Rough Riders

Challenging cruising grounds give these Pacific Northwest yachts their swagger.

West Bay SonShip

West Bay SonShip

Many folks think of the Pacific Northwest as the land of never-ending rain, Microsoft, Starbucks and Bigfoot, but yachtsmen know better. Some of the finest vessels in the world are built and launched here; you’ll find them in all the trendiest ports of North America and Europe, and at sea in the farthest reaches of the planet. Any why not? In addition to challenging cruising grounds, this area has a long nautical history, beginning with the seafarers who discovered the area 8,000 years ago while sailing down Alaska’s Inside Passage. In the 16th century, Sir Francis Drake may have explored as far north as Washington’s Olympic Peninsula; we know he claimed all of this land for Queen Elizabeth I. John Jacob Astor made his fortune shipping furs back east from his trading post on the Astoria River, and those Bering Sea crab legs you ate for dinner last night didn’t jump out of the sea onto your plate.

The boatbuilders of the Pacific Northwest take a back seat to nobody when it comes to cutting-edge design, state-of-the-art technology and zealous pride of workmanship. Some of the companies profiled below are world famous, while others are the cult favorites of locals. But they’re all worth a look and then a second look.



Founded in 1958 by Norm and Phyllis Nordlund and Walt Silva, Nordlund today is managed by the Nordlunds’ sons Gary and Paul. The brothers believe in building the highest quality boats possible, using up-to-the-minute technology, fine craftsmanship and obsessive attention to detail. Each Nordlund is a custom project from start to finish; there are no standard Nordlunds. Many of today’s clients are already Nordlund owners, coming back for their second, third or even fourth boats.

One repeat customer took delivery in early 2005 of Southern Way III, a 114-foot luxury sportfisherman designed by Ed Monk and engineered by Tim Nolan. The yacht incorporates sophisticated live-bait tanks, with plenty of room for the owner’s growing family. In 2006, the Nordlunds will launch 110-foot VictorEous, a step up from the owner’s previous boat, an 89-foot Nordlund. Powered by twin 2,000 hp MTUs, VictorEous will cruise between Mexico and Alaska. Maximum speed for the 317,000-pound yacht is 26 knots, cruise 20 knots. Another collaboration between Monk, Nolan and the Nordlunds, El Vato, a fast 87-footer, is also scheduled for launch this year. Twin 1,675 hp Caterpillars should fetch 28 knots.

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



Christensen Shipyards has built more ABS and MCA-certified composite yachts over 35 meters than any other shipyard in the world. The Vancouver, Wash., builder currently has six yachts in various stages of construction; the first, hull #28, is scheduled for delivery to its owner in March 2006, with hull #29 set for September. Thanks to a recent 50,000-square-foot expansion of the manufacturing facility, Christensen can have up to eight yachts under construction simultaneously. The company’s marina can hold seven more in the water and has drydock capability to 350 tons.

Christensen builds its yachts, from 115 feet to 160, using an expandable mold to lay up the cored-composite hulls. Profiles and layouts are custom-designed to suit each client’s needs. Five of the six hulls currently in construction, including #28 and #29, are in the Custom 157-foot Series. Powered by twin MTU 1,800 hp diesels, they will be capable of 17.5 knots, with a long-range cruise capability of 4,500 nautical miles on 15,200 gallons of fuel. (The sixth yacht is a custom 146-footer with a tender garage and other unique features.) Once hull #28 is launched, Christensen will start construction on hull #34, the first of a new Custom 165-foot Series. Its owner will be moving up from a smaller Christensen; the 165 will be his fourth yacht from this builder.


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


Founded in the early 1960s, Delta Marine is located on the Duwamish River, just south of Seattle. The company started out building high-speed pleasure boats, then shifted its focus to rugged commercial fishing vessels that work the waters off Alaska and the Bering Sea. In the 1980s, after delivering more than 800 vessels, Delta changed direction again, and began building some of the world’s finest luxury yachts; by 1990, the company’s new construction was dedicated exclusively to superyachts. Delta’s latest project is the 164-foot Happy Days, scheduled for delivery early in 2006; the company says it’s the largest composite yacht ever built in the Americas. With twin Caterpillar 3512 diesels, Happy Days will cruise at 14 knots and have a range of over 5,000 nautical miles.


