photo courtesy of boatersresources.com
Editor’s Note: This article is submitted for reprint on the ACBS website by Pat Butler, NC/LakeTahoe Chapter Historian, with permission from noted columnist Carl Nolte. Mr. Nolte is a news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and pens his popular weekly, “Native Son” column for the Chronicle’s Sunday edition. He graciously allowed this article from the Chronicle’s 9/30/2020 edition to be reprinted.
From the: San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Aug 30, 2020, Page 2
Native Son, By Carl Nolte
Yacht Folly II, now anchored off Pebble Beach, will soon move to its new home port of San Francisco.
These are troubling times – racial injustice, politics, the pandemic. Even the air is hardly fit to breathe. You don’t need another depressing story this Sunday. Instead, we offer a piece about a beautiful classic yacht that is about to begin a new life.
There’s no great moral in this except the somewhat irrational affection some people have for wooden boats, for their style, their look and the way they move through the water. This vessel is a motor yacht, 64 feet long, 89 years old, and built of teak. The boat has an appropriate name: Folly II.
“It’s the kind of boat you can fall in love with,” said Mel Owen, a San Francisco patent attorney who is familiar with the Folly. Owen owns his own boat, the 91-year-old Pat Pending, a classic in its own right.
Falling in love is exactly what happened to Rusty Areias, a political consultant who served many years in the state Legislature. Politics is his business, but boats are his passion. He had his eye on Folly for a number of years.
He is an admirer of wooden boats built by the Stephens Brothers in Stockton and is a friend of Dick Stephens, the patriarch of the boat building family. Though Stephens Brothers went out of business years ago, their boats – from workboats to luxurious yachts have become West Coast classics. And Dick Stephens considered the Folly II his favorite, the best of the best.
The boat was launched in winter 1931, the depth of the Great Depression. Even in those tough times, there were people who could afford a boat like the Folly, “The last word in luxury,” as Motor Boating magazine called it.
The boat has berths for eight people, including two crew members, usually a captain and cook. The owner’s state room looks like it belongs on a small cruise ship; the galley is up to date in the latest 1930s style. There is even a bathtub. One owner called the boat “a masterpiece of yesterday.”
There were millions of poor people in the ’30s, but enough wealth that Stephens kept turning out barges, tugs and yachts, made to order. “It showed that you had arrived when you owned a Stephens yacht,” Areias said.
The boat was launched in the last years of Prohibition and one of the first owners supposedly used the Folly to smuggle illegal liquor along the Central California coast. A luxury yacht was the perfect disguise for a rumrunner, and the boat was fast enough to dodge government agents.
Later owners included Kenneth Bechtel, the construction tycoon, Beryl H. Buck, the millionaire philanthropist, and Clessie Cummins, who developed the Cummins diesel engine.
The boat was berthed at various times in San Francisco, San Diego and Monterey. It was a familiar sight on Monterey Bay, berthed near Cannery Row for over 30 years.
Sam and Patricia Garrett owned it and often anchored the big white yacht off Pebble Beach. It was a showpiece, on occasion offered for sale. But the price was always too high, and there were no takers.
Areias kept thinking about Folly II, but he had a problem: He already owned a Stephens classic yacht called Miss 102. And his wife had given him an ultimatum: no more boats.
The solution was to recruit three other boat lovers. They reached an agreement with Patricia Garrett, Sam’s widow, this year. They paid $119,000.
Edward Collins, one of the four, bought in sight unseen.
When he first saw the Folly II, he was delighted; “She is a very stylish boat,” he said.
“It’s an amazing boat,” said Bruce Jones, another of the owners. “It’s a boat worth preserving.”
Just now the new owners are keeping the boat at a marina in Antioch, where expensive looking cosmetic restoration work is being done. You know what they say: A boat is a hole in the water in which you pour money.
The plan is to finish up by Sept. 11 and take the Folly II to the annual Stephens Boat Roundup at the Village West Marina in Stockton, a celebration of Stephens yachts. There will be dozens of the classic boats, and the Folly II will be there “in all her glory,” Areias said. Dick Stephens himself will be aboard to be honored on his 100th birthday on his favorite boat.
Not long after that the Folly will be moved to San Francisco, its new home port.