by Don Price member of the Thousand Islands chapter

In the early/mid part of the 1900’s, Bay Head, New Jersey had a reputation for quality boat building that far exceeded the small size of the boro. A major part of that reputation came from the mind and energy of Hubert Johnson. He was one of two sons of Morton Johnson, who owned and operated a boat yard in Bay Head. Hubert and his brother Paul both started their boating careers in their father’s yard, but Hubert wanted to combine his talent for boat design with his boat building experience. It wasn’t long before he set out on his own and formed his own company, Hubert S. Johnson Boat Manufacturer, Inc located right in Bay Head near his father’s boatyard. Hubert went on to design and/or build thousands of boats for yachtsmen, sailors and the US Navy. His brother, Paul, stayed on at the Morton Johnson yard and ultimately became president when Morton died in 1934. The boat yards remained friendly but fierce competitors.

In 1936 Hubert Johnson designed and started building a series of “Sea Skiffs” of lap-strake construction. The yard became known for building very attractive and well fitted out lapstrake sea skiffs from 16 ft up to about 50 feet. His primary tool for marketing these boats was the New York Boat Show where he had extensive exhibits unlike any other boat builder at the time.

Like many boat builders on the Jersey shore, the war years of WWII were spent building under contract for the U.S. government, primarily designing and producing 42-foot picket boats and 43-foot plane rearming vessels. While Hubert Johnson continued building boats after the war, the strain of war- work sapped Hubert’s health to the point where, in 1948, he retired from boating and his boat yard. He died a year later. His three children ran the company for another decade, and then sold it. It continued for another four years under its new owners until ultimately closing it down in 1968.

In 1997, Don Price, owner and operator of St Lawrence Restoration in Clayton, NY heard of one of these well-built historical boats being up for sale and scooped it up quickly. Being fortunate enough to have his own boat restoration business this was the perfect boat to add to his collection of wooden boats. He formed a joint venture with two of his customers and together they completely restored the boat and used it for entertaining larger groups of family and friends in the Thousand Islands.

This 1956, 32-foot beauty is in excellent condition. She is a unique and rare example of a Twin- engine cruiser with a spacious cabin, kitchen & dinette area, working sink, refrigerator and private bathroom. This is truly one of the best examples of a Hubert Johnson restoration on the market today. All the teak and mahogany woodwork is in excellent condition and has ample aft deck space to take guests for a cruise or on a friendly fishing trip. The decks and the cabin have all been refinished with the best products on the market that contain ultra-violet protection designed to withstand the elements.

What a sight this amazing example of wooden craftsmanship is cruising up and down the shores of the beautiful Thousand Islands on the St Lawrence River. The boat will be on display this summer at the Annual Antique Boat Show or the next time you are in the area stop by and see the folks at St Lawrence Restoration and check out this truly remarkable piece of history.

9 Comments

  1. That 1956, 32 ft “Hubert Johnson” is a beautiful boat. …… However I am quite certain she is not a “Hubert Johnson”, and was not built by the Hubert S. Johnson boatworks in Bayhead New Jersey.
    She was built by Hubert’s father’s yard. She is a Morton Johnson.
    Familiarity with the builders would allow a person to point out numerous distinct differences in both construction and styling between the two builders.

    • Mr. Lloyd,

      Were all Hubert Johnson boats lapstrake, even the 50’ers. We have one int the yard now purporting to be a Hubert Johnson but it’s not lapstrake. So I am curious.

      Thanks for any insight that you can provide.
      Jerry Plaaten

      • Their “stock” boats were lapstrake. They also built custom boats good size sailboats etc that were not lapstrake, so I would not be surprised to find a Hubert Johnson that was not lapstrake. Additionally, my research tells me that Hubert Johnson did not begin to build lapstrake boats until 1922, Hubert started his own yard in 1914, so I think this additionally answers your question.

  2. Morton Johnson, my Great Grandfather, had three sons, Paul, Hubert, and my Grandfather Edwin. My educated guess is that the beauty in the article was built by my Grandfather Edwin especially in light of the year 1956. I spent much of my childhood hanging out at the boat works as a kid. I’m two years older than that boat.

    • I happened to come across this conversation. I am also a great grandchild of Morton Johnson. His daughter, Queen Esther was my grandmother. My father,Eric Nelson is still alive age 95.
      Betsy Blaine

    • I would be interested in talking with you about your family’s boat building history. I am a historian of the lapstrake boats of the Jersey shore and their builders. (I also own a 33ft 1957 hubert Johnson that I completely rebuilt/restored) Thank you.

    • Hi. My paernal grandfather, Harry Van Iderstine, Jr. owned/ran Johnson Brothers when I was a kid. They built beautiful powerboats. I have lived in California for 50 years, and recall (though not clearly) that the yard was sold either shortly before or upon his death and was develope as condos. A Google search show that today there is still something called Johnson Brothers there as a functioning boat yard, perhaps as a chandler and dock/slips facility. Do you have something like a history of the yard from when it was the Johnsons who owned it alll the way through the end? By the way, for a time, Harry’s son (my dad) sold sailboats from the yard, as Atlantic Sailing Yachts.

      Thanks!

  3. David, There were three yards right next to each other. Morton Johnson (1888+/- to 1967 or so) Hubert Johnson (morton’s son), who in 1914 set up his own yard right next to his father’s. The Hubert Johnson was similarly in business until just about 1967, when both yards were sold and the current town houses were built.
    Then there is Johnson Brothers that was basically next to Hubert Johnson and exists to this day as a boat yard and marina. My understanding is that Johnson Brothers has no familial connection to either Morton or Hubert Johnson.

    Continuing on, Hubert Johnson’s daughter married Grant Bauer, who was the man behind Bayhead skiffs on the other end of the canal.

  4. My father had a 50 footer built by Hubert Johnson around 1945. He kept the boat in the manasquan River for 27 years. Boat was named penguin 11. Sold in the mid 60s. Has anyone seen or heard of it? Boat was used by the coast guard as a sub chaser

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.