By Becky Maxedon
As water levels in lakes and reservoirs across the West drop dramatically, what some could say are archaeological artifacts from days gone by are rising in the mud left behind.
Artifacts heck! Towns that were flooded to make way for progress are reappearing. But one artifact in Lake Mead recently made its presence known – an artifact very near and dear to one Lake Havasu City resident revealed itself.
There aren’t many who get to return to the scene of an accident that could have changed the rest of their life, but Steve Buckalew, an 82-year-old retired firefighter, just had that experience – up close and personal.
When Buckalew was a high school student in Torrance, Calif., he began his love of fast boats and started building his own in 1955.
He got a set of plans from Glen-L Marine and he was off and running.
Buckalew’s wife Virginia Buckalew, said she and Steve had their first date on that very boat.
But it couldn’t be just a boat – it had to be a fast boat. Throughout his boat-building career, Buckalew was always looking for a faster boat.
Over the years, he experimented with many motors from Mercury to Evinrude. Trips east to the Parker Enduro and other boat-racing events occupied his time off from firefighting in Torrance.
“Evinrude came out with a 235 horsepower motor, and I bought one. That would have been about 1976 or ’77 and that made me faster than anyone,” Buckalew said.
“I told my wife, ‘This boat is going to get me in trouble.’” It was faster than Buckalew had ever had. The vessel was christened the “Quick Screw.”
In 1977, he towed the boat from Parker up to Lake Mead to watch a water skiing marathon – a 75-mile race.
One team’s boat was unable to go, and he was asked if he could use his boat for the race. He agreed and they prepared the boat to pull a skier and they started the race.
“We were doing about 70 mph pulling the skier and we were passing the slower boats – the kids and novice skiers. We pulled up on a big boat with a big wake. My boat didn’t like a lot of water on the chime, so I was trying to slide over the wake,” Buckalew said.
“I turned to the right and in the blink of an eye, I was in the water under the boat. The skier was on a 200-foot rope and I saw the rope going by and it kept going and going and finally the skier came by and asked if we were OK,” he said.
To his great relief, everyone was OK. It was the boat that wasn’t.
“It didn’t take long for it to go down and I wanted to get a buoy out there so I could come back and get the motor and the prop,” he said.
Sadly, upon his return, the buoy was nowhere to be found and he counted it as a total loss. He thought perhaps someone had made off with the valuable parts that were retrievable.
Fast forward 46 years and Lake Mead has receded so low that many of its sunken secrets are revealed and the Quick Screw has been exposed.
“A friend’s son saw a Facebook post recently by News 8 Las Vegas looking for Steve Buckalew, the owner of the boat Quick Screw. He then contacted us saying the boat has been found,” Virginia Buckalew said.
A couple weeks later, the Buckalew’s went to Lake Mead to see their boat once again.
“All I can tell you is that he should have died in that boat,” Virginia Buckalew said. “We thought the damage had happened on the right side of the boat, but it was the left side, where he was driving.”
“When I saw the boat …” Buckalew had no words.
“I had protective gear from my neck all the way down to my upper legs,” he said.
“I looked at it. How did I survive? By the grace of God. I could have been knocked out and drowned – no doubt,” he said.
“It’s all there. The motor, the prop, everything.”
Lake Mead has receded about 182 feet below the water level the day of the wreck.
“It’s just unbelievable. I was a lucky guy. I was blown away by seeing this.”
The future of the boat is out of the Buckalew’s purview at this point and they have to speculate no more about its condition.
After retiring, the couple relocated to Lake Havasu City in 1993, where they remain today.
And for the time being, Quick Screw remains at home, exposed in Lake Mead.
Cool story. I’m from Havasu so this hits home.
Very awesome story thank you for sharing it
I’m skier from Tucson,Arizona, my friends and I would hit all the big lakes every where. One year at Roosevelt Lake we were skiing in ’77 the lake had cross winds clocking at 45miles and we were going 65 miles as we were turning it my friends boat flipped over too . The driver and flagger made it out because of safety equipment. So four of us are very happy safety equipment for skiing and driver & flagger. We were able to recover the whole boat by many people who were around at 3:30pm , when it happened at 3pm. At the time the depth of the lake was 100ft were we at accident.
Hi ,, are you a former fireman and uses to live in Torrance I believe I was at your house with Del teague , PROBABLY AROUND LATE 70S, I’m living in LAKE HAVASU CITY , ALSO ,,
I would like to see all of the items that have sunk in the lake removed. Are they doing this? Will boats and cans, etc be picked up ?
The “boat” to your stories of your race days! That is so cool! God definitely had other plans for your life!
Tom & Jonny
I used to live in Wilmington working in Torrance, CA. NOW IN Lake Havasu City after leaving Oregon. Great story! Maybe a few retired people here in town can help him get his boat back!
Great Story! Thank you for sharing
Great story ,now i know the rest of the story.
This boat should be revived and put on Display at a Museum and pictures of builder and owner showed with the Boat. You need to retrieve the Motor and screw that was on motor at least. I met a couple of men back I Earley 80’s outside Fenton, MO. They built Inboard race boats. Pictures and your name should be some where in Boaters Hall of Fame, and stories such as this one put in as well.
I was there racing with my dad in a 28 scarb. I hope we weren’t the boat that cause that.