Made to Order

The sometimes shrouded, always beautiful coast of the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of custom luxury yacht building.

October 4, 2007

The history of luxury yacht building in the Pacific Northwest is writ large on the waters of the world. From this corner of North America, yachts are launched monthly that are capable of making long coastal passages and transoceanic voyages. The level of design, engineering and construction ranges from yard to yard, but suffice it to say that to build a thriving yacht business in this part of the world requires superb planning, precise execution and detailed follow-through. Fortunately for us, the Pacific Northwest is home to a tradition of boatbuilding excellence that reaches back to the days of wooden sailing ships, and carries forward into the craftsmen who build today’s modern yachts. The builders covered below are some of the best-known names in this region, and they are known throughout the world for their superior yachts. This is not a comprehensive list of Pacific Northwest yacht builders, to be sure, but it is an overview of the companies you might want to explore as you begin your search for your next custom yacht.

Delta Marine

Located just south of Seattle, Delta’s 18-acre shipyard offers a dramatic Pacific Northwest backdrop and a thriving urban center that their custom luxury yacht customers appreciate. Starting in the early 1960s, their yard on the Duwamish River built a worldwide reputation first for seaworthy fishing vessels destined for Alaskan waters. Since 1980, their focus has been on luxury yachts. The majority of Delta’s new designs are composite, although they also have experience in aluminum builds. Their Refit & Repair division draws on the expertise of the Delta Design Group, as well as craftsmen well versed in multiple systems and materials.

Delta’s new 163-foot project, designed for an owner whose passion for underwater exploration is equal to his love of yachting, is a testament to the customization the company can offer. A helicopter landing pad, two 6,000-pound cranes and two 24-foot tenders are accommodated on deck. There are two elevators serving four decks of living and entertaining areas, one of which serves the crow’s nest. Twin Cat 3508s provide propulsion for this 163-foot-long composite expedition yacht, which has a 30-foot, 8-inch beam. Delta designed, engineered and fabricated the entire package, including soft-mounted engines and a rubber- bushing system that isolates the interior accommodations from the yacht’s structure. A movie-editing suite, full dive shop, sophisticated sonar and bottom mapping systems are just a few of the highlights.


Contact: Delta Marine, (206) 763-2383;

Christensen Shipyards

Maintaining their reputation for high-quality certified composite motor- yachts, this well-regarded Vancouver, Washington, builder of superyachts has just delivered Hull 027, another of its popular 157 Series, to a yachtsman who has owned two previous Christensen designs. Coincidentally, it will be offered by Christensen soon after delivery, as the owner has now committed to Hull 034. Twin 1,800-hp MTU/DDC 12V4000 M60 engines push the 29-foot, 6-inch, beam hull to a top speed of 17.5 knots. It has a long-range cruising capability of 4,500 nautical miles. The exterior profile is by CSL, who are also available for interior design if an outside design firm is not desired. Sound engineering is by Van Cappellen.

The Christensen shipyard, which boasts a 160,000-square-foot climate-controlled manufacturing space and a seven-acre marina, will soon have a new 50,000-square-foot facility for the manufacture of composite infused parts, plus a 70-foot-high yacht outfitting area. This adds important capacity to the existing nine large manufacturing and assembly bays, one of which houses an expandable mold for hulls from 100 to 165 feet. A clean environment is maintained in one fully enclosed bay for coating yacht exteriors. On-site metal, wood, cabinet and paint shops, as well as electrical and upholstery departments, provide quality work throughout the construction process. Christensen’s dry dock can accommodate yachts up to 350 tons.


Contact: Christensen Shipyards, (360) 695-3238;

NorthStar Yachts

Third-generation boatbuilder Jerry Clark and his staff are well known for the luxury cruising motoryachts they build, ranging from a 74 pilothouse to a 105-foot trideck. A new 112-foot raised pilothouse is on the drawing table. The yard is located in Kalama, Washington, on the Columbia River, a region well regarded for its experienced craftsmen. NorthStar builds composite designs from the boards of Ed Monk Jr. and Jack Sarin, but the latest design, an 80-foot sportfishing yacht called El Lobo, is from Howard Apollonia.

