On March 1, Kelly and Pam Cawthorne and their son Shane and his wife Danielle Cawthorne, purchased the rights to manufacturer Gibson fiberglass houseboats. Gibson Boats was started by William C. Brummett in 1968 and by 1990 the company had built more than 6,000 boats. That number continued to increase until the company was hit hard by the 2008 recession and later forced out of business by 2013.

For over 40 years, Gibson Boats produced a hybrid cross between a houseboat and a cabin cruiser and thanks to the Cawthornes from South Dakota, the Gibson tradition and boating legacy will live on.

The Cawthornes are in the process of relocating all the molds, tools, parts and manufacturing equipment from the Portland, Tenn., plant to Tea, S.D., where Gibson Boats S.D. LLC will be based.

“We’re going to offer a full production line, but mainly focus on service, fiberglass repair and refurbishing,” said Kelly. “We’ve refurbished houseboats prior to this so that’s what we really want to establish as we get started.”


The South Dakota company is available to begin repairing boats immediately with a full crew in place, with plans to be manufacturing houseboats by mid to late summer. The plan for now is to stay in the same 44- to 59-foot size range as before.

The Cawthornes are in the process of establishing a new website as well as phone lines, but for now Kelly can be reached by calling 605-231-1052 or through email at gibsonboatssd@hotmail.com. Look for more details in the May issue of Houseboat magazine.