This year, there will be a TV star at the Wooden Boat Fair. Riptide, which served as the location for the ’80s NBC show named for the boat.
The 53-foot yacht built in 1938 is a newcomer to the festival, happening Saturday and Sunday. “It’s my first time taking the boat into South Sound,” said Peter Riess of Port Orchard, who owns the boat with husband Dennis Ballard.
Though it appeared only on the small screen, Riptide has all the glamour of a classic film star.
“It’s very art deco,” Riess said Tuesday. “It’s like stepping back in time when you come on board.”
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The festival invites aficionados and landlubbers alike to explore the visiting boats. This year, about 25 boats of various sizes and ages are expected to participate, including perennial favorite Sandman, the 60-foot tug that operates as a floating museum, and Madam Blue, a classic hydroplane that won multiple championships and is now part of the vintage circuit. Madam Blue will be on land so visitors can check it out from all angles.
The event also offers entertainment, a food court and a lineup of booths stocked with an array of items, often with nautical themes. Children are invited to build their own toy boats from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, or while supplies last.
At the docks, visitors are welcome to tour the boats when owners are aboard.
“Truly one of the joys of owning this boat is sharing her,” Riess said. “People really appreciate what they’re seeing. … And they love the fact that it has this long history.
“We have a very thick binder, probably 4 inches thick, with all kinds of historical articles about the boat and pictures of it from its entire lifetime. We’ve spent years researching it.
“We love to share the whole story.”
Indeed, the 56 episodes of “Riptide,” filmed largely on board, are just one chapter in the yacht’s colorful history. The show, which aired on NBC in 1984 and 1986, chronicled the adventures of a floating detective agency.
Restaurateur Howard Johnson was the first owner of the boat, built by Elco Motor Yachts. Johnson christened it Do-Ho, after himself and wife Dolores. In 1940, Do-Ho was the subject of an eight-page article in Life Magazine.
In 1950, gangster Morris “Moe” Dalitz bought the boat, then called Southwind. Dalitz moved the boat to Las Vegas’ Lake Mead and used it as a hospitality ship for the Desert Inn Resort.
“It had a pretty sordid past,” Riess said. “When we bought her, she was pretty much derelict. We had to rebuild the boat from one end to the other, so we know it intimately. It’s like part of the family.”
He and Ballard named the boat Riptide when they bought it in 1997 in Los Angeles, spending around $200,000 on repairs and renovations. They moved to Port Orchard in 2010, drawn by the beauty of Puget Sound.
“I can throw my lines off and within a half-hour, I can be in four or five different harbors that are picturesque and scenic and secluded,” Riess said. “That’s just not possible in Southern California.”
These days, they spend large chunks of each summer aboard.
“Even if it didn’t have the terrific history that it has, it’s still a really excellent, comfortable, wonderful cruising boat,” Riess said. “That’s why we love it.”
Olympia Wooden Boat Fair
What: The Olympia Wooden Boat Association’s 38th annual fair celebrates wooden boats of all kinds along with fair food, crafts and a children’s boat-building booth (open Saturday only).
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Percival Landing Park, 625 Columbia St. NW, Olympia.
Noon: The Aspirations (Aspire School Jazz Band).
2 p.m.: Blue Pickup (bluegrass).
3:30 p.m.: Baby & the Nobodies (rock).
5 p.m.: Tumwater High School Jazz Ensemble.
Noon: Olympia Highlanders Bagpipe Marching Band.
1 p.m.: Slieveloughane Irish Dancers.
2:15 p.m.: Timberline High School Jazz Band.
3:30 p.m.: The Burren Boys (Celtic).