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: 26
Latest Activity: Aug 2, 2021

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 Edward Hart on February 3, 2020 at 10:03pm

I have started a Cascade Facebook page for Cascade owners. Try it out 

Comment by Brandon on September 26, 2019 at 3:42pm
Comment by Brandon on September 26, 2019 at 3:35pm

Congrats on your new cascade!!!! they are awesome boats! I am doing alittle bit of work to mine i will post some pic's! possible thinking about selling im listening to offers. This is a Cascade 36 hull number 8 fire%20on%20boat.jpgboat%20in%202.jpg

Comment by Michael Mc Laughlin on September 26, 2019 at 2:25pm

Just an update on "Transcendence "

She sailed from Aruba through the Panama canal and the across the Pacific to Samoa, arriving there last month. 

Single handed 

A passage of about 12,000 kilometres 

Cascade yachts are still wonderful 

Comment by Ted Anderson on September 26, 2019 at 2:02pm

New owner of a Cascade 27 Hull #29. I know this page isn't very active, but it's great that there are a few of us left.   I fell in love with the Cascades in the early 1980's when I walked in to Yacht Constructors as a 20 year old and they took the time to show me around, let me crawl inside boats they were working on, when they knew full well that I wasn't in the market or couldn't afford one of their boats. 

I have the original drawings of my boat, the price list of all the various components, and even the for sale sign when the previous owners bought it from Cascade Yachts in 1996.  I also have a couple of copies of an article in "Fresh Water News" telling the well known story of Yacht Constructors. 

Comment by Michael Mc Laughlin on June 7, 2019 at 10:31am
Just a small bit of information.
Transcendence a Cascade 36 is now in Panama preparing for a passage to Australia
What a great boat!,
Built in 1970 ans still going strong!
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 


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