Fiberglass Classics Are Cool – The Message Today… Don’t Discriminate… Appreciate!


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.

Vintage 1959 Skagit 16′ Ski Master Brochure

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.

That is one of the neat things that only happens when you are out adventuring on the water!

Dick Dow

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.

Vintage Martin Mars – Image Courtesy Coulson Flying Tankers website

More vintage moments here at Woody Boater.


66 replies
  1. Texx
    Texx says:

    One more photo of Dick & Kathy’s ’58 Skagit I wanted to share today, but it was too small for the website story.

    Out for a classic cruise with his Co-pilots – His dog & Adolph Coors.

    • Jay Bond
      Jay Bond says:

      I have the same boat in red and it’s seen some hard years, thread bare deck. I’ve been thinking of painting the red parts, did you have to restore the blue parts and if so any tips?

    • Bob Gonzalez
      Bob Gonzalez says:

      Have one for me!!! Beautiful boat, wish it was mine! The dog too. Being from St. Louis, I drink Busch products. I use to have a 55 hp Homelite on my 35 foot Kayot pontoon houseboat. It pushed her, not fast, but I got to where I wanted to go.

  2. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    No problem with classic plastic here. Started out with a 15′ MFG late 60’s I believe that had the faux lapstrake molded into the hull. It did have a wood deck and seats which my brothers and I customized with black paint and white racing stripe, pulling the seats out and replacing with Volkswagon bucket seats up front. Of course we now needed more power so the old pull start green 25hp Johnson got upgraded to the overpowered Johnson 40hp. That bow was always pointed up. I am glad now that all my boats are wood though and somebody else is taking care of the plastic ones.

  3. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    This is the type of boat I am looking at to add to my collection next. Something small, drippin 50’s stylin with a “Tower of Power” old Merc 6 cyl on the back.
    It will be next winters surffin on the web efforts…

  4. Andreas Jordahl Rhude
    Andreas Jordahl Rhude says:

    I love classic fiberglass and aluminum boats. I have three of them. My every day “user” boat is a 1966 Chris-Craft Corsair Sport V fiberglass outboard.

    Yes, please, more stories of non-wood boats!


  5. Alex
    Alex says:

    I took this photo in Hessel last summer, the afternoon before Boat Show. WARNING! Mature audiences; not suitable for children. Contains content that some viewers may find disturbing. It’s almost as bad as cat juggling in “The Jerk.”

  6. Mike W
    Mike W says:

    There’s funky classic. Fin’s, auto styling, bubbles and the “Jetson” look. Then there is the utility styling. Absolutely no style at all. Lastly and bestly, ya I know it is not a word there is the Classics. Commanders, Bertrams, Hatts, Donzi and a few others that are still WOW boats today. Well built, great design and do what they were intended to do. Form and function at its best. Of course they eat motors and money for breakfast lunch and dinner like any other boat.

  7. mark
    mark says:

    When I was 4 or 5 my teenage neighbor built a 10′ plywood hydro plane “Blue Dot” in shop class. When he left home to seek is fortune his folks gave me the boat. My dad and me fixed up a 3hp Johnson. I had to get on the bow for it to plane. Pretty cool for my first boat at 11 years old. About the same time my folks got a Red Fish Oceanic in 1961 with an 80hp Merc. It was big safe boat that taught many to ski. I think Red Fish turned into Cobalt. After college in 1976 I bought a 1968 Century Resorter FGL 17. It is built like a tank. I like the low maintenance of classic glass. I have refinished the wood 3 times. I am on my 3rd family and we bought a 2000 TIGE 20CI. I cannot believe the difference of 3 feet longer, 1 foot wider and 100hp. I am a classic glass fan. I have been looking for an old 18′ aluminum fishing boat wilth an attached cabin to fix up. Love your articles. Mark

        • Doug P
          Doug P says:

          Sorry Texx, I did have to take time off the restoration because medical problems. Will get back to her this spring as I would like to have her at the ACBS show in Coeur d’Alene this fall.
          There is more info about her on the C-C site and ACBS site.
          I am very satisfied and happy to have this boat. We will rename her “Rumble Steel Skin”

          But to summarize, she is 25′, twin K’s, (only 600 hours) that started right up after 25 years in storage, she comes from MN where she was delivered in 1959.
          EVERYTHING is original excepting the windscreen frames. Hardware/gauges are like new.

          To my knowledge she is the only 25′ Roamer Sportsman surviving. #12 of 15.

          I have been told that the 1959 catalog page shows Chris Smith at the helm

          • Texx
            Texx says:

            Thanks Doug – I was just giving you a Zinger! We look forward to seeing your cool Roamer when she’s done.

            I have collected some factory brochure pics for the upcoming story.


  8. Chad
    Chad says:

    Makes sense now.

