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The Harbor Report: My meeting with two boat-making legends

April 17, 2012|By Len Bose
  • Mike Howarth (left) and Henry Morschladt stand in front of one of the first Pacific Sea Craft 25's.
Mike Howarth (left) and Henry Morschladt stand in front…

While walking the docks this week, I learned that quality produces quantity.

As I was showing a boat, I was introduced to one of my prospect's friends, Mike Howarth. As our conversion progressed, I quickly learned that Mike knew a whole lot more about boats than I did.

So, rather than proceed with my introduction, I got quiet and listened. Mike had been building boats in California since the early 1970s, and has owned Pacific Seacraft and Cabo Yachts.

Two days later, I called Mike and asked him for an interview.

"OK. Sure, Len," he replied. "I should call my partner Henry Morschladt. We have worked together from the beginning, and he has a shop across the street from me."

When I met Mike, Henry was pulling into the parking lot. Mike started to talk about his boat-building career. Mike's passion for working with wood brought him to Harbor Yachts, where he became the foreman in the woodshop.

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His next job was with Islander Yachts, where he moved over to the fiberglass tooling department, which relocated from Costa Mesa to Santa Ana. One day a number of boat molds showed up next door where Pacific Trawler started building boats.

Mike then moved to Pacific Trawler and was doing woodwork and engine installation. That's when he meet Henry Morschladt, who was its engineer, purchasing agent and part-time sales guy. Henry showed Mike one of his designs of a 25 cruising sailboat. It later became the Pacific Seacraft 25, and the two of them started building it.

As they came to the completion of that first boat, they needed to sell it and have it ready for the upcoming boat show in Newport Beach in the spring of 1976.

"I remember Duncan McIntosh really getting upset with us because he had never seen anyone bring a bandsaw down to the docks, before the show, in order to complete the boat in time," Henry said. "We had called in every favor and had all our relatives down on the docks, sanding and helping us finish the boat before the show started."

Henry sold the boat at the show, and the team went on to build 275, 25-foot boats. They had opened shop at an old Dr Pepper bottling company building in Fullerton and started Pacific Seacraft. One day, without telling them, Fortune Magazine wrote that they were building one of the top 100 products in the world.

This led to the team building thousands of boats from 20 to 37 feet, and becoming one of our country's top boat manufacturers. In 1988, they completed the sale of the company to a group out of Singapore.

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