Built for the owner of a 100-footer by the same name, El Lobo is a lightweight, precisely engineered motoryacht built to ABS High Speed Craft standards that aims to fulfill the needs of a serious sportfishing enthusiast who loves to roam the world. Twin 2,000-hp MTU 16V2000s are predicted to hit 34-knot top speeds and cruise comfortably at 30 knots, drawing on 3,600 gallons of fuel. Plans show an enclosed flying bridge with skylounge, a large mezzanine deck with seating for spectators, a full-beam master with king-size berth plus his-and-hers heads, and three guest cabins with queen-size berths and en suite heads. A well-appointed galley and adjacent dining area are forward of the saloon.


Contact: Generation Marine, (954) 321-1457;, or

LeClercq Marine

This Seattle, Washington-based builder has produced over 400 vessels of all kinds from their five-acre Lake Union yard over the years, and maintains an active retrofit and repair business. But the big news around the LeClercq yard these days revolves around two new projects: an 82-foot custom performance cruiser and a 92-foot Yachtfisher designed with Jack Sarin Naval Architects and the experienced owner’s input.

The new 82 is a stylish, high-performance cruiser built strong and light, with four staterooms on the lower deck, plus two private crew staterooms aft with their own galley and head. The builder expects twin 1,100-hp Detroit DDC 12V92s to produce 28-knot max speeds and 25-knot cruising speeds. Measuring 82 feet overall, and 18 feet, 6 inches, on the beam, the 80,000-pound LeClercq 82 draws only 4 feet, 6 inches, so it should be comfortable in relatively shallow cruising areas. The builder plans to offer this design in 76-, 86- and 90-foot overall lengths.


The 92 takes LeClercq in an entirely new direction which, in this case, is fast fishing. Twin 4,000-hp MTU 16V2000 engines provide power for the semi-displacement, moderate-V Sarin design, which measures 100 feet overall, nearly 23 feet on the beam, and draws 6 feet. The 92 has an aluminum hull and a cored-fiberglass superstructure, with a large crane on the foredeck to launch the shore boat or a PWC. The fishing-enthusiast owner specified a separate freezer, fishbox and bait freezer in the cockpit, with adjacent lanai deck seating for those who would rather watch and relax.

Contact: LeClercq Marine, (206) 283-8555;

Westport Yachts

Westport currently builds yachts of 98, 112 and 130 feet in their yards at Hoquiam and Westport, Washington. At their new facility in Port Angeles, the first 164-foot trideck is moving quickly toward completion.

Sold out since the first one was launched in 2001, the five-stateroom Westport 130 features a large saloon that opens aft to a covered California deck, a main-deck master stateroom, plus four guest staterooms on the lower deck. Completely equipped for navigation and communication, the upper level pilothouse includes an adjacent settee where guests can relax and enjoy the ride, as well as a skylounge aft with bar. The skylounge provides access to the boat deck with tender and hydraulic davit, plus the hot tub, dual lounges, sunpad and a full-service bar. Twin 2,735-hp MTU 12V4000 diesels develop mid-20-knot cruise speeds. The 130 has quarters forward for a crew of eight, plus an engineer’s stateroom aft.

The new 164 trideck features an advanced William Garden hull design and an interior designed by Don Starkey. Following ideas advanced in the 130, the 164 has the full-beam master suite forward, a large formal dining room and the saloon aft which opens on a large overhead-protected aft deck. Tenders are housed in a swim-platform-level garage. There’s a full bar and hot tub on the expansive flying bridge for owners and guests. Interestingly, there’s also a top-deck VIP suite with a private sundeck.

