Reuben Smith Opens Tumblehome Boatshop
Wood Boat Builder and Restorer Has Found the Perfect Place to Continue the Family Legacy
Reuben Smith has returned to his roots: owning and managing his own wooden boat shop.
Smith, who was, until last fall, the boatworks manager at Hall’s Boat Corporation in Lake George, has opened Tumblehome Boatshop on Route 28 in Warrensburg.
Smith and his crew will focus on restoring antique wooden boats and constructing new boats based on historic designs.
“Tumblehome’s specialty is historically significant boats and boats that have been important to generations of families,” said Cynde Smith, who has joined her husband in the new business.
“We want to be known for the integrity of our restorations,” said Reuben Smith. “The methods of construction have to be the same. Every detail has to be as historically accurate as possible. A good restoration is a time-consuming, painstaking process. We research the history of boats long before we start working on them.”
The shop, which the Smiths converted from a massive 1950s industrial building that once served as the garage for Warrensburg’s Department of Public Works, hosted a grand opening June 9.
“This building became available just as I was thinking about going back out on my own, and as soon as I saw, I had my heart set on it,” said Reuben Smith. “It’s the perfect place for a shop like ours; we’re at the gateway to the Adirondacks and near Lake George.”
Smith added, “Lake George has become a hub for wooden boat building and restorations; that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to stay here.”
Smith learned his craft in his youth, working with his uncle, Everett Smith, and his father Mason Smith, restoring runabouts and launches, Adirondack guideboats, Rushton canoes, St. Lawrence skiffs, and building the cold-molded Adirondack Goodboat.
In 1997, Smith moved to the South Shore of Boston Harbor, where he worked as Boat Shop Director for the Hull Lifesaving Museum, building and maintaining the museum’s fleet of open-water, multi-oar gigs, and training crews of at-risk kids in Boston. In 2000, he set up his own business, working out of the storied old Jones River Landing in Kingston, Mass. There, he worked on saltwater vessels, everything from dories and wherries to 20,000-pound motorsailers.
While working in Massachusetts, Smith became the founding director of Massachusetts Bay Maritime Artisans, an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the historic boatbuilding industry in Massachusetts.
Smith has given courses in boatbuilding at several institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As Smith indicated, Tumblehome is in business not only to restore wood boats, but to replicate boats no longer in production.
The first of these will be “the true ISC,” based on the Sound Interclub, a 29-foot, one-design sloop that was raced on Lake George from the 1930s through the 1950s.
Smith is completing the restoration of the second of two original Sound Interclubs for Assembly Point resident Dr. John Kelly III.
They will be exhibited at the annual WoodenBoat Show at Mystic Seaport on June 29.
Tumblehome will also begin work on the Echo, the 1927, 30-ft Fay & Bowen that was used for waterskiing at Echo Camp for girls on Racquette Lake. It’s now part of the Adirondack Museum’s permanent boat collection.
When the Echo was originally restored in 1987 by Smith’s uncle, Everett Smith, Reuben Smith assisted.
“I think I know every inch of this boat,” said Smith.
During this restoration, another member of the Smith family will be part of the crew: Alex Smith.
Alex Smith is Reuben Smith’s half-brother, the son of Mason Smith and his wife Hallie Bond, best known as the curator of boats at the Adirondack Museum and the author of ‘Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks.’
Alex Smith will serve as an apprentice at Tumblehome this summer before returning to college. Like Reuben, he’s also worked in the shops of Mason Smith and Everett Smith.
Another member of Tumblehome’s crew is Sean O’Neill.
“Sean has always been my right hand,” said Reuben Smith. “We first worked together in my shop in Massachusetts and he then joined me at Hall’s. We’re excited to have him with us.”
Although Tumblehome has yet to be formally opened, Smith said he already has enough work to keep everyone busy for months to come.
“It’s starting to feel like a busy boat shop,” said Cynde Smith.