Rich in history as well as beauty, Lake Coeur d’Alene has been home to many boatbuilders, one of the most famous of which was the Yandt Boatworks. This local company was once situated where the present day Coeur d’Alene Resort (site of the 2002 ACBS Annual Meeting) now stands and has provided more than 80 years of boating service and memories to the people of the Panhandle. The following is an extract from Jim McGoldrick’s article which appears in The Real Runabouts, Vol. VII.

North Idaho is blessed with a natural beauty that is cherished by all who know it. This portion of the state is scarcely 50 miles wide and is referred to as the “Pan Handle” which is obvious when you look at the map. Situated in the western reaches of the Rocky Mountains amid heavily timbered slopes are at least three major (and many minor) beautiful lakes. Coeur d’Alene, which is only 25 miles from Spokane, Washington traditionally has been the most active boating waterway probably because of the commerce that flowed on the lake and its tributaries after the 1880’s.

The Yandt Boat Works of Coeur d’Alene has been well known locally for more than 80 years. This small family operation was started in 1910 by Robert Yandt (Sr.) who was born in Germany in 1882 and who migrated to Minnesota at the age of eight. He grew up there and helped build strip boats until 1907 when he moved to Potlatch, Idaho to work in the lumber mill and then on to Coeur d’Alene as a machine setter for the Blackwell Lumber Company. By 1910 however, he was devoting most of his time to building boats of all descriptions that were in heavy demand in the young and blooming inland northwest community.

By 1923 “Bob” had been joined in his work by his wife, Pearl, and later (1941) by their son Robert, Jr. Then in 1946 young Bob’s wife Barbara completed the family team.

The Yandt Boat Works excelled in building “speed boats” leaving much of the smaller (and slower) craft and larger boats to the other local builders. Most of the Yandt boats were variations of John Hacker basic designs and refined by him to meet individual requirements.
During the years, Yandt boats were the perennial winners of the “Coeur d’Alene Cup” symbolic of the championship in the big race at the annual “Regatta”. One of the popular champions was the 32 foot “Greyhound” ( in 1919 -1922) which was owned by the Dillingham family and powered by a 250 HP Sterling engine. By 1923, Dr. Smith had Yandt build him a fast 28 footer “Atta Boy” with a big 300 HP Fiat which won the title and held it for several years until the smaller and faster step hydros with aircraft engines took over.

The most spectacular of the latter category was an exciting 26 foot step-hydro with a 450 HP Liberty V-12 he built for Clarence I. Paulsen in 1932. This boat swung a 20’ by 36’ three blade prop through a 1 to 1-1/2 step-up gear box that was capable of 70 mph. It was quite a sensation with its authoritative exhaust note, racy shape and gleaming mahogany! After winning the championship, “CIP” Paulsen left the boat (still unnamed) in the Yandt storage shed for several years while he went off to Alaska to operate his gold mining dredge. New challenges lured him and he finally sold the outfit to a partnership of Howard Hudson and Harry Wilson to be used a thrilling “Speedboat Ride” concession. The configuration was modified some by cutting an austere hole in the long sweeping deck forward of the open engine with seats for up to six terrified (but paying) passengers. The driver and the mechanic sat behind the engine in “Gar Wood” style facing the nose, wind, spray and occasional flying debris!

The big Liberty drank so much gas at high speed that the new owners made a deal with Texaco for fuel in exchange for painting the hull partially red (and mahogany) and naming it the “Fire Chief” – complete with the Texaco star.

WWII ended the era. The engine was taken out and sold to Bob Yandt. The hull ended up in the possession of a farmer and it disappeared from the public limelight.

Yandt’s major thrust, however, was that of building fast runabouts for individuals and for the water taxi trade. Many of the summer residents at the lake had no roads to their choice vacation spots and almost all of the people and supplies moved by boat from the Coeur d’Alene city dock which was the head of ground transportation. Mail and groceries also were delivered by boat.

To fill this need, Yandt produced a number of John Hacker1`  style hard chine runabouts that replaced the earlier slow displacement boats formerly employed. Most of these were with painted hulls and decks (for easy maintenance) and trimmed with varnished mahogany cover boards, cowlings and comings. By the mid-thirties however, the public was attracted to some of the then appearing all varnished mahogany beauties and they would choose these rather than the old boats for taxi and rides on the lake. As a result, the Yandt Boat Works constructed a group of 22 footer Hacker designed triple cockpit taxis that became first choice at the dock in the for-hire trade.

It wasn’t until 1943 that the larger brute force maxi taxi like “Hiawatha” (powered by the same Liberty) was commissioned and also operated by the Yandt family. In 1946 “Mermaid”, a sister ship, joined the fleet and the two served for a number of years where large groups of people had to be transported up the lake.

Incidentally, the original site of the Yandt operation was a floathouse near the City Dock. This was wiped out by a fire in 1923 with a complete loss of tools and patterns and then again in 1929 ice caused the business to sink with enough damage that it was decided to move ashore and rebuild. Then in the 1970’s, the area was cleared to make way for the modern hotel and marina complex that is now the fabulous “Coeur d’Alene” resort.