Contact: Westport Yachts, (360) 268-1800;

Nordlund Boat Company

When Norm and Phyllis Nordlund joined forces with Walt Silva in 1958 to form the Nordlund Boat Company in Tacoma, Washington, wooden yachts were at their zenith and the company quickly gained a reputation for high-quality custom building. Sons Paul and Gary, and daughter Karen, eventually joined the business and in the transition to fiberglass during the 1970s helped the company make the shift into new technologies. As the size of new custom boats continued to grow, Nordlund kept pace, but their interior work garnered a significant share of attention in the world-wide marketplace.

In late 2003, the company launched Fantasma, a 94-foot trilevel design with an enclosed bridge and a California deck from the board of Ed Monk Jr. and the firm Edwin Monk & Son. Tim Nolan Marine Design supplied the structural specifics, but the interior and exterior were all Nordlund Boat. The owner, who previously owned a 63-foot pilothouse built by Nordlund, keeps the boat in Southern California, and has plans to cruise the coast of Mexico this winter and the East Coast next year. Work has already started on a 114-foot yacht fisherman.

Contact: Nordlund Boat Company, (253) 627-0605;

McQueen Yachts

One of the pioneers of yacht building in the Vancouver, British Columbia- area, George McQueen began building 28-foot custom yachts in 1952, using skills honed in the wooden, commercial boatbuilding trades in the late 1930s. In the 1950s he began building wooden yachts designed by Ed Monk Sr. as his customers’ needs grew. His son Doug joined the business and George retired in 1982. McQueen Yachts began building Ed Monk Jr.- designed fiberglass yachts in 1984, and has produced over 50 luxury yachts that are 70 feet long and larger. From the 28-footers of the early 1950s to the 115-foot Hotei, McQueen has built designs that range from the very simple to the most extravagant.

The 90-foot Crosser, built for a Southern California client who wanted to circumnavigate, is a noteworthy example. She was, in fact, the largest yacht that completed the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally last summer, and is currently cruising in the Med. The complex electronics specified by the owner dictated the need on site for an audio engineer and audio video technician-a demand McQueen was able to fulfill. Mechanical and electrical systems in the engineroom and machinery spaces were installed with ease of maintenance in mind. Interior joinerwork is of the highest quality.

Contact: McQueen Yachts, (604) 325-4544;

Northcoast Yachts

When Steven Yadvish founded Yachtfish Marine on the shores of Seattle’s Lake Union 14 years ago to offer custom yacht manufacturing, repair and restoration services to Pacific Northwest owners, he could not have forseen the opportunity that presented itself in the summer of 2003. With the purchase of Northcoast Yachts in Tacoma, Washington, Yadvish acquired a company with a fine reputation, talented workforce and excellent facilities to produce a full line of custom motoryachts ranging from 85 to 132 feet. Northcoast designer Paul Fredrickson began updating the line, which he characterizes as “classic American design lacking “elliptical windows or curved staircases.

The new 85 motoryacht is a perfect example, an all-composite yacht with a four-stateroom layout that can be crewed or owner operated. Twin V-12 diesels give the 85 a top speed of 28 knots and a cruise speed of 24 knots. Her 3,000-gallon fuel tankage supports a 1,500-mile cruising range. Wide side decks make it easy for the crew to move around without disturbing the owner and guests. An extended flying bridge deck provides good cover for the cockpit and fore-and-aft storage for the shore boat. Entertainment topside is supported by twin curved settees, Corian tables, and a full outdoor kitchen.

Contact: Northcoast Yachts, (206) 953-9030;

Northern Marine

Located in Anacortes, Washington, gateway to the San Juan Islands, Northern Marine has been building custom yachts up to 160 feet since 1995. The 130-foot trideck Magic was launched this year and is on her way to the East Coast. She will soon be followed by the 150-foot Lia Fail and a 144-foot trideck that is the first of a series of Cerulean motoryachts from designer Jonathan Quinn Barnett.

