38-foot Matthews powerboat named Galatea, is a perfect fit for the show, thanks to a nearly 12-year restoration effort.

Stewart’s love of wooden boats came about unexpectedly in 2002, when he stumbled across the Galatea at Orange Coast College’s School of Sailing and Seamanship. The wooden power boat was for sale for under $10,000, as it needed major work to bring it back up to its original condition.

Over the past 12 years, he says he’s put in about $1,000 in renovations and repairs for every dollar he paid for the boat originally.

“You could either say it was good luck or bad luck that I happened to go down there that day,” Steward said. “The upkeep on a wooden boat is a never-ending process. You start working at one end, and when you reach the other end, you’ve got to start all over – it’s a labor of love.”

Fittingly, wooden time pieces will be awarded to honor best–in-class power, sail and human-powered wooden vessels.

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