From the Boathouse: Questions after Tahoe Queen debacle


Did you hear that an authentic Mississippi paddle wheeler on a sightseeing cruise ran aground Monday afternoon?

Reports are filtering in that the 119-foot Tahoe Queen had aboard 296 passengers and 14 crew when the vessel grounded on a sand bar in South Lake Tahoe while the captain was leaving from berth at the Ski Run Marina.

Apparently, the Tahoe Queen grounded off Regan Beach in an area known for shallow waters. However, the vessel was back at homeport the next day.

I think investigators will want to know if the captain and first officer knew about the existence of the sandbar and whether the changing lake levels contributed to a change in the sandbar's depth, causing unsafe passage.

The Coast Guard says the hull depth is only 6.4 feet for a vessel this large, but shallow hulls are normal for paddle wheelers. However, one would expect that an experienced captain and first officer would know the depths of the water they are navigating on, especially in a drought.

Aramark owns the 312-passenger vessel, which was built in 1983, is 30 feet wide and weighs 91 gross tons. If the vessel did not hit any rocks or suffer damage to the hull from the grounding, then it might return to service by the time you read my column.

Tip of the week is that we are nearing the end of the official boating season, even though we boat year-round in Southern California. Actually, I like boating in the off-season months more than in the middle of summer.

Speaking of weather, I was just finishing securing the boat cover after racing at the Lake Arrowhead Yacht Club last Sunday when the skies opened up — though the term hardly describes the downpour that Mother Nature released on the San Bernardino Mountains.


The area received about 4 inches of rain in one hour, according to weather reports, and I can attest — empty cups left outside were full of water. Luckily, lightning did not hit the lake near our docks, because a group of young people from private neighboring docks had gone swimming during the deluge.

Some people will never learn not to swim or be near water during lightning, even after the recent fatal lightning strike at Venice Beach.

I digress.

We will have excellent weather along the coast for outdoor activities, with sunny skies in the afternoons. However, boaters should be very cautious in the morning because of the possibility of fog, which should burn off by noontime.

The daytime air will remain comfortable in the 70s, with the nighttime temperatures dipping into the 60s. Keep in mind that the inland temperatures will be in the high 80s to low 90s this weekend.

I predict that the Pacific Ocean swells will build from the south with the tropical storm activity that put the Hawaiian Islands on alert. So expect the south to hit 4 feet this weekend with double-digit intervals between swells.

The westerly swell will be 1 to 2 feet, and the afternoon winds will be light, under 10 knots. The light winds will create only 1-, maybe 2-foot wind waves.

Winds around Point Conception might reach the threshold for small-craft advisories, and the weather window probably remains closed for small craft traveling uphill. The winds are predicted to gust into the upper 20 knots from the northwest, but the winds will blow probably around 15 knots sustained. Wind waves will average 2 to 3 feet and probably top out at 4 feet with the gusts.

Seas will be mixed with 5 to 6 feet from the northwest and a building south swell to 3 feet from the southern storms. Again, I recommend postponing heading uphill (northbound) this weekend, even in the early morning hours, and my recommendation for heading downhill is questionable. As I always say, you will have to determine if the conditions are safe for you, your crew and your boat.

As always, just keep an eye to the weather for any changes. Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on a syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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