The Harbor Report: The dawning of the age of fiberglass

April 07, 2011|By Len Bose

This story is going to be a good ride, maybe even better than the third wave I caught in the 1991 Transpacific Yacht Race, or Transpac, approaching the finish off Diamond Head.

As the boat, a Santa Cruz 50 now named Flaca, dropped into the third consecutive wave and the shape of Ko Ko Head disappeared under the horizon from the huge wave, with sheets of water rising 12 feet on either side of the boat, a crew member shouted "26.6 knots," as we surfed down this tropical wave.

I thought to myself, "Go straight, go fast and don't touch the helm."

Now, what does this introduction have to do with this story? Absolutely nothing, it's just one of my fondest boating memories.


This week I met with Roger MacGregor at his boat manufacturing plant on Placentia Street Costa Mesa. I was there to discuss the history of building sailboats in Costa Mesa. While I was in Roger's office, I could not help but notice the excitement and inflection in his voice. And I thought to myself, this is Roger's third consecutive wave, this is one of his fondest boating memories, and while writing this I better "go straight, go fast and don't touch the helm".

I hope you stay onboard with me while I tell this three-part story and notice the relation between the fiberglass boating industry and today's economy.

All yachtsman understand that God created wooden boats and man created fiberglass. In June 1947, Wizard Boats Inc., of 2075 Harbor Blvd., started building laminated fiberglass plastic Boats. The company had 280 dealers throughout the world and made seven different sizes of power boats, which measured between 8-feet and 17-feet-long. Wizard Boats shipped 1,700 units in 1952.

I then found a July 1973 article from the Los Angeles Times. It was headlined "Million Boat Building Industry"' and was about fiberglass millionaires. In the article, the writer introduced W.D. (Bill) Schock, at age 52, as "The grizzled veteran of the new breed of fiberglass millionaires…."

While talking to Roger MacGregor it was my understanding that, at 24, Richard (Dick )Valdes started Columbia Yachts and started building the Columbia 29 from a Sparkman Stevens design. Dick was the second person to start building sailboats in Costa Mesa and, as Roger described it, this was the start of "The Wild West."

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