As we continue to grow here at Woody Boater, from time to time we receive e-mails and comments from our viewers about the on-again / off-again subject of classic fiberglass boats, and their role in the hobby. Some viewers say they would like to see more stories about classic fiberglass boats, and others prefer that we only report on classic wooden boats.
We understand everyones point of view on this subject, but we also believe that the antique & classic hobby should include all forms of classic boats, regardless of what materials they are made from – including our beloved wooden boats, to the wide range of classic fiberglass boats, aluminum and even the unique steel hulled boats from Chris-Craft and the earlier Mullins marque. As the next generation of classic boaters enter the hobby, classic fiberglass boats from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s will no doubt play a larger role in the hobby… So our message today is – Don’t Discriminate… Appreciate! Agree – Disagree? Let us know.
Here’s a perfect example of why classic fiberglass boats are cool.
Last weekend we reported on the big Seattle Boat Show which runs until Sunday, February 3rd at Century Link Field. The story (here’s a link to the story) included a report from the nice folks at the Pacific Northwest Chapter ACBS who are at the boat show representing the classic boat hobby. When the photos from the show came in to us, I noticed a very cool looking, blue & white fiberglass outboard on display.
Robert DaPron (President of the PNW Chapter) mentioned to me a while back that they were hoping to include a classic fiberglass boat as part of the ACBS display at the Seattle winter show, with the thought that classic fiberglass boats should also be recognized within the hobby.
I was surprised to learn that fellow Woody Boater and contributor Dick Dow (and his wife Kathy) owned the blue & white boat, which turns out is a very original 1958 Skagit 16′ Ski Master complete with (pay attention Matt) an original Homelite/Bearcat 55 outboard. We knew Dick & Kathy owned a few wooden classics but we didn’t know they had this little gem in their classic boat collection… We asked Dick to fill us in on the cool 1958 Skagit, and he kindly agreed… Here’s the story.
Skagit Plastics 16’ Ski Master “Baby Blues”
by Dick Dow
This 16’ Skagit is a great example of the early fiberglass boat design and construction. Built in LaConner, Washington in 1958, this boat has been maintained, not restored. The gel-coat and all the structural components of the boat are original. It is a classic family runabout, well suited for the waters of the Northwest, with high freeboard, decent flare at the bow and a deep splashwell at the stern.
In 1955, Howard Roberts was hired away from Bell-Boy by LaConner’s Dunlap Towing Company to start a new fiberglass boat building company, which became known as Skagit Plastics. Bell Boy had been building fiberglass boats since 1952 under the direction of Art Nordvedt, who designed a very successful and innovative line-up of runabouts and cruisers. Howard was ready to move on and make his own mark on the industry and Skagit Plastics was the perfect opportunity.
Within two years, they were building a complete line of handsome cruisers and runabouts, an 8’ dinghy as well as livery fishing boats and even a tug boat. At the time, they built the largest fiberglass boat in the world, the 31’ Saratogan. There is a wonderfully restored Saratogan in Friday Harbor, owned by Tim Jones, who was aboard the boat at the Seattle Boat show when he was 12 years old in 1957 and dreamed of owning it all his life. The only example left, he spent over 20 years restoring it.
Skagit Plastics built approximately 1000 boats between 1955 and 1961, when they ceased production. The 20’ cruisers designed by Roberts were the mainstay of the line and many are still in use today.
The 16’ Ski Master was drawn by Lloyd Lindberry, another talented marine architect at the company. It is unique in that the stringers that support and form the hull are entirely fiberglass. There are five “U” shaped trusses running the full length of the bottom under the floor, which is also fiberglass. The boat was designed and built to last! The vast majority of fiberglass boats were (and still are) built with wood structural members and floors, which invariably rot, as they are encapsulated and in a moist environment. Except for this model, the Skagit boats were no different.
“Baby Blues” has a newer, 4-Stroke Homelite/Bearcat 55 motor, as well as new wiring and upholstery, but the gas tanks, bottom, floor, transom and decks are unchanged from when they were put together in 1958. (Kathy Dow – Dick’s wife specializes in classic upholstery restoration and works with many of the local restorers in the Seattle area – Texx)
Currently owned by Dick and Kathy Dow, the boat has been used in Puget Sound, Lake Chelan, Harrison Lake, Lake Whatcom, the Snohomish River, the Duwamish, Mason Lake, the list goes on. In 2005, it was part of a fleet of Skagit boats that gathered on the Swinomish Slough in LaConner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Skagit Plastics.
You get the picture – it’s still doing the job it was designed to do in 1958, in style and safely with smiles all around.
That’s what vintage boating is all about! – Dick Dow
Thanks Dick. So if you see a nice little fiberglass outboard tied up next to the wooden boats at the next boat show – Don’t Discriminate… Appreciate!
I thought it would be fun to include this short story from Dick & Kathy as well, an interesting experience they had a few years ago with the Skagit outboard.
Texx – Several years ago (circa 2003) we were at Harrison Lake on a family vacation with “Baby Blues” our 1959 Skagit. There were terrible forest fires in south western British Columbia, Canada and a Martin Mars water bomber was assiting to extinguish the forest fire. They pilots were required to take a break every eight hours or so.
We were relaxing at the Harrison resort when the giant Martin Mars flew over and landed, there was no question – We all hopped in the trusty Skagit outboard and ran out to take a closer look. That plane is the largest “Flying Boat” left in the world. The aircraft can carry 7,200 U.S. gallons of water and each drop can cover an area of up to 4 acres. (This is a scan of a the family vacation snap shot from Dick, very cool… – Texx)
At that time there were still three Martin Mars water bombers in operation and today the Coulson Flying Tankers water bombers are located at their main base, which is situated on Sproat Lake, near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia. I believe one of them was lost about six years ago.
Thanks Dick for sharing this story with us here today. And don’t forget that if you are in the Seattle area, the Seattle Boat show is on until Sunday, stop by the Pacific Northwest Chapter ACBS display to see Dick & Kathy’s ’58 Skagit Ski Master and visit with the crew from the ACBS Chapter.
These guys are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the classic boating hobby – Wood, Fiberglass, Aluminum, Yachts, Race Boats, Vintage Engines, you name it… They know about it! For more information, here’s the link to the Seattle Boat Show at Century Link Field.
If you have a few minutes, check out the Coulson Flying Tankers website, it’s very cool.
More vintage moments here at Woody Boater.