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a group of people in a boat on a body of water


In 1976, Bill Harrah learned that his personal yacht, the 55’ mahogany cruiser Thunderbird, was in need of extensive and costly repairs, Bill Harrah ordered the construction of a replacement for the Thunderbird. Mr. Harrah wanted a new, custom-built yacht that would be fast, luxurious, and capable of carrying up to 38 of his guests in comfort through the sometimes choppy waters of Lake Tahoe. Although there were many fine boat builders on the West Coast, Mr. Harrah personally chose a relatively obscure company, Huckins Yacht Corporation of Jacksonville, Florida, to construct his new flagship.

Huckins Yacht gained the attention of Bill Harrah during World War II by building PT boats for the U.S. Navy. Among a veritable fleet of boats he owned during his lifetime, Harrah had his own PT boat and he was impressed with the way it handled in rough water. Huckins, who had begun constructing custom sportfishing boats after the war, was commissioned by Mr. Harrah to build a luxury craft along the lines of the old PT boats.

Design work was completed and construction of the vessel began in early 1977. Per Harrah’s instructions, the 54-foot yacht was to have no sleeping accommodations, leaving room for ample and comfortable seating for his most valued guests. It was to be fitted with twin-turbocharged V-8 diesel engines, larger than were necessary, to permit effortless cruising at speeds over 30 knots. Construction of the hull and installation of machinery was completed in late 1977 and Mr. and Mrs. Harrah journeyed to Jacksonville to see it.

The yacht was given the name Tahoe Star, christened by Mrs. Harrah, and launched into the waters off Jacksonville for sea trials. Bill Harrah took the helm for what was to be his only ride aboard the Tahoe Star.

Following the completion in Florida of the interior of the yacht by Henry Conversano and Associates of Oakland, the Tahoe Star was trucked across the country to Lake Tahoe where it finally arrived in May of 1978. Crews from Harrah’s and Huckins worked together for weeks to make final preparations for the launch. At about that time, Bill Harrah entered the hospital for scheduled heart bypass surgery. On June 30, 1978, the Tahoe Star was commissioned and made its first cruise on Lake Tahoe. Sadly, Bill Harrah passed from complications due to the surgery and never saw the Tahoe Star on Lake Tahoe.

The Tahoe Star remained the property of Harrah’s Tahoe Hotel and Casino until 2021 and was used just as Mr. Harrah intended. In the beginning, it was reserved primarily for the complimentary use of VIP guests and entertainers. Among those celebrities who were entertained aboard the yacht over the years were Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, Robin Williams, the Beach Boys, David Letterman, Willie Nelson, Liberace, Natalie Cole, Steve Martin, Tom Jones, Rich Little, Merle Haggard, Jay Leno, Suzanne Sommers, Andy Williams, and Glen Campbell, to name a few. Harrah’s eventually made the Tahoe Star available to more and more of its guests. Now it is available to the general public.

We invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of Lake Tahoe aboard the Tahoe Star.

a person riding on the back of a boat in the water