Joe Matthews does last minute wiring on the Cochiti Queen.
The continuing saga of the Cochiti Queen
Why has the Cochiti Queen chosen me to continue telling this crazy story of folly and commitment—of a hobby that won’t go away?
I cringed when Joe Matthews called me after Relaunching the Cochiti Queen appeared in the October 2009 issue of the Signpost. I was afraid that he might be annoyed at my portrayal of his failure to replace the CQ’s somewhat defective boiler that he built in year 2000. Ninety-year-old boatbuilder Lloyd Melick gave me the CQ last fall when he tired of waiting for a steam engine to power the half-size replica of the African Queen, from the classic Bogart movie of the same name.
I told Joe that I tried to get his side of the story, but he was in Australia working on a planned community (similar to his Diamond Tail Ranch subdivision in Placitas). He said that I didn’t quite get the facts straight. He also made it clear that he was not the kind of guy to quit on a project and that he had been trying to work out a safe boiler system ever since the initial launch when overpressure threatened to blow he and Lloyd out of the water. (See December 2001 issue of the Signpost.)
He didn’t call to yell at me though. Joe told me that what I really needed was an electric motor. I said that sounded like a fine idea, but my budget would probably force me to stick with oars until I could find a good deal on an outboard. He said that he had already researched the technology, that it wouldn’t cost that much, and besides he would pay. As Bogart would say, “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
It took Joe a couple of months to order and install the parts. He used the steamboat’s original shaft and propeller, hooked it up to a six-horsepower motor powered by four golf cart batteries connected to a control panel and operated by a joy stick.
Lloyd’s friend Steve Spaulding built housings for the new equipment and covered them with mahogany. All I had to do was a little patching, plugging, and painting on the water-intake holes for the original steam engine and places where the fiberglass coating had cracked and pealed.
Joe and I finally found a day in June when we were both in town and met at the Cochiti boat ramp. Lloyd couldn’t come because he was in the hospital recovering from a hip replacement. We slid the CQ off the trailer into the lake with the help of a small support crew. My wife Barb came along to bail and paddle as needed. With a flip of a switch we were cruising quietly back and forth near the ramp. We didn’t motor too far, because the wind was coming up and leaks required bubble gum patches and constant bailing. There was a little glitch with the joy stick, and I had forgotten to fully charge the batteries, but we motored around for a couple hours without any noticeable loss of power. Success!
Joe said he couldn’t really explain why he got so involved with the CQ, that I certainly should not think of him as my benefactor. After nearly ten years and lots of effort from Lloyd, Joe, and friends, the CQ has been a demanding little boat with a personality of her own. Joe said he just didn’t want all the work to be wasted. Everyone who worked on the project is welcome to use the CQ, but for some reason, the responsibility of telling the tale and enjoying the fruits of their labor seems to have fallen upon me. Something else to fill the few empty hours of retirement.
Barb is going to sew a canopy and a boat cover. When the weather cools, I’ll pull the CQ into the garage, roll her over, and refiberglass the hull. Lloyd is out of the hospital now and has promised to help. An electronic-wiz friend of mine says he’ll fix the joy stick.
Last night, I watched an excellent Blu-ray recording of the recently restored African Queen. I am inspired to trailer the CQ up to Buckman Wash to see if we can navigate the rapids of White Rock Canyon and power through the Rio Grande delta above Cochiti Lake—Barb at the tiller like Hepburn and me dragging the boat through the mud like Bogart.
Family Travel Minute
Head south for an adventurous time with the family
In the heat of the summer, if you want a cool mountain retreat, visit Ruidoso. The Inn of the Mountain Gods offers the perfect escape from your daily routine. The lake offers a variety of recreation activities. We debated heavily about whether to paddle boat or rowboat. Finally we decided to take out a rowboat, because all of us could fit into a rowboat together. Even though the boat was going in circles, we still had a great time.
The Inn of the Mountain Gods has a very family friendly buffet with something for everyone. Our kids particularly loved breakfast and the indoor pool. The women’s locker room has a very large changing table, if you happen to be traveling with a baby. And, if you come on a Sunday, The Inn of the Mountain Gods offers free family entertainment on their lawn by the lake. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs and enjoy a free movie or a live band concert after sunset.
In town, if you want to visit a unique business and pamper yourself, try Lotions and Potions. My daughters and I went for a mother/daughter outing. Making our own custom blended organic body lotion and bath oil was an experience we all enjoyed.
You can’t leave Ruidoso without visiting the Flying J Chuckwagon Supper and Western Show. Watching an old-time western shoot-out in La Bonita—Flying J’s old time main street—will captivate you and your kids, and eating an authentic Chuckwagon dinner is a great way to unwind with family and friends. The Flying J Band will treat you to an hour of fantastic music.
For more family friendly travel information, including a monthly calendar, a travel blog, and featured destination videos, visit www.thefamilytravelminute.com.
The Family Travel Minute is a web-based travel program geared for families. The website provides ideas for day trips and over-night excursions which can be accomplished for approximately one hundred dollars or less. Many of the ideas suggested in the weekly travel blog are free. The Executive Producer and the Host of the Program, Jennifer Chavez, is a working a mom with three children.