Cascade Owners Unite


Cascade Owners Unite

This is a group for Cascade Yachts (Yacht Constructors Inc.) owners and fans. Based in Portland, OR, they build the Chinook & Cascade sailboats lines.

Location: Portland, Or
Members: 25
Latest Activity: Apr 10, 2020

The First Fiberglass Production Sailboat
The following is an excerpt from an article by Scott Gibson published in the Freshwater News (November 1984) on Yacht Constructors and the Chinook 34, the first model they built in 1956. The 'Cascade' line began production out of the same facility in 1961 with the Cascade 29, followed shortly by the Cascade 42 in 1964, and thee Cascade 36 in 1967.

Boating historians usually cite 1959 as the year that the first production fiberglass sailboat was produced, referring to the Pearson Yacht Company introducing the 28-foot Triton at the New York Boat Show that year. By then Yacht Constructors had been in business for two years building the Chinook 34!

In 1955 eleven Portland sailors wanted newer, bigger sailboats. Thinking of a joint building effort, they looked around for a design acceptable to all. Merl Starr and Tom Green, today's owners of Yacht Constructors, Inc., were two of the original group.

Tom and Merle were very impressed by the potential of fiberglass as a boat building material, in spite of its shakey reputation. They persuaded three of the original group that a design for a 34-foot wood sloop by well-known Philadelphia naval architect Frederick Geiger could be built in fiberglass. This was a daring proposition; no one had ever built such a large boat in fiberglass before.

Building your own fiberglass boat has one very big disadvantage - you must first invest a great deal of time and skilled labor in building a "plug" and then from the plug building a mold. Once you have the mold you can use it to form one or many identical boats. That is why no one wanting to make only a single boat is likely to do so in fiberglass unless he can borrow an existing mold. But it becomes worthwhile when five people pool their labor and money so each can end up with a boat at great savings.

It took the five sailors about eight months to build the plug and mold. They began in April of 1955 and finished in November of 1955. After converting the designed-for-wood plans into plans for a fiberglass construction, they went into production with Tom and Merle directing operations. Their three co-workers were Wade Cornwell, Henry Morton, and the late Dr. Jarvis Gould. During the next year they produced five identical boats, one for each guy. They called these boats Chinook 34.

Chinook hull #1 was launched April 20, 1956. Merle Starr got hull #5, launched in July 1957. It was Christmas before he built the mast and rigged the vessel. He sailed PYXIS the first time during a mild spell in January 1958. Merle still has PYXIS now, 27 years later, and she is in excellent shape.

They might have sailed off in different directions and that would be the end of the story, but three of them did not.

Yacht Constructors took their first order in the fall of 1957. They built a Chinook 34 for the late Dr. Donald Laird of Portland. This was the first of over 700 boats to come from the plant. They continued building the 34-foot Chinook until 1968 when they shipped the 70th hull to Maryland and terminated the model.

Yacht Constructors is a remarkable company in many ways. Most unusual, perhaps, is the fact that they have survived and even prospered for almost 30 years. Many other fiberglass boat-building ventures were launched in this period, but many foundered. Yacht Constructors is the oldest American fiberglass boat building company under continuous ownership.

Discussion Forum

Keel epoxy coating flaking off

Started by john simpson. Last reply by john simpson Mar 14, 2020. 2 Replies

29 Cascade Owners

Started by DJ Wardrop. Last reply by DJ Wardrop Jul 21, 2018. 3 Replies

Stanchion holders

Started by Tad. Last reply by S/V Compadre May 19, 2016. 4 Replies

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Cascade Owners Unite to add comments!

Comment by Tim Hryciw on October 19, 2014 at 7:58pm
Comment by Scott MacManus on October 19, 2014 at 7:46pm

Hello everyone!  Very excited to find this group...hope it's active!  I have a Cascade 29, Hull#18 that I am outfitting for spring sailing...if all goes well.

