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Venerable Ship Goes Down aka Ruben E. Lee

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Old 07-18-2007, 06:16 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: San Diego
Posts: 42

I was born and raised in San Diego, (and still live there) so I well remember the construction of the Reuben E Lee. Just ashore, a short distance away was Reuben's Restaurant. They were a chain; I'm not sure how large. They built a steel "barge" that didn't appear to be seaworthy, but it did manage to float. The superstructure was "stick-built," like any other building in Southern California. Interior and exterior decor was "riverboat."

When it first opened, it was simply tied up to its "dock." There was enough slack on the mooring lines to allow for the tides. But, they didn't figure on the pretty good chop and fairly large wakes that can develop in that part of San Diego Bay. The boat would start to roll, then one of the mooring lines would come up taught. JERK!!! I saw more than one of the wait staff drop a fully loaded tray because of that. They eventually put in a lot of pilings around it to sort of enclose it in its own little "bay." IMHO, there is nothing really "historic" or "authentic" about it. I'm surprised that the Maritime Museum (a great place) had any interest at all in it.

(The San Diego Maritime Museum is also home to the Star of India, the world's oldest active ship. She was built in 1864 (or 3), and they now take her out to sail in the ocean several times per year. Think the SOLAS exemption is a hassle for the DQ? You should have seen the hassle they had with the Coast Guard in 1976, the first time they sailed her after her restoration. My dad was on the Museum's Board of Directors at the time).

The Bahia Belle started her life in the 1940's (or earlier) as a "nickle snatcher" passenger ferry between downtown San Diego and NAS North Island. She was essentially a 65 foot barge, with a two or three deck superstructure, powered by a couple of diesel (maybe gasoline at first) engines. Propellors. When the San Diego-Coronado bridge opened in the '60's, all ferry service had to stop. The Bahia Hotel bought her, added some gingerbread decor and a fake paddlewheel, and voila, a riverboat!
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