The Last-ish Gar Wood Made?

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Fellow Woody Boaters John and his son Kader Merritt sent us in this cool report regarding a special Gar Wood he is about to go to town on. We here at WoodyBoater are always so happy to see father and son stories and this will be a treasure for Kader when he gets older. Lucky kid to have a Dad with passion and an eye for the better things in life. The future is bright in Woodyboaterville! Here is Johns note.

There she is

So I’m a long time lurker on your site and love checking in periodically throughout the week to reinvigorate my lust for your wood boats.

I’ve been a sailor my whole life but have never spent any time around old wood boats or even motorboats. A couple years back I made a trip up to Lake Burton, just a couple hours north of Atlanta, and saw a slew of gorgeous rumbling wood boats.

Another veiw

The bug got in me and I’ve been on the hunt for the past year or so until I found an ebay listing for a 1947 Gar Wood Ensign with unique history. I don’t have a ton of ownership history but the interesting thing to me is that its GW Society History certificate shows it being registered as the “highest hull number on record of a Gar Wood that still exists today”. #649 of the 650 production.

Potentially the next to last boat they ever made. Multiple knowledgeable people have also looked at it and seem to all conclude that it is a rare original brightside boat as a last hurrah before closing the doors. Numbers matching Chrysler ace motor and all hardware in reasonably decent, restorable condition.

Here we go!

I had to have it. Drove up to Michigan later in the week, bought it and drug it home to Atlanta.

I’ve been restoring and building cars and motorcycles as long as I can remember but have never dove into wood boats. So here I am. Watching Snake Mountain youtube videos, bought the Dannenberg book and read it twice. All the Dannenberg forum posts,… on and on.

100% hooked and it hasn’t even touched the water yet.

It doesn’t get any better than this!

Anyhow, a consistent theme in your site and discussion about old wood boats is that they are all relegated to a life among old men and how there’s a lack of interest from younger generations. Hopefully I can assist you in your cause. At 35 years old with a 7 year old son, we plan to make a go at a full restoration and spread some awareness among generations to come.

Friends and Family! This is what its all about!

Got it flipped yesterday and with the help of my partner in crime, we’ve begun popping bungs and scraping paint. Thank you for all the articles and wonderful photos that continue to encourage me to keep going till I’ve got something shiny!

Go Kader go!

Young Master Kader, The Prince of bung removal and Heir to the Meritt throne!

A special note here from us here at WoodyBoater. We could write and publish these sorts of stories every day. It’s heart warming and special to see life, love and passion being restored to our world. And what better to embody it all in, than the rich Mahogany of a classic boat! Thank you John and Kader for that!

16 replies
  1. Bob Kays
    Bob Kays says:

    What a great story to start the day. Thank you and keep us updated. Love seeing Kader working so hard!

  2. Jim Barach
    Jim Barach says:

    Great story! Best of luck to you and you son on the restoration. You both will cherish the time you spent together on it your whole life!

  3. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    John, I hope you and Kader can join us for the ACBS International show in Port Huron next year. We are planning some presentations about Gar Wood and his boats. One of the pre-events will also include a visit to the site of the GarWood plant in Marysville. I promise you it will be worth the trip to Michigan!

  4. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Congratulations on acquiring such a GREAT boat!

    Hard to tell from pictures, but that bottom looks really solid from here.

    Keep us posted.

  5. Johnny V.
    Johnny V. says:

    Great! Nice to have some new and young blood involved in the wooden boat world. It’s scary when I go to events and I’m the young one at 65! Good luck with your Gar Wood project!

  6. Tim Robinson
    Tim Robinson says:

    Started restoring boats 26 years ago with my Son Brian he was 10 years old. Many boats later we are still doing it and most of the time we work well together.

  7. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da UP)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da UP) says:

    Nice story, John you are restoring a neat boat. You are also shaping a young person. These will be memories and skills Kader will carry through out his life. Keep us posted. I want to see a pic of you two out on the water in that boat.

  8. cenger
    cenger says:

    Great to see! Lets gets get a respirator for that little guy when he is scraping as there is very likely lead paint on that bottom.

