Legendary Yachts in Washington, USA Boasts a Fine History of Wooden boat Building
(More from the West Coast of the USA and Canada!)
A team of Washougal woodworkers is celebrating 20 years of building artful wooden yachts and pleasure boats that sell from $85,000 to $3 million, though changes in the market have Legendary Yachts, Inc., down to just four employees.
“We just want to keep working,” said Will Pollard, 44, vice president of Legendary Yachts, Inc. “We’re very custom, very specialized. I’d be very happy if we were building one 60-footer.”
At one point, Legendary had 22 busy employees, who turned all wooden boats large and small. Today, the four-person operation is refurbishing six seaworthy yachts, and looking for more.
Will Pollard poses by the hull of a wooden vessel being refitted in the warehouse at Legendary Yachts. The four-man team of builders is rebalancing and rebuilding the cast-off ship frame to ready it to sail on the Columbia again.
Dean Baker, Special to The Oregonian
The company operates out of sight and generally out of mind in a nondescript warehouse in east Washougal, but it’s got plenty of fans among avid boaters.
“Are you referring to the beautiful wooden sail boats that they have built there?” asked boat-owning Washougal booster Roger Daniels. “They have pretty much been a secret to local folks.”
The boat business grew out of a dream by Stan Bishoprick III, who in 1977 founded Exterior Wood, a giant in the pressure-treated wood business.
From the profits, Bishoprick launched Legendary Yachts and Windy Ridge Farm, first raising thoroughbred racehorses and then registered Angus beef cattle. Bishoprick, who died last October, was also a professionally trained singer, served as cantor at several Jewish temples, was choir director at Vancouver’s First Presbyterian Church and sang in the Portland opera and was president of the opera association.
Bishoprick launched the boat business after building his own 72-foot ketch, the Radiance, patterned after the famous 1935 sailing yacht Ticonderoga.
Bishoprick caught the boat-building bug in high school by helping his father build a 56-foot Marco Polo schooner. That schooner, the Corahleen, is being refurbished in the Legendary Yacht shop. (The schooner’s name was taken from the elder Bishoprick’s mother, Cora, and his three sisters, among them former U.S. Rep. Jolene Unsoeld. )
Bishoprick announced the formation of Legendary Yacht when he launched the Radiance in August 1994. His staff at both the lumber and boat companies included his son-in-law, Pollard, son of former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard.
“Will and his brother Ed always loved to go fishing when they were kids,” Royce Pollard said. “They took to the water like fish.”
The yacht Radiance on launch day in August 1994.
Courtesy of Legendary Yachts
The Radiance became the centerpiece of a two-year family adventure that began in fall 1995, when Bishoprick, Will Pollard and their families sailed over the Columbia Bar, down the West Coast, through the Panama Canal, up to Maine, across to Bermuda and Antigua and back.
“It was a fabulous trip,” Will Pollard said. “It brought in tons of publicity of the company. It was once in a lifetime.”
Curtis Sluyter, a Portland area contractor and boat builder, came across Legendary Yachts a few years ago while trying to refurbish the hull of his 27-foot-wooden yawl, the Vajra.
“Will has been so great to work with, and he is on top of his game,” Sluyter said in an email.
Despite changes in the market, Legendary has found a niche by emphasizing wood. Company builders use South American and African mahogany, teak, western red cedar, western red cedar, Port Orford cedar and spruce.
They’ve built boats of many sizes, including the 58-foot ketch Bounty, the 64-foot Mistral and smaller boats such as the 12-foot Haven.
“Unfortunately, we are not building anything new right now,” Pollard said. “In a perfect world, we are building brand new wooden boats – power or sail. But we are blessed with six boats that are wooden boat restorations or fiberglass refits.”
Legendary’s four workers stay busy with cabinets, paint, varnish and mechanical work.
“I am trying to keep all these talented people doing what they do best,” Pollard said. “We’d love to be building another Radiance, and employing 17 or 18 people. We really want to be building new boats, and we’ve got a prospect, to build something beautiful to showcase our workmanship.”
— Dean Baker