Cascade's History

A Brief History of Yacht Constructors, Inc., Cascade Yachts, Inc., Cascade Yacht Builders, LLC, and finally the current Cascade Yacht Works, LLC

In 1954, Tom Green, Merle Starr, Wade Cornwell, Jarvis Gould and Henry Morton decided to use a new material called fiberglass to build large sailboat hulls. To prove the strength of this composite material a sample was laid-up and tested for strength. The final test was done by shooting bullets from different fire arms at it from a 10 foot range. This “bullet proof” sample is still with us.

They started the company by the name of Yacht Constructors and they decided to build the 34‘ sloop “Vigilant” designed by Frederick Geiger of Yacht Sales & Service in Philadelphia, PA.

In 1955, a contract was drawn up to share hours and labor to build five boats. A wooden plug was made according to the “Vigilant” design, and a fiberglass mold was completed by early September. Hull No. 1 was laid up with steel bars in the keel area, and the interior work progressed. The group selected “CHINOOK” as the name of the class for this new type of hull.

In 1956, Hull No. 1 was launched on the 21st of April. All five members of the group sailed her during that summer, and at the same time, work progressed on Hull No. 2 and No. 3. Hull No. 2 was launched on November 3rd and during the launch was dropped about 15 feet into the water by Westerlund, but suffered no damage, proving the strength of the hull material and construction process.

1957 saw the launch of Hulls No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5. By this time, the yachting community was beginning to take notice. The new boats had won many races, and Larry Barber of the Oregonian sent an article and pictures to “Yachting” magazine that came out as a three page spread, bringing a lot of inquiries. The first boat sold was Hull No. 6, to Dr. Don Laird. At this time, Jarvis Gould and Henry Morton dropped out of the group, but Tom Green, Merle Starr and Wade Cornwell continued, working evenings and weekends.

In 1958, with the sale of Hulls No. 7, 8, and 9, it was time to expand. Up to this time, the group had rented space in a wooden warehouse on NE 47th, near the airport. On July 1st, a metal building at 7110 NE 42nd Ave. was rented and two men were hired to accelerate the work.

As a result of this expansion and increase in manpower, the group formed and incorporated “Yacht Constructors, Inc.” in 1960 as Hull No. 15 was completed and sold.

In 1961, the members of “Yacht Constructors, Inc.” felt that a new design would enhance the performance of high-strength fiberglass hulls, and Robert A. Smith of Portland, formerly of Sparkman & Stephens, designed the “CASCADE 29” hull. Mr. Smith was highly experienced, also having designed tugs and commercial vessels, and he did survey work on those types of boats.

With the enterprise growing stronger, Wade Cornwell left Union Carbide in 1963 and began working full-time at Yacht Constructors, Inc. By the end of 1963, Yacht Constructors, Inc. had produced 48 of the CASCADE 29’s and 34 of the CHINOOK 34’s.

In 1964, Yacht Constructors, Inc. had their own building built at 7030 NE 42nd Ave. in Portland. The design for a CASCADE 42 was completed by Robert Smith, and a mold was made. The hull for the first CASCADE 42 was laid up in it, and moved into the new building in December. Dr. Don Laird bought CASCADE 42 Hull No. 1.

1967 saw a new design by Mr. Smith and the mold for the CASCADE 36 was completed. The first hull of that series was sold to Mike Godsil.

By now, the time-and-race-tested construction process was well-known throughout the sailing world. From a Yacht Constructors, Inc. brochure:

“Cascade cruisers or racers can always be identified by our hand lay-up method of construction in the hull. We use woven roving and cloths, lay each piece in and wet it out with resin, then hand squeegee excess resin to keep the content low. Our resin content in the finished hull is approximately 50%, as compared to nearly 70% resin found in many of the hulls made today with mat (chopped fibers) and chopper guns. The use of mat and chopper guns, while greatly reducing construction costs, have not improved the quality of hulls. Compared with woven fiberglass, these methods use a large amount of resin which adds weight and bulk and makes the laminate more brittle.”

Time has proven both the process and design. Both are legendary. The bullet proof sample is still in the office since 1954. Many Cascades won important races during the past and several have made circumnavigations.

In 1978, Mr. Smith designed the CASCADE 27, and he received Hull No. 1 of that series.

Yacht Constructors, Inc. continued to prosper, and in 1987, Merle Starr died, leaving the company in the hands of Wade Cornwell and Tom Green.

A change was made to the CASCADE 42 mold, pushing out the sides to widen the beam from 11’ 2” to 12’, and a section was added to the top of the mold to raise the sides 12 to 14 inches. The letters HS were appended to the name, and ever since all 42 foot hulls have been designated CASCADE 42 HS.

In 1989, Hans and Irene Geerling bought the assets of Yacht Constructors, Inc. and changed the name to Cascade Yachts, Inc. There were so many Cascade yachts in service by now that a few were showing up on the used boat market, and Cascade Yachts, Inc began to serve as brokers in the resale of used boats. In addition, purchasers of new and previously-owned Cascade hulls and boats could now rent spaces in the boatyard and finish or re-finish their boats.

In 1990 Cascade Yachts took over several molds from Heritage Boats of Hood River, OR. The Benford 39, now the Cascade Classic 39, a full keel boat, drew interest and several were built in the following years. In addition the Mini-Tug 20 (Benford 20) was built in several versions, including the lengthened version named the 24’ Harbor Master.

During the 1990 decade a new boat slowly emerged: the 36’ Trawler. This full displacement trawler features two keels with an engine in each of them. The low power diesel engines ensure low cost of operation and the safety of dual engines. The first one built was delivered as a hull and deck assembly in 1999 and the second one in mid 2000.

In 1998 Tom Green passed away. Wade Cornwell, still very active, helps out in the office.

In 1999 a new line of boats was introduced, which resulted in the building of the Nor'easter 26. Now hulls and decks can be bought in Main and finished to complete boats in Portland, Oregon. The first one to completed in 2001 just in time for the Portland boat show.

In 2003, a C39 Pilothouse was completed and saw its first daylight. This one was be launched in early Spring.

in 2003, Cascade Yachts, Inc . Some employees are kept very busy with the fabrication of airplane parts for one of the companies in the Portland Area. In addition to building new boats, we also did rigging, boat repair, and provided service in our boat yard. Also, our company became dealers for many manufactures for marine accessories such as Schaefer, Harken, Eskpar, Profurl, Banks Sails, Lewmar, Raritan and many others. Engine brands to name: Yanmar, Vetus and Beta.

Cascade became Cascade Yacht Builders, LLC. Cascade operated in parallel with Chinook Composites building an assortment of fiberglass parts and small boats.

In 2007 Cascade's assets were purchased by Russell and Mark Mead. Cascade was moved to Warrenton, OR from the long-time location in Portland. The 36' trawler was redesigned and new tooling built. It was named the CT 36 (for Cascade Trawler 36). Construction was also changed to utilize only Epoxy resins.