    The Swedish word “fart” translates to “speed”
    The German word “fart” translates to “moves”

  9. Sean
    Sean says:

    I’m good with the tupperware set…especially the Donzi’s and early offshore racers…
    But, I think that a case could be made for the vintage Martin Mars …it is after all, a flying BOAT. And a damn cool one at that!

    • Craig Thorsen
      Craig Thorsen says:

      I came across this photo and think this a boat I used to own in the 1970’s in Jacksonville FL. It originally was powered with a 4 cylinder Volvo. The person I sold it to repowered it with a Mercruiser. I would be interested to find out if this is that boat.

  10. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Relative to the new wording of the header today, and at the risk of being accused of sacrilege and impaled on the wooden stem of a Chris Craft, the name “ClassicBoater” as a more permanent transition sure has a nice ring to it!
    I will go hide and increase my life insurance now.

  11. Alex
    Alex says:

    Greg, but then we’d lose the sexual innuendo. Oops I might have said a bad word. Can I say innuendo in this blog?

  12. Rick
    Rick says:

    Since we’re talking glass today I’ll throw this in. In the CCABC Newsletter today it shows the new CC that the company was asking for name suggestions a couple of months ago. They took none of our suggestions and named it the Carina 20. Personally love the boat, not thrilled with the name.

      • Paul H.
        Paul H. says:

        I looked it up today, it is a ridge of cartilege in the trachea.

        Or, it is the latin word for the keel of a boat and also a constellation in the southern sky.

        I am partial to the closed bow design myself, perhaps they will name that version something different?

    • Greg Wallace
      Greg Wallace says:

      Based on the discussions here and on the Buzz I am apparently singular in my opinion that this new Chris is ugly.
      The “Launch” series designs will endure as classic and will remain among the most handsome of all fiberglass creations. This derivative, IMHO, will not. The radius of the bow combined with this length to beam ratio just doesn’t work for me. I do predict, however, that it WILL become collectible for its rarity.

  13. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    My favorite glass boats include , Baja,Concord, Cigarette , Donzi,Martini,Stevens,Raconcraft,Shiada,Scarab, even now I appreciate the uglystreams. Can’t forget the early Fountains…

  14. Sean
    Sean says:

    Classic Donzis are still being produced today.

    This Classic 18 2+3 is a 1982 and looks great for 30 years old. These boats can look tough when you find them as they usually lead a hard life….every one is a racer, right?

  15. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    Having a stylish classic glass boat with an outboard would be great fun, especially in the winter! All of these boats, wood, aluminium & fiberglass reflect the designs of the times. They are little pieces of our boating history and should be appreciated, restored, preserved, enjoyed and used as time capsules to remind us all that variety is important in life.

  16. Chris Wade
    Chris Wade says:

    The hull construction of the Skagit sounds very much like what Mackerer drew into the 38′ Chris Craft Commander hull some years later. I have varnish in my blood and splinters in my bones, but the 38′ CCC is my #1 favorite boat of all time. The 33′ CC Futura is #2 and the 19′ CC commander is #3. That’s 2 out of my top 3 made from plastic. Classic boats all deserve their due no matter the material they are made from. Love ’em all!

  17. brian t
    brian t says:

    There is enough division in this country. I don’t think we need to add to the chaos.

    Classic boats = wood, fiberglas, metal, reeds even…..

  18. Alex
    Alex says:

    Should we draw the line at the Knapp’s Roller Boat?

    It was built in 1897, “was 110 feet long, with a 22-foot diameter outer cylinder for rotation and a smaller stationary inner cylinder for passengers. It used 2 steam engines at the ends. The boat log-rolled across the water like a rolling pin, cutting through the waves with blades affixed to its exterior.”

    Nah. All are welcome here!

  19. 72hornet
    72hornet says:

    As the owner of both wood and glass, it is nice to see the history and objects from the different eras. I love the originality of the boats, engines hardware etc. It is all part of history and we all have an affinity to what we have been exposed to in our lifetimes. I am doing a restoration on a 1962 Buehler Turbocraft that I will never get my money out of. That is not the point. It was lovingly cared for by a neighbor of ours growing up and I hated to see the boat go to the bone pile years later….Maybe someday it will make the cover of Woodyboater! LOL!

  20. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Great pic of the glassics on the beach…those glasspar (?) pocket cruisers are super neat boats….great lines!

    John in Va.

  21. Bill Anderson
    Bill Anderson says:

    Hi, I have several wood 13- wood boats done but I mainly have fiberglass because I like the deco style and the rare and the fun in the hunt,We have 35+ done and in the back room.. but I was was raised with this size of boat on our lake that I grew up on, but like everybody else i do have great memories of my dad’s Chris Crafts and all,But I enjoy anything that floats,I don’t post here much but read it daily,keep up the good work.

  22. Michael a otnisky
    Michael a otnisky says:

    My project for the summer..a 1951-54 Wizard 15 foot Resorter. It came with a Scott-Atwater 1958 22Hp and an unmarked 1949 trailer. Major hole in bottom and dry rot to fix. Complete disassembly started.

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