Zella C: a 30-year Ruff’s project!
When Zella C first appeared on the water in 1997, the wooden boat community was so surprised (almost upset), because no one knew about it, especially old time members of the CYA. The boat is a typical Dreamboat designed with a wheelhouse at the aft of the boat. She is the most beautiful, at least to the eyes of her owner, cruising on Lake Washington nowadays (God save us from hurting the other Dreamboat owners’ feelings). The reason for this apparent non existence is that Wesley Ruff started the restoration in 1974 during which the boat was hidden, out on dry land, covered by a yellow shed in a boatyard in Everett, for a 23-year restoration project. During these restoration years, Wes also patiently dug out the historical information contained in this article from multiple and scattered authorized sources. In fact, Zella C has an interesting infamous history.
Zella C was designed by Ottis Cutting and built in 1927 by L Benson, respectively architect and master carpenter at the Lake Union Dry Dock and Machine Works for Dennis Richard Cain. She was a gas screw yacht, with one mast, 37.75 feet Registered Length (42-feet overall), 11.4 feet in breadth and 4.6 feet in depth, of 14.76 gross and 12.89 tons net.
D. R. Cain belonged to the gallant and courageous men from Northwestern Washington USA who served in World War I 1917-1919 and returned from Europe mildly mustard-gassed by the Germans in the North of France. In 1927, Dennis Richard Cain bought the boat for a value of $6,000 and named her Zella C. In 1929, Zella C was sold for 1 symbolic dollar, in hand paid, to a formidable woman with, at least according to police records, 13 aliases, the most famous being Nellie Zella Nightingale Curtis, from which the name of “Zella C” was derived. We can assume that Dennis and Zella met before the new boat was launched.
Zella was an absolutely charming but tough businesswoman, known to direct a flock of women practicing the world's oldest female profession at the Hotel La Salle. The hotel located on the corner of Pike Place Market, still exists today; however it is now running a more conventional business. Zella and her girls were extremely successful at their business and the La Salle hotel became the landmark for gentlemen of all sorts, including the mayor, city councilmen, politicians and police employees. It is interesting to note that prohibition was illegal; however, once a year Zella’s establishment was raided. She would pay 100 dollars and the police would look the other way.
A typical day for Zella would include sleeping till mid afternoon, then venturing out to buy a pint of ice cream at the Fairmont creamery then located at 1st and Stewart. During the early evening she would dine at her 3-room-suite at the La Salle Hotel and just before 8:00pm she would check that the linens were in ample supply. She would then dress for the evening, hair in place, four screen satin black blouse, pearl necklace hanging with the biggest pearls and diamond rings. After checking herself in the mirror, she would preside at the reception desk. During quiet moments of which there were not many, Z would work on the books, which were only as accurate as she could make them depending on who was auditing her records. Her books when inspected showed $ 20-30,000, which was a small portion of what she actually earned. She was audited numerous times by the IRS and could not explain Cadillacs, ermines, diamonds and extravagance of hats along with frequent trips to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and NY. The wages of sin were sufficient enough to permanently license Zella C for the coastal trade (US Department of Commerce, 1929). The boat was used to run bootleg liquor from Canada to Birch Bay, Washington, during Prohibition. At one point, in 1931, the vessel was impounded by government agents. Victor Fleischman bought the Zella C at a US Marshal’s sale in 1931 and the yacht’s infamous name had been changed to the Holiday V when purchased by Wes Ruff in 1967 at Wolfe Marine, Seattle.
In 1974, the boat was moved to Everett. During these 30 years, Wes restored the boat from stem to stern, including hand laid teak and ash soles, solid teak doors with teak bulkheads and trim throughout, a new deck, new hull with Everdur fasteners, new oak deck timbers, new Isuzu diesel, new electrical with Trace inverter, new water and fuel tanks, new batteries, refrigerator, Dickinson diesel stove, built-in microwave, original and brass sinks with granite and marble countertops to accommodate modern conveniences, and a new lapstrake dinghy. Nothing was spared for Zella C. Ted Brewer and Floyd Waite were the main consultants for traditional rejuvenation.
Dr. Martine P. Roudier purchased Zella C on June 12 2004. She has been mostly a sailor during her life in Brittany and Guadeloupe, FWI. As Wes Ruff said yesterday about being and nothingness, we are only “caretakers of these objects that celebrate our past”. Hopefully, Zella C will long stay part of a sea fleet of beautiful “existentialist” boats in the Pacific Northwest. Wes and Sharon Ruff, thanks again!