History of the "Le Bon Temps Roule"
On July 4th, 1930, at the Mathews Boat Works in Daytona Beach Florida, Julia Mathews, age 10, christened the "Gay Jane". The yacht was built by her father Francis Edward Mathews for Mr. L. R. (Lou) Wasey, a New York advertising executive who was developing Cat Cay in the Bahamas. The vessel, named after his two children, Jane and Gager, is 86 feet in length, 55 tons, and was recognized as one of the finest vessels ever built on the east coast of Florida. She was designed by Captain Leroy Smith, Wasey's Captain, who actually moved to the shipyard to supervise the construction. Jane Hartge, writer for the Daytona Beach Journal reported the launching as one of the major 4th of July events in Daytona Beach that day. Jane has always held the Gay Jane close to her heart.
The "Gay Jane" was originally powered by twin Winton gas engines, achieving 18 knots at cruise. Lou Wasey used the yacht to commute between Miami and his Cat Cay development, transporting and entertaining prospective clients. During the construction, Lou had two false fuel cells placed in the boat accessible from his quarters to haul rum during prohibition. He was also quoted by the builder's son, Francis Edward Mathews II, as "having all his money tied up in cash" during the depression of 1929. The boat originally cost $140,000, beginning with a hand shake, $70,000 due when the vessel was 50% complete, and the balance due at launching. Mathews characterized Lou Wasey as a very honorable man. Lou Wasey became very fond of Julia Mathews during the boat construction and asked her to christen the vessel along with the mayor of Daytona Beach.
Five years after construction Jenny Elizabeth Angel Warden, wife of Herbert W. Warden Sr., saw the "Gay Jane" cruising the Miami waterways. She remarked to Herbert how beautiful the yacht was. Later that day, he negotiated the purchase of the boat and delivered it the next day to Jenny Elizabeth as a birthday gift. Herbert was the son of one of the founders of the Standard Oil Company. He and Jenny Elizabeth lived on Sunset Island #3 in Miami. Herbert kept the "Gay Jane" registered with the New York Yacht Club during his ownership. It was reported that Herbert Warden spent $40,000 equipping and remodeling the interior of the boat to his own taste. Over $15,000 was spent replacing the Winton gas engines with Winton 150 horsepower diesel engines. Captain Leroy Smith remained with the vessel during the Warden ownership and retained a half-model of the vessel carved by Francis Edward Mathews. During this time frame, Captain Leroy Smith maintained a column in the Daytona Beach News Journal titled "Cappy Says".
Prior to World War II, Herbert Warden Sr. sold the "Gay Jane" to the United States Corp of Engineers, Wilmington, North Carolina Division. According to a dedication brochure offered by the Wilmington Corps of Engineers Library, the vessel was renamed the "Kitty Hawk" and was to be used as a survey and inspection boat along the 2,300 square mile coastline of North Carolina. She was immediately equipped with a recording fathometer for use in hydrographic survey work. The corps inspected more than 50 boats before deciding upon the "Gay Jane", and their election was based upon her seaworthiness, shallow draft, and superior hull construction. At acquisition, the corps stated that "she is unquestionably one of the sturdiest and best constructed boats in the country". She operated out of the Wilmington division office under the direction of Col. Joseph J. Cole, Col. Roland C. Brown, and Captain John G. Swann. In July of 1944, Captain William N. Grey took the helm. The hull of the vessel was painted black during the war years as indicated by a picture supplied by the Wilmington Corps of Engineers Library. The vessel was also used by the US Customs officials in Wilmington on special occasions. The log mentions Governor Scott being aboard for the declaration of the North Carolina State Port Terminal along with the Wilmington port commissioner.
The boat was obviously well maintained during this period. The ship log indicates that the second engines (winton diesels) were removed and replaced with Gray Marine 671 diesels in January of 1950 in New Bern, North Carolina, at the Barbour Boat Works. The log further describes the old Winton engines as being reassembled in the yard for continued use. The GM engines are in the boat today. In 1951, the boat was transferred to the Mobile, Alabama Corps of Engineers office. As the boat moved down the East coast, courtesy cruises were given to the employees of each division office. The boat arrived in Mobile on Sunday, June 24, 1951. We currently have a void in the history of the boat during the Mobile Corps of Engineers ownership. The Mobile division office is in review of their records and we hope to have information on this period at some point.
In 1954 the yacht was sold to the Pape Broadcasting Company, Birmingham, Alabama. This was the first NBC television station in South Alabama. Due to the failing health of Mr. Pape, in 1958 the vessel was sold again to the Henderson Baker Lumber Company in Nanafalia Alabama, for its president Mr. J.W. Tutt from Mobile. Mr. Tutt's wife Camilla Barr Tutt actually made the purchase as the yacht was a surprise gift for her husband.. Mr. Tutt was also in the towing business on the Tombigbee Waterway. In 1959, the vessel was sold to the Alabama Dry Dock and Ship Building Company, at which point Captain Richard Bosarge wrote in the ship log that "the company no longer wanted a log kept". Until that date, a very detailed daily log had been maintained on the vessel. The company used the boat extensively for entertaining the ship builders of the world. In 1963 Mr. Tutt repurchased the "Kitty Hawk" and he and his second wife Lena used the vessel for their personal enjoyment until 1965, at which time the boat was sold to Mr. Henry Champagne of Covington, Louisiana. Henry's home was on the Tchefuncte River in Tchefuncta Country Club. In 1967, the vessel was sold to Mr. Henry Higgins and Mr.Viccinelli, who almost immediately resold the yacht to Mr. William Monteleone, owner of the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. Billy Monteleone renamed the vessel, "Le Bon Temps Roule" but referred to her as the "Roller"; as she rolled bad in a beam sea. Billy and his wife Stephany used the vessel extensively in the delta of Louisiana fishing and entertaining. Billy was an avid sportsman. Billy later added rolling shocks (longitudinal fins) to minimize the roll effect. Unfortunately, the installation of these fins was not executed properly and they later exagerated the deterioration of the hull. John Claiborne, a traveling companion of Billy's lived on the boat in the Orleans Marina. After the death of Mr. William Monteleone, the boat did not move from its' slip and the boat became a prime target for worm infestation and resulting frame damage. During the Monteleone ownership, Stephany commissioned an oil painting of the "Le Bon Temps Roule" by Brett James Smith, as a gift for Billy on his birthday. The painting depicts a day of fishing off the Louisiana Chandelier Islands, with Stephany and Billy casting in the surf.
In July of 1998, the "Le Bon Temps Roule" was donated by the William Monteleone family to FMB Investments, Inc., a company owned by Rusty & Cathy Burns. The boat was immediately put into dry dock for inspection and hull repairs. The worm damage was found to be minor, but two or three planks were replaced. The boat was then moved to the Weldon Poole boathouse in Madisonville for restoration. The Le Bon Temps Roule was used on the Tchefuncta River, to raise monies for local charities. The vessel made over 1000 trips up the river raising over $750,000. In 2004, the vessel was sold to Hank Cochran, a country music writer from Nashville Tennessee. Hank, with the assistance of Captain Harold Bosworth, motored the yacht to Green Turtle Bay Marina near Nashville and placed her in a boathouse. The boat was hardly used during a 3 year period. The Burns' family re-acquired the vessel from Hank in July of 2007 and it returned to it's previous mooring in Madisonville Louisiana.
Historical Picture Collection Launching Dedication brochure War Time Photo Half-Model
Restoration Oil Painting
Return to Home page