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: 22
Latest Activity: Jan 28

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

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

1972 Cascade 36'

Started by Shaun Pickering. Last reply by Edward Hart Oct 20, 2015. 1 Reply

Comment Wall


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

Comment by john simpson on January 28, 2019 at 12:41pm

I'm in Tacoma, WA and could be interested, if you are planning some kind of rendezvous. 

We were in SE Alaska this past year and are planning to go again this April, returning late August or, perhaps, leaving the boat there for the winter.

Comment by S/V Compadre on January 22, 2019 at 3:48pm

Hello Ray!

S/V Compadre is in Portland, and we'd love to talk about putting together a rendezvous in the PNW, or maybe even in the warmer coastal waters of California. Shoot me a direct line!

Brandon, live to hear about your project boat. Contact me directly.

Comment by Ray Brown on July 12, 2018 at 7:35pm

We are retiring next year and plan to sail to Alaska sometime next summer.  Is anyone interested in a Cascade rendezvous.  Somewhere on the west coast?  If not next year maybe the year after.  We are going to be headed south to warmer waters.  Such a venerable boat and we feel it should be celebrated.  Our current and second Cascade will be our floating home for the winters in tropical warm waters.  Any interest in buddy boating or large gatherings let me know.

Comment by Brandon on March 4, 2018 at 6:32am

Hey guys! Do any of you have a wooden boom? This might be a silly questions lol but the boat I just purchased has a wooden boom but it is bare (no hardware).. would be nice to see a picture of one.. cant seem to find one anywhere? .. Thank you 

Comment by Brandon on February 26, 2018 at 1:49pm

Great to hear from you Michael! I have recently purchased a project :) but a very interesting vessel it is! I meet a really great guy that shares the same passion of sailing, he has recently had to give up the seas as-well. I will post pictures of my progress and any knowledgeable in-put would be more then welcome! I hope to be in the water this season! Here are some pics :) port.jpg cockpit.jpg main_cabin.jpg  galley.jpg

Comment by Michael Mc Laughlin on February 26, 2018 at 1:10pm

Hi Brandon:

I have just sold my Cascade 36 hull number 19 and she was built in 1970.

It's a pity there is not more activity on the site as they are a superb boat.

Have a few health problems and would not have parted with her otherwise.

She was in Nanny Cay boatyard and was dismasted by a neighbouring boat falling over. Mast has been sleeved and she is away again cruising with her new owner.

Wish you the best with her   Enjoy. 


Comment by Edward Hart on February 26, 2018 at 4:08am

Brandon it is not very active 

Comment by Brandon on February 26, 2018 at 2:21am

Is this site still active?

Just purchased 1976 Cascade 36 hull number 8! Does anyone know who this boat was originally build for?

Comment by Shaun Lynch on December 26, 2015 at 1:28pm

Happy Holidays everyone!

Just joined the group and thought I would share some of my experiences with the brand. I owned a 1976 Cascade 29 (HIN 4CS293320576) from 1989-1992 and named it "Storm Bird". Sailed on Columbia River and worked on it on the hard at the 42nd Ave boatyard. Hans, Wade, and all the staff were so friendly and helpful to me...I will never forget.  Before buying my 29, I crewed on a Cascade 36 from Portland to Grays Harbor and return in September 1988. That boat was a documented vessel " Breezin' " . Cannot recall the name of the owner at the time, but it had a light blue hull, a sugar scoop and deep racing keel.  Cheers!

Comment by john simpson on October 16, 2015 at 11:41pm

I need some advice on the chain plates of my Cascade 36. They are the type which were embedded in the fiberglass hull roving. I have been pretty diligent about keeping them properly caulked, so that salt water would not migrate down there and cause any crevice corrosion however.....I have no idea what any previous owners did. I have noticed some corrosion, around the little stubs that stick through the roving, inside but looks like nothing serious.

Problem is, I can't see whether there is any internal deterioration or not. The boat was built in 1975 and has had a few coastal trips, plus the ocean voyage I just did, to Hawaii. 

What prompted me to think about this was the recent failure, encountered by the McHaffy's, on their Hardin 45, which had a similar arrangement. I am planning another offshore trip and would love to keep the mast upright!

Does anyone know how long these last or how to best inspect them, or have any experience replacing them??

Thanks for any help you can offer.


Members (22)


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