Long Beach has great aquatic history and often readers share ideas for stories with me when I’m in or on the water. Recently, lap swimmer John Smith suggested that there is an intriguing vessel at the impound dock near the Alamitos Bay marine office that I should investigate.
When I saw the 92-year-old yacht, she reminded me of the horseman’s phrase, “Ridden hard and put away wet.” The once grand lady of the sea, was a shadow of her former self.
The classic 54-foot wooden motor yacht was built in 1929 and named Alura II. She was contracted to be built for James Scripps Booth, then the owner of Scripps Publishing and Scripps-Booth Automobile Company, which produced stylish cars from 1913 through 1923 and was later sold to General Motors.
Artist and engineer Booth designed and created cars for the luxury market but his passion was yacht design. In the Cranbrook library in Detroit, there is a collection of detailed drawings of the vessel prepared by Booth himself. In the same library, documents showed the family lived aboard Alura II and cruised for an extended summer.
From there, she had a series of owners that shared Booth’s passion for her.
An ad in the April 3, 1947, edition of the Palm Beach Post has her listed under her name Tawomis for a mere $48,500. The Classic Yacht Register noted her as, “A well-traveled lady that has as made her home from Boston to Florida then to Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Oceanside and Oxnard. Comfortably moored at Sea Bridge, Channel Islands Harbor, with owners lovingly lavishing Alura II with all the attention she deserves.”
Unfortunately, recent listings of the vessel show she is missing over-the-top attention. One post has her listed at $15,000 with the option to take over the existing slip. The next listing was more desperate, only $4,000 with the caveat that she be moved.
The listing went on to say, “If you don’t have the means and/or place to move it to, then this is not the boat for you. If are not skilled or don’t have the financial ability to maintain such a boat then this is not your boat.”
From there, my best guess is that some idealistic person took her on — not understanding the commitment required of owning a wooden boat.
Another swimmer, Naples resident Patricia Nielsen, between laps shared she had a story for me. She said years ago she was aboard the Avalon, on the way to Catalina with her Uncle Bert, who noticed on the back side of one of the life rings was the vessel name “SS Eastland.”
She wanted to know if the Avalon and Eastland were the same vessel, as her uncle had theorized.
The two vessels were within 4 feet of size, both powered by steam, and both were built for use in the Great Lakes. How the life ring from one ended up on the other is a mystery.
Back in 1915, the 265-foot steamship Eastland rolled over onto her side in the Chicago River. A total of 844 passengers and crew died in what was the largest loss of life from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes. Nielsen’s uncle was on board and he climbed on the hull where he was rescued.
After the disaster, Eastland was salvaged, sold to the United States Navy and later scrapped.
The Avalon was 269-foot steamship that originally was the Great Lakes passenger steamer Virginia.
Avalon, did the Catalina run until 1951. She caught fire and burned in 1960 in Long Beach; her hull was used as a barge until it sunk in 1964.
Don’t Be Bashful
Port pilot Bob Blair suggested readers be reminded that the new civilian small boat channel through Anaheim Bay is currently scheduled to open on Thursday, Jan. 21. Once the new channel is opened, the old channel will be closed.
He recommended that boaters entering the area for the first time that are unclear on the new route should avoid being bashful and contact Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach staff via VHF channel 79 with any questions.
Blair also urged boaters to subscribe to the local “Notice to Mariners” that is emailed free to anyone requesting it navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=lnmMain.