WELLESLEY ISLAND — A Florida man has donated a 117-year-old antique steam yacht to the Boldt Yacht House to share the piece of history with the public.
"I've been looking for a house for it for years," said John H. Luhrs, Ponte Vedra, Fla., who donated his 63-foot yacht Kestrel to the yacht house.
The yacht, built in 1892 by George Lawley & Son in South Boston, is in good shape and operational, he said. The yacht features cabins with original mahogany and hardwood paneling and a pilot house. It has a galley with a coal stove and sinks with hand pumps.
For several years, Mr. Luhrs wanted to donate the yacht to a maritime museum. However, he said, he was unable to find one that would accept the yacht without asking for additional "contributions."
He has been contacting well-known maritime museums all over the U.S. and recently asked the Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, one of the largest freshwater nautical boat museums in the world, to accept the yacht.
"Unfortunately, they didn't have the room for it," Mr. Luhrs said.
However, the boat museum told him the historic Boldt Yacht House nearby on Wellesley Island might be the perfect place to house the yacht.
Shane K. Sanford, spokesman for the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, which owns and operates Boldt Castle and the Yacht House, said the authority was "very excited" to add Kestrel to its collection of historic vessels.
"It's a tremendous addition to the yacht house," he said. "It's a really good fit for the yacht house because it typifies the boats of the era and it is very similar to Mr. Boldt's old yachts we have here."
Mr. Luhrs was convinced by the bridge authority that the yacht house would be a great home for Kestrel because it was a big attraction in the Thousand Islands region and housed similar yachts. And after a few phone conversations, he boarded Kestrel and traveled about 2,000 miles from St. Augustine, Fla., to Alexandria Bay in three weeks .
The yacht's original 50-horsepower coal steam engine, which was built by Fall River Engine Co., Weymouth, Mass., in 1892, also will be shipped to the yacht house soon. The steam engine, which is still in good shape, was replaced with a diesel engine, Mr. Sanford said.
"We will have the original engine on display at the yacht house hopefully before the end of our operating season this year," Mr. Sanford said.
He said the timing of the donation was perfect because the Alexandria Township Historical Society will host a "Remnants and Remembrances of Millionaire's Row" tour next week.
The society will host a guided tour of the Castle Rest on Pullman Island and the Boldt Yacht House on Friday. Participants will board the Bonnie Belle at 9:45 a.m. at Bonnie Castle Resort on Holland Street.
Tickets are $55 for society members and $60 for the public. Proceeds will be used to replace the old windows of the historic Cornwall Bros. Store and Museum. To make a reservation or for more information on the tour, call the historical society at 482-4586.