Comment by Michael Mc Laughlin on September 21, 2014 at 1:57pm

Just found the site:

Thanks to whoever got it going.

I own "Transcendence" a Cascade 36,  Hull number 19 and still going strong.

Sailed her from Kinsale in Ireland to the Carribean in 2010 and spend some of the winter months cruising the Islands.

Had some awful weather in the Bay of Biscay in December 2010 but Cascades are a great boat!

She is in Antigua, on the hard, at the moment and we will sail up to the BVI's this coming January.

I've been trying to contact Fred Keith who owns the C42 "Sanctuary" which used to be in Florida. If anyone can put us in touch I'd appreciate it.

Michael Mc Laughlin  Kinsale Ireland

Comment by Edward Hart on September 10, 2014 at 5:14am
Doug, I agree. The Allied Seawind group uses Yahoo Groups it seems to work pretty good. Or we could start our own. Wow, Wade is 100. I met him about 15 years ago. I just turned 80 in August.
Comment by Doug Crombie on September 10, 2014 at 1:33am

Also, here's a link to a quickly edited preview of my film on Yacht Constructors.  The interview was done more than a year ago. Wade just turned 100!!

Comment by Doug Crombie on September 10, 2014 at 1:28am

Ed, this is the least user friendly site I've encountered ever!!  Not easy to communicate, despite the desire and intention to do so.  I wonder if we can jump and find another forum or even start our own?  In he meantime, I'm in the conversation.  Doug Crombie,  1962 Yacht Constructors Chinook 34 AND 1966 Cascade 42.

Comment by Edward Hart on September 9, 2014 at 7:10am
Come on guys, let's get some conversation going here. Jerry I responded to you. Where did you go? How about we make a commitment to log in here once a week. That will be a start. I also have an Allied Seawind and belong to that group and it is going strong. It is set up so that when any member responds every member gets his email. Can this web site be set up the same way?
Comment by Edward Hart on September 1, 2014 at 6:00pm

 Hi Jerry, I used a Avon Redcrest for a tender. Nice and small and compact. I had a 2 hp. Suzuki  outboard.  She was a KISS boat. not much in the way of equipment. 

 Had a hand GPS, stove, depth sounder, compass and a Monitor wind vane. Not much else.  I am going to go on some of the other forums and let the Cascade owners about this web page. see if we can get some action going here.

Comment by Jerry Lehner on August 27, 2014 at 8:35pm

Hi Ed.  Welcome to the group.  It would be great to get some conversations going about our boats.  So far no one has responded to each other much.  I'd love to glean from your voyaging experience in Hooligan.  For example, what did you use for a tender?

Comment by Edward Hart on August 27, 2014 at 8:14am
I'm Ed Hart and own a 1964 Cascade 29. I just bought her and have not named her yet. I owned another 29, Hooligan, and circumnavigated in her. My boat is now on the hard in Rock Hall Maryland. According to the paper work, the hull was laid up in Japan. Does anyone know about that? I did not know that Cascade had
Hulls made in Japan.

Members (25)


Latest Activity

Wayne replied to Wayne's discussion Farewell all in the group Beneteau 40 & 43
"Will do Mike. Seems it may be commissioned around Feb of next year according to expected ship date from France. So don't hold your breath!"
Mar 30
Mike Brown replied to Wayne's discussion Farewell all in the group Beneteau 40 & 43
"Wayne, yes I’m still here lurking in the shadows haha. I’m glad to hear you’re moving on with a new boat. I’m sure you’ll love setting her up the way you want using all the experience from your 43. The 38.1 is a very…"
Mar 26
Wayne replied to Wayne's discussion Farewell all in the group Beneteau 40 & 43
"Mike if you're still out there we have recently ordered a new 38.1 and will try inland sailing on the Tennessee River away from the hurricanes. Yes you were correct regarding opportunity awaiting and keeping an open mind. Sincerest…"
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