It’s Valentine’s Day in Bristol, Rhode Island at Baltic Boat Works, LLC where an unlikely trio of Donald Tofias, Nick Dana, and Jens Lange are gathered around Spruce, a 1974 Maine Lobster boat. In line with the holiday, the three men are congregated to examine Spruce, a labor of love for each of them.
Tofias is the latest owner of Spruce, but before he bought the boat off Dana, it had been a boomerang for the family. First commissioned by Nick’s great-grandfather, Spruce then ran as an island supply launch for Roque Island, Maine. The boat ran all summer and winter, ferrying goods and people to and from the island. Spruce has never fished, but, she was one of the hundreds of commuters built to the most popular typical Maine Lobster Boat design.
Spruce eventually came back to Nick’s father who then ran the boat in the Bahamas in 1991 as a family cruiser. While on the island, the boat survived hurricane Andrew when an I-beam fell onto the boat it cradled the impact and survived with no major damage. In 1997, the boat returned to Maine where it was donated to a summer camp, but it would return to the Dana family once more.
“There are pictures of me and this boat when I was little,” says Nick Dana. “My best memories of it are in the Bahamas, where it was weird to have a lobster boat.”
In 2008, Nick purchased Spruce at auction from the camp, replaced the engine, and kept her in Newport as a cruiser.
“I wanted to keep it in the family. She’s a bit of a boomerang. She’s left a few times but always comes back.”
Tofias chimes in playfully, “She’s not coming back this time!”
When Dana decided to sell Spruce, Tofias jumped at the opportunity to own a family cruiser with so much character and history behind it, and Lange looked forward to restoring the classic Lobster boat back to its original glory at his shop in Bristol, Baltic Boat Works.
“There is a certain group of people that love the history, and that is the merit in restoring these unique little boats,” says Lange, who is a graduate of IYRS.
The three now stand at Spruce’s new mahogany transom and discuss the color red that Tofias has chosen for her hull. Spruce came to Lange’s shop in working condition but in need of a facelift and several structural repairs. Every decision made during the restoration has been made with the boat’s weathered history in mind. Tofias, a Cornell graduate, has plans to paint Spruce red and had originally wanted to name the boat Big Red Bear, but his commitment to the Dana family and their tradition has changed his mind on keeping the original name. With Lange’s help, Spruce should continue to collect history.
“If boats are well cared for, they can easily outlast their builders, owners, and re-builders. This boat will probably last well over 100 years,” says Tofias glancing at the 90-year-old S-boat he recently purchased sitting next to Spruce in Lange’s shop. Spruce will serve as a tender to a number of W-Class yachts for the summer and accompany Tofias to a number of regattas, adding to the Lobster boat’s illustrious history.