Saving Reveille, a 1908 Custom Cruiser/Launch

Reveille as she is today. Photo courtesy Bone Yard Boats.

The following story was written by David Irving, owner of Bone Yard Boats, a company dedicated to the preservation of old wooden boats. Irving has a long-held passion for wooden boats, especially the classics, and can’t bear to see them languish in backyards or, worse, be torn asunder and discarded.

Since purchasing Bone Yard Boats in 2005 from founder Ginger Martus, Irving has increased its loyal following of antique-boat aficionados who share his love for these unique and irreplaceable wooden vessels. Bone Yard Boats maintains a website and quarterly newsletter featuring listings of old wooden boats that need saving, as well as their backstories, which can be fascinating.

Below is one such story:

I love a happy ending to an old-boat story, and this one appears to be headed in that direction. At the end of November 2011, I received an email from a well-known member of the antique wooden-boat community that read, “A recent acquaintance has an old powerboat that’s very dear to him in that his father built it over a century ago. He wants to place it with someone who will guarantee he or she will put it back into operation. I hope you can list this boat online as well as in your publication Bone Yard Boats. The boat is free to the right person.”

Did you get that? The current owner’s father built the boat over 100 years ago! I see a lot of old wooden boats, but the ones that have reached the century mark—particularly in this condition—are few and very far between. Originally constructed in 1908 as an open launch with just a pole-mounted awning over her cockpit, Reveille was reconfigured several times over the past 100 years and now sports a pilothouse and cabin with cruising interior. After owning her for 46 years, her builder sold her in 1954. Then, in 1965 the builder’s son, Richard, bought Reveille back into the family. After owning her for another 46 years, Richard decided that the time was right to pass this unique vessel on to someone who would commit to restoring her to operating condition.

Reveille’s listing detail is as follows:

Built by Richard E. Gruters, New York, New York, 1908. With such an interesting and known history, and a thorough 1980s rebuild, here’s a power cruiser with potential. Reveille was launched over a century ago as an open launch, then having only a stanchion-mounted awning over her cockpit. In 1915, she sported a round-fronted cabin, making her into a so-called glass cabin launch. By 1929, for full headroom, a boxy forward cabin with a pilothouse aft of it made its appearance. She had a low day cabin at one point, and was launched initially again as an open launch after her 1983 rebuild.

(Note: There are 6 large photos on the Bone Yard Boats site showing Reveille as she appeared in 1908, 1915, 1929, 1983, one unknown date but very old, and the current 2011 photo. If you like looking at old boat photos as much as I do, these should not be missed.)

Reveille has had 5 owners over her long life, but for most of her years has been with the Gruter family: From 1908 to 1954 the original builder had her; then from 1965 to the present she’s also been a Gruter boat, after his son bought her back into the fold.

Otis Enterprises of Searsport, Maine, did the hull structural rebuild in 1983, giving the boat a new keel and stem, new floor timbers and frames, and a new deck. The second-generation Gruters (her present owner) took over from there and added a nice-looking cabin and pilothouse, along with a cruising interior. She was given a rebuilt engine (her present one) at the same time, and the family went on the enjoy Revielle on day trips and cruises on Penobscot Bay.

For the past several years, Reveille has been sitting ashore in her owner’s backyard, covered against the weather, but slowly drying out and suffering cosmetically. But there’s still a lot of boat there for someone with energy, imagination, and a bit of boat knowledge. She’s available free for anyone willing to take on the job with assurance of finishing it.

I’ve seen bad things happen to good boats, particularly boats that have lost their storage space, and while Reveille seemed quite safe in her owner’s backyard, I didn’t want to take any chances with such a special boat. Bone Yard Boats is firmly dedicated to the belief that for every old boat out there in need of a new home, there’s a crazy boater looking for a project, so I quickly set out to find that boater. The Winter 2012 issue of the Bone Yard Boats newsletter was not due to mail for several weeks, but Reveille was posted on the Bone Yard Boats website and an email campaign was launched to the BYB community of subscribers in early December.

By early January, I began hearing through the old-boat grapevine that Reveille had been adopted, so I gave Richard, the owner, a call. He confirmed that he had selected a gentleman who had agreed to restore the boat, and he seemed sincerely happy about his choice. A quick check of the subscriber records confirmed that Reveille’s new owner was, indeed, a member of the Bone Yard Boats crew.

Next, I contacted said subscriber, and here is his response:

“Hi David, I am the new owner of Reveille. Let me say first that I am humbled by Richard’s decision in choosing us for her new owners, and second, very proud. My plan when she arrives at my shop in Wiscasset this spring will be to restore her as she was built in 1908 as a launch. The refit/restoration will take me about a year, and then she will be shown at classic wooden boat shows throughout New England. I have been doing refits/restorations for around 30 years on wooden boats, including at my own boatyard ‘Marine Solutions.’ She will be a piece of furniture when done. I also want to thank you for BYB; this would not have happened if not for BYB. I will keep you posted with photos and research data as her restoration continues. Thanks so much, Paul & Kathleen”

Okay, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to saving old boats!

For more information:

Bone Yard Boats


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