Delta has other projects in the works too. One is a 154-foot semi-displacement motoryacht scheduled for delivery this summer. Designed for a maximum speed of 24 knots, the as-yet-unnamed yacht is powered by twin MTU 16V4000 diesels, carries 14,500 gallons of fuel, and should achieve a 3,500-nautical mile cruising range. The exterior design is sleek with a low profile. As if that weren’t enough, Delta is also building a 240-foot motoryacht with a steel hull and composite superstructure; this will be the first yacht of its size built in the U.S. in over 75 years. In addition, Delta has also started on a 123-foot, all-composite expedition yacht and a 156-foot high-performance motoryacht.

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

LeClercq Marine

At its five-acre facility on Lake Union, about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle, LeClercq builds yachts up to 120 feet. Over the past 30 years, the family-run company has built more than 400 boats-not only yachts, but also rugged commercial boats for the Alaska fisheries. LeClercq is one of the world’s largest builders of fiberglass fishing vessels, and the lessons learned from those boats are applied to every one of the company’s yachts.

Recent LeClercq projects include an aluminum and composite 92-foot Yachtfisher and an all-composite 82-foot motoryacht. The 92-footer, designed by Jack Sarin, is intended for fast fishing expeditions: Her owner plans on making trips to the Bahamas from his home in Florida. The yacht accommodates six in the owner’s party, plus two crew in quarters aft of the engineroom. Powered by twin 2,000 hp MTUs, the 92 will cruise at 25 knots. The 82, with a hull by Howard Apollonio and superstructure by GTH Design, is powered by twin 1,100 hp Detroit Diesels, producing a cruising speed of 23 knots and a top end of 26.

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

McQueen’s Yachts

Talk about family values: George McQueen started building yachts on Mitchell Island, on the Fraser River in Vancouver, B.C., in 1951. Back then, his designer of choice was Ed Monk Sr. Today, George’s son, Doug, runs the business and builds yachts designed by Ed Monk Jr. In the past 55 years, McQueen pere et fils have launched yachts from 28 to 115 feet in wood and fiberglass for clients wanting to cruise with their families, voyage around the world, explore the Inside Passage to Alaska or chase gamefish over blue water. The McQueens can build simple, they can build elegant. If you insist, they can still build you a wooden yacht.

Launched in late 2005, the 67-foot Northern Spirit was designed by Ed Monk Jr., with structural engineering by Tim Nolan Marine Design. The hull is solid fiberglass below the waterline and balsa-cored above, while the main deck and house, built over a one-off mold, have a vacuum-bonded Divinycell core. The yacht has three staterooms for owner and guests belowdecks, and a captain’s cabin and day head adjacent to the pilothouse. Northern Spirit is powered by twin 3406E Caterpillar diesels, carries two Northern Lights generators, and is fitted with KeyPower stabilizers and bow- and sternthrusters. She would be ideal for exploring the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

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


Since buying Northcoast a couple of years ago, Steve Yadvish has been busy. Among other projects, the Seattle company has launched a slick 118-foot motoryacht, the largest Northcoast so far, while continuing to build its most popular model, the Northcoast 85. (There’s room in the shop for four yachts up to 132 feet.) The latest 85 is under construction now: It’s a four-stateroom yacht, including a full-beam master and crew quarters aft.

But maybe you already own a megayacht, and you need something sexy to put on deck. Northcoast also builds the Fino, a 30-foot luxury runabout with classic lines and a tumblehome stern; she’ll fit right in at Cannes or Portofino. The deep-V, 8,500-pound Fino has twin 415 hp MerCruiser engines under gull-wing engine hatches, raceboat-style Latham controls and all-stainless steel hardware, much of it custom. Yachty appointments include a teak cockpit sole and UltraLeather upholstery. The boat comes complete, including a stereo CD, shore power, a Sunbrella convertible top and side curtains as well as a VacuFlush head.

