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)
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
We assume this is Mrs. Blagen by the lumber to start the project
The keel is started
A roof goes over the boat
The Minerva back out of its shed
Tractor starts Minervas journey to RR
Guess they needed two tractors
The Minerva headed to Stockton, CA
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
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
Not sure who is at the helm
The beautiful ketch Minerva
This was a damaged photo of the Minerva off Sausalito
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
This last photo is labeled as Agua Verde