  9. John Merritt
    John Merritt says:

    Matt, thank you so much for the kind words and the flattering article. My son will be blown away that he’s ‘on the internet!’
    Since I wrote to Matt I spoke to Claire at the Antique Boat Museum and she confirmed that it was the highest on record but there were some after this that were built. It is certainly not the next to last out the door, but is one of the last few.

    I want to also share some of the history on the boat and also say some thank you’s in my journey so far with it.

    I bought it from Jeff Knudsen the former owner of “tin can”. He’s got a half dozen really cool old boats and you did an article or two on his stuff in the past.
    He got it from someone who got it from Michael Claudon of Snake Mountain Boatworks who bought it at an auction in New Hampshire that was consigned from a family that Lee Heinzman assisted in digging the boat out of the yard and getting it to auction.

    It is well known, to say the least. I had no clue about any of this or who any of these people were when I bought it, but as soon as I started calling around, tons of info started pouring in. Lee sent me all his files on it and some old 4×6 photos of the boat and info on the family that had it before.

    Michael and Lee have been tremendously helpful and encouraging through this process to this point. I cannot say enough good things about these guys.

    Matt, thank you for the fantastic site and all your efforts in promoting the hobby. Every bit of your work is worth while and appreciated.

  10. Mo Sherrill
    Mo Sherrill says:

    This great story of a dad and his son brings back memories of many years of sharing my passion for wooden boats with my two son’s Matthew and Jason. Fortunately Matt was bit by the Woodboat Bug at an early age and continues today to be more of an expert at it than I, by far. He helped me unmeasurable in my first minor restoration of my 1926 26’ C-C triple we ran on Lake George, Keuka Lake and Canandaigua Lake all in NY state from 1973 to 2004. Matt now works part time as a salesman for Antique Boat America out of Clayton, NY and can pretty much tell most everything you need to know about any of the boats in their showroom. Jason who had similar interests and skills took a different road and didn’t have the same opportunities as his older brother. My interests continue with a bottom up restoration of a 1929 28’ C-C custom triple that I sold after finishing it in 2005. Now at 81 I still have a deep interest in the old boats that I remember in my youth but physically I can no longer participate with the same intensity as I once did. I wish John and his son Kader the same life-long love for the wood boat passion that I have been fortunate to have had with mine!!

  11. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Great story. You guys are going to have a blast restoring that boat. Just out of curiosity, where does the boat go from here? I didn’t see a building or tent in any of the images? Are you going “old school” hardcore and restoring out in the woods this winter??

    JohnnyV….. Can you send me an email…

  12. Tuobanur
    Tuobanur says:

    This is a “feel good” story, just seeing that young lad up on the hull doing his thing is what it’s all about. This is something that you will never regret, and I can tell you from experience, the feeling you will get the day you launch is like no other.
    Please keep us posted on your progress.

  13. John Merritt
    John Merritt says:

    I’m an old school kinda guy. 🙂 We’re doing the full restoration right where it sits. I’ll likely build a roof over the spot or buy a tent enclosure around it so that I can keep some heat in throughout the process. I’ve removed the bottom planks from one side and am starting to pop bungs and screws from the other now. The boards are, so far, all quite solid and usable. Have not come across any real soft wood or major broken bits. Original canvas membrane layer and inner planking is toast. First order of operations is repairing/replacing any bottom battens and frames, CPES on all framework and then marine ply and 5200 before replacing the freshly planed and cpes’d planks. As it sits now, the bottom surface is incredibly fair. No undulations in the keel. Found a couple oil saturated planks which of course will need replacing, but all in all it looks quite nice (for a derelict old boat).

  14. Bob in Mazeppa
    Bob in Mazeppa says:

    I hope you can find some one to take you and your boy out for a ride or two while you are working on the project. Plant that seed of what he is working toward. It has been great fun over the years to see kids take the wheel for the first time. First on our sailboat and now on are old wood boat.

  15. D. S. Schneider and Charlotte Schneider
    D. S. Schneider and Charlotte Schneider says:

    I own the last gar wood ever built, the orca 46 ft. Race boat, she has been pampered and runs a steamy 42 mph. I have Garfield a wood on the original title and she was auctioned off in 1971 when the estate sold her off dell 850 370 6224 she is needing a younger owner as my wife and I have enjoyed her for 20 years

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