Frank Blagen Sr.’s Sea Dreams

Frank Blagen Sr.’s Sea Dreams

Ship Building in the High Sierras

With the help of the Grays Harbor Blagen Family, Frank had purchased the Davies Johnson Lumber Company in Calpine and had apparently done well harvesting Sugar Pine. We can assume that Frank’s mind must have constantly been thinking up new ideas of things he would like to attempt. Among these thoughts was the idea of building a boat and racing it to Hawaii. He spent 7 years gathering the woods needed to build such a boat and brought two Scotchmen (old name for Scottish) from Scotland to Calpine where they would build Frank a boat. (Note that in the 60’s the then owners told the Oakland Tribune that the boat had been built in Soda Springs but we have this photo of the boat leaving the Calpine station, plus that is what the family says) Blagen Boat at Calpine Station

The Minerva leaving the station at Calpine

It was to be a 45 foot ketch with a beam just wide enough to go through the snow tunnels on the railroad line with 2 inches to spare. The completed boat (more likely nearly complete) traveled from Calpine on a flat car, snaking its way through the snow tunnels in the Sierras to Stockton, CA where it was to go into the water. An inept crane operator dropped the boat, it sank, a few bubbles appeared, and the boat popped up out of the water. By July 4th, 1936 the ketch, Minerva, representing the Marin Yacht Club, was ready to compete in the 2250 mile yacht race to Hawaii. The Minerva was handicapped with a 61 hour, 55 minutes, 17 second handicap. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how these handicaps were arrived at. Actually these time differentials were called “Allowances”, not handicaps. The race began in Santa Monica and ended in Honolulu. The Minerva didn’t win the race, but finished high enough , perhaps 7th, to get a nice cup which is still in the family. In the mid 60’s two couples, one of which owned the Minerva at that time sailed the boat around the world. The couple that owned the boat must have been prominent people in Oakland, and the Oakland Tribune carried several big stories about their adventures in finding another couple to sail with them, what they chose to take with them, and the trip itself. The Minerva is still an active sailor in the Sea of Cortez at the time this is written.  When it was built and when it raced its length was given as 45 feet. Later news articles said it was 50 feet.

These photos will enlarge moderately by clicking on them

Blagen lumber for boat

We assume this is Mrs. Blagen by the lumber to start the project

Blagen Boat keel

The keel is started

Blagen Boat more keel Blagen Boat higher keel

Blagen Boat shed roof up

A roof goes over the boat

Blagen Boat shed off

The Minerva back out of its shed

Blagen Boat moved by tractor

Tractor starts Minervas journey to RR

Blagen Boat moved by tractors

Guess they needed two tractors

Blagen Boat on Train

The Minerva headed to Stockton, CA

Blagen Boat and crane Blagen Boat on the wter

 Based on the where the photo was in the collection, this may have been a test run

From this point on, the photos will enlarge substantially by clicking on them

Blagen Boat with Howard and Ruth red

The Blagen dream come true, not yet, the race is yet to come. Pat Blagen Bradley says that this is her father, Howard, and her mother, Ruth

Blagen Boat w Frank at helm

  Not sure who is at the helm

Blagen Boat in B&W

The beautiful ketch Minerva

  Blagen Boat in SF bay

This was a damaged photo of the Minerva off Sausalito

Blagen Boat 1974 off Sauselito

Photo of the Minerva in about 1974

Tom Neely, present owner of the Minerva, sent this message to Brian Macintosh, grandson of Frank Blagen Sr.

These days she is a bit of an older gal and needs a lot more work than what I have done so far.  I’ve owned her for 14 years now and have done a lot of structural work but not much cosmetic other than paint once in a while, but am hoping that one day she will shine brightly while sailing the world once again.  Currently, I’m down in the Sea of Cortez where Minerva and I have spent the last 3 years.  She still sails great and has been a fine boat that has kept me alive several times!  I am looking forward to many more years of pleasurable sailing aboard her.

Tom also sent these current photos of the Minerva


Blagen Boat new2



Blagen Boat new4

This last photo is labeled as Agua Verde