Old Boats a Pet Project of Manahawkin Man

Jun 27, 2018
Jack Reynolds

In the backyard of a property on Ridgeway Street in Barnegat Township sit two pieces of maritime history: a U.S. Coast Guard utility boat from the 1950s and a vintage Barnegat Bay garvey. The vessels are pet projects of Tony Kopke, a Manahawkin resident who served in the Coast Guard from 1967 to 1973. He later worked for the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, from which he retired a few years ago.

“Boats have been part of my life since I was a little kid,” said Kopke, 70. “My uncle had a home by the Manasquan River.” 

Kopke said the Coast Guard boat was constructed in 1959. The solid steel vessel, which reached speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, is 40 feet long and weighs seven tons.

“As a utility boat, it was used for rescues, firefighting, towing and patrolling,” he said. “In the early 1950s, the Coast Guard gave some of these boats to France when they were fighting in the Indochina war, which later grew into the Vietnam War.”

Kopke said the boats were decommissioned in the 1980s. He bought the vessel from a salvage yard in the Great Lakes for approximately $20,000.

“I’ve had it out in the water a few times, for Coast Guard reunions around Staten Island and Sandy Hook,” he said.

However, the utility boat has been in drydock after it sustained damage during Superstorm Sandy.

“It was docked on Staten Island, which was hit very hard during the storm,” he said. “I’m hoping to get it out in the water again.”

Kopke said the garvey was built in Tuckerton in 1962 by Jack Cranmer.

“He and his father were well-known boat builders,” Kopke said. “They have been featured at an exhibit at the Tuckerton Seaport.”

Kopke said he ran across the 19-foot boat at a marina in Tuckahoe in 1977.

“It’s a speed garvey, and it can get up to 60 miles per hour,” he said. “It is made of cedar, has a fiberglass coat and a mahogany deck.”

Kopke said the boat probably had a 250 horsepower motor.

“The boats that race today are around 400 hp,” he said.

He said that while he has owned it for more than 40 years, the boat has yet to touch the water.

“With work and my other hobbies, I never got around to that,” he said. “It’s been kept in numerous storage places over the years. But now I’m making progress and hopefully soon I can get it out there.”

If it finally gets in the water, Kopke said he probably won’t race it.

“But I’ll be looking to watch the races,” he said. “They have races all over the summer in the area, and it’s a great way to spend the day.”

— Eric Englund 


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