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

Northern Marine

Established in 1995 and located in Anacortes, Wash., in the heart of the San Juan Islands, Northern Marine now employs more than 120 skilled craftspeople and builds both rugged trawlers and luxury motoryachts. The latest of the latter class, scheduled for a late-summer launch, is a 151-foot trideck motoryacht designed by Jonathan Q. Barnett and built using vacuum-infused composites. But when most folks think of Northern Marine, they also think “expedition yacht. The first boat built by the company was the 58-foot Spirit of Zopilote in 1996; the first 80-foot expedition yacht will be launched early this year, with another to follow in 2006 and a third in early 2007.

Northern Marine is currently finalizing drawings on even larger expedition yachts. The 105 Series will combine ruggedness with motoryacht comfort. With a 26-foot beam, 7-foot draft and a 420,000-pound displacement, the 105 Series can carry all the necessities and creature comforts the world-girdling explorer needs. Built of resin-infused fiberglass, the 105 comes with a long list of standard equipment, including an 18-foot RIB with outboard and a multifunction deck crane to launch and retrieve it. Power is from twin 450 hp MTU diesels, with two gensets to provide electricity.

Contact: Northern Marine, (360) 299-8400;

NorthStar Yachts

Located in Kalama, Wash., on the Columbia River, NorthStar Yachts builds motoryachts and sportfishermen up to 115 feet. Each new design is tank-tested, an involved and expensive procedure that lets the naval architect modify his design to ensure maximum performance across a wide range of sea conditions. Once construction begins, NorthStar engineers continue that level of care by using the latest techniques and materials, from resins, cores and gelcoats in the hull and structure to tempered safety glass in the windows and vacuum-bonded teak on the decks and swim platforms. NorthStar owner Jerry Clark is a third-generation boatbuilder and knows better than to cut corners.

Late in 2005, NorthStar launched El Lobo, designed by Howard Apollonio, with interior styling by Sylvia Bolton. The 80-foot sportfisherman’s twin 2,000 hp MTUs push her to 32 knots max, with a cruising speed of 28 knots. Thanks to prop pockets, the boat’s draft is kept to just 5 feet, 6 inches; she can chase fish where many other sportfishermen dare not go. In the motoryacht category, NorthStar is finishing work on Smile Maker, a 100-footer by Jack Sarin. Due to launch early this year, the yacht will cruise at 19 knots, thanks to twin 1,480 hp MTU diesels. Both yachts are for American owners.

Contact: NorthStar Yachts, (360) 673-1364;

Pacific Mariner

Founded in 1996 by the Edson family, Pacific Mariner today is run by Jack Edson and John Seabeck. Edson’s boats, designed by William Garden and styled by Gregory C. Marshall, are built to be safe and comfortable in whatever weather the Pacific Northwest can dish out. They are delivered complete, including electronics, galley utensils, a RIB with outboard-even cleaning supplies. Just to ensure everything is perfect, Jack Edson sea-trials each one before turning over the keys.

The Pacific Mariner 85 is a sleek, low-profile motoryacht that’ll cruise with eight in comfort. Belowdecks, the full-beam master stateroom is amidships, where the ride is most comfortable, and its en suite head has both a shower and a spa. Two of the three guest staterooms have queen berths, with a pair of singles in the third; each has its own head. Crew quarters, with both a double and a single Pullman berth, are all the way aft, against the transom, with access to the engineroom through this space. The pilothouse, galley, dining area, saloon and day head are all on the main deck; an electric barbeque, wet bar and lounges are on the flying bridge. With twin 1,500 hp MTU diesels, the Pacific Mariner 85 cruises in the mid-20-knot range, and tops out at 30. (See related feature story on the Pacific Mariner 85 elsewhere in this issue.)

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

Richmond Yachts

In September 2003, Sovereign Yachts of Richmond, B.C., ceased operations, leaving two trideck motoryachts partially completed. One was 138-foot Status Quo, intended for Texas businessman Don Davis. Davis funded the completion of Status Quo, then, in April 2004, purchased the assets of Sovereign Yachts and re-established it as Richmond Yachts, leasing the same six-acre yard on the banks of the Fraser River. The 70,000-square-foot covered facility has room to build four 120-foot to 155-foot yachts simultaneously, and there’s 500 feet of deepwater dockage. Davis, a lifelong yachtsman, kept the experienced Sovereign crew.

