1946 Gar Wood Ensign Please Do NOT Fiberglass Wood Boats!

Here is the next installment on our 1946 GarWood Ensign restoration project. With everything removed from the hull, we have flipped her onto boat dollies in preparation for removing the planking, repairing all the failed, rotted and broken framework beneath them and then installing a 5200 bottom.

This boat spent most of her life on Squam Lake or Little Squam Lake in New Hamspire.

That these lakes have a well-earned reputation for unforgiving, rocky bottoms is evidenced by all the damage that this hull has suffered below the waterline. Indeed, the previous owner(s) installed iron strapping along the stem and forward sections of the keel. Then there is the through-and-through fracture of the keel just forward of the prop shaft tunnel.

Removing the fasteners and these straps was simple.

But then comes the fiberglass. Yes, someone fiberglassed the entire bottom, the chines and up the topsides as much as 8 inches. We “get” to remove all of it. Not doing so makes removing bungs and bottom plank fasteners all but impossible, never mind the fact that we are doing our utmost to preserve the original planks.

We have tried using chisels, which worked well along the keel and garboards, where sheets of fiberglass peeled off with relative ease.

However, the fabric-infused resin remained, and presents us with a challenge of much greater magnitude. It will be incredibly tedious and time-consuming, but using a combination of heat guns and sharpened putty knives seems to be the best solution. The challenge here is not gouging 60 year-old wood with the hot, sharp putty knife. We are also running into large areas of rot where water managed to breach the fiberglass skin and soaked the wood in a largely anaerobic environment.

We will soldier onward, but want to make a plea to all woody owners and preservationists, “Please, please do not fiberglass your wood boats!” Doing so is a lose-lose proposition, especially for these irreplaceable artifacts of the past.