But Northern Marine is also well known for its series of Expedition trawler yachts, ranging in size from 57 to 98 feet in length. The yard gained acclaim for its launch of Spirit of Zopilote for Bruce and Joan Kessler in 1996. In 2003, the 78-foot Endurance joined two other sister ships from Northern’s 8000 series, and cruised British Columbia and Alaska. With a 4,200-gallon fuel capacity, a big Cummins K19M power plant and a 4,000-nautical-mile range, the list of possible destinations seems endless. Last year, three 57-footers-Sarava, Timberwolf and Raven-cruised the Pacific Northwest together, pausing in Poulsbo, Washington, for the annual Trawlerfest.

Contact: Northern Marine, (360) 299-8400 (yard), (954) 316-6008 (sales);

West Bay SonShip Yachts

When Bernardus Vermeulen and his wife Leidy arrived from the Netherlands in 1959, Vancouver, British Columbia, was their intended new home. Ben Vermeulen opened a boatbuilding business in 1967 in nearby Delta, B.C., and thus began the legend of West Bay SonShip Yachts. Well known for their SonShip 58, with more than 75 launched, the company also builds boats measuring 64, 68, 78, 87 and 103 feet in length. Vacuum bag resin infusion techniques are employed in the hulls, as are fiberglass knit fabrics, CoreCell structural foams and isophthalic resins. Interior joinery is typically mahogany, oak or American cherry. West Bay maintains an in-house design staff using computerized design and engineering tools.

The newest design from West Bay is the SonShip 50 Pilothouse, designed by their in-house team and Gregory C. Marshall Naval Architects. Twin 503-hp Caterpillar C-9 diesels should push the modified-V SonShip 50 with its shallow keel and prop tunnels to a 24-knot top speed and 20-knot cruising speed. Twin 700-hp Cat C-12s are available. The standard layout includes two staterooms, with an optional third cabin. Walk-around side decks and molded stairs to the flying bridge, which is extended over the aft cockpit for protection, are notable exterior details.

Contact: West Bay SonShip Yachts, (604) 946-6226;

Pacific Mariner

Pacific Mariner 65 owners who asked the company for a larger yacht saw the first Pacific Mariner 85 launched in December, 2004. The 85 is an all-composite pilothouse motoryacht combining a William Garden hull with exterior styling and interior accommodations by Gregory C. Marshall. Twin 1,480-hp diesels will propel the 85 to mid-20-knot cruising speeds, while two Northern Lights will provide electrical service away from land. Stairways connect the swim platform to the large California deck, which leads into a large saloon with separate dining area. Similar to the arrangement on the 65, the galley and a dinette adjoin the pilothouse helm so that guests can enjoy the yacht in any weather.

Although it can accommodate a professional crew, the design brief for the 85 intends the yacht for owner operation, and includes necessary equipment like warping capstans aft and a hydraulic bow thruster to ease docking and maneuvering chores. The layout includes four staterooms with en suite heads, including the full-beam master, which has its own private entrance, dressing table/desk, and settee.

Contact: Pacific Mariner, (360) 466-1189;

San Juan composites

Partners Donald Campbell and Randy McCurdy formed San Juan Composites in May of 1998 to design and build high-end composite yachts that would take advantage of all the latest technologies-five-axis CNC tooling production, vacuum-assisted resin infusion, Corecell cored laminates throughout the structure-yet finished with megayacht-level mechanical and electrical systems, as well as custom cabinetry and joinerwork. Their first vessel, the lobster-boat styled San Juan 38, was an immediate hit with discerning yachtsmen who wanted a luxury yacht unlike most others on the market. The San Juan 48, designed with Gregory C. Marshall Naval Architects and built following ABS guidelines, followed this year to rave reviews. The view from the bridge deck is spectacular through a glass bulkhead aft, with plenty of room for guests. The two-cabin layout is as functional as it is beautiful for a family of four. Twin 825-hp Detroit Diesel Series 60 electronic diesels produce cruising speeds that range from 15 to 35 knots. Joystick control of the bow and stern thrusters, in conjunction with Detroit Diesel controls, lets the owner maneuver easily Coming next June: A new 30. n Contact: San Juan Composites, (360) 299-3790;


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