Richmond Yachts will soon splash the second vessel abandoned by Sovereign, 142-foot Richmond Lady. The new yacht, powered with twin 2,000 hp MTUs, will cruise at 16 knots (max 18 knots), with a range of 3,000 nautical miles. A Ward Setzer design, Richmond Lady is built to both ABS standards and MCA certification. Its six-stateroom layout, including a VIP cabin on the upper deck, is ideal for entertaining family or friends, or for chartering. There’s a spa, half-moon bar with stools and a day head on the flying bridge and plenty of deck space for tenders and toys. A second 142-footer is scheduled to launch in winter 2006.

Contact: Richmond Yachts, (604) 520-1270;

San Juan Yachts

If you’re looking for a sleek yacht in the 30- to 48-foot range, built using top-quality techniques and materials, by craftsmen averaging 15 years of yacht-building experience, then San Juan Yachts has what you want.

It’s located in Anacortes, Wash., on Fidalgo Island in the San Juans, one of the greatest cruising grounds on the planet, and just the place you’d expect yachts of this caliber to be born. And if you want something bigger, wait a few months: San Juan is currently working on the design of a 58. There’s also a 38-foot lobster boat and a 30-foot runabout-style launch.

San Juan’s 48 Flybridge is a variation on the company’s drool-inducing lobster-style boat. The first splashed in August 2005; there are two other 48 Flybridges now being built. Like all San Juans, the 48 Flybridge is built using ABS standards as a guide, meaning not a corner is cut. All structural composites are resin-infused and cored with Corecell; there’s ample use of Kevlar to ensure strength. The finish work is immaculate, and the boats are delivered literally turnkey; even electronics and canvas are standard.

Contact: San Juan Yachts, (360) 299-3790;

West Bay SonShip

A family business since Ben and Leidy Vermeulen started the company in 1967, in a small boat shop on the south bank of the Fraser River in Delta, B.C., West Bay SonShip today is the largest builder of custom yachts in Canada. With a 112,000-square-foot facility on eight acres of land, complete with a full-service shipyard and 250-ton marine railway, West Bay delivers from 16 to 18 yachts per year.

In December 2005, West Bay planned to launch Wenka, a 66-foot three-stateroom cockpit motoryacht. With twin 800 hp Caterpillar diesels, Wenka will cruise at 24 knots, or enjoy a range of nearly 700 nautical miles at lower speed. West Bay has six more yachts currently under construction, or in the final stages of design. Loie B, Vagabond and Andiamo, all raised-pilothouse motoryachts in the 87- to 91-foot range, should launch in 2006, along with as-yet unnamed 54- and 64-footers. Finally, West Bay has started building a 110-foot cockpit motoryacht; its hull is by Jack Sarin, with exterior and interior styling by West Bay’s own design group. The yacht will have five staterooms for owner and guests, plus a captain’s cabin and crew quarters. Normal cruising speed should be 20 knots, or a maximum range of 2650 nm at lower speed. Power will be twin 2,000 hp MTU diesels.

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

Westport Shipyards

Founded in 1964 to produce commercial fishing boats, Westport is now one of America’s busiest yachtbuilders: The company launched eight yachts in 2005, expects to build 10 in 2006, and is expanding its facilities to build 12 in 2007. The first Westport yacht, delivered in 1979, was a 48-footer. Today the company builds 112-, 130- and 164-foot models. With more than 750 employees working two shifts at three separate facilities, Westport is the largest employer in the city of Westport, Wash., at the entrance to Grays Harbor.

The first 164-footer, the Westport 50 Meter, is scheduled for launch early in 2006. Its hull was designed by William Garden, with styling by Donald Starkey. The new yacht will accommodate 10 guests. Its full-beam master suite is located on the main deck, but even the owner might prefer the VIP suite. The top deck includes a private sundeck and its own dining room. A large covered afterdeck is perfect for alfresco gatherings and there’s a spa and full-service bar on the flying bridge. A garage at swim-platform level makes launch and recovery of the tenders a snap. But who’d want to leave a yacht like this one?

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