HUGHES BOAT WORKS INCORPORATED
(edited by Howard Hughes May 2009)
1963 - Founded in Willowdale,
Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, Canada as a partnership of two brothers, Howard &
Peter Hughes. The first boats the company built were 8' to 16'dinghies
(El-Toros to 505's)
1965-1968 – The company relocated to the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ontario
- Hughes 24 (tooling purchased from Tanzer), Hughes 27 and
the Hughes 38-design #1903 (Sparkman & Stevens was approached by Hughes in 1966
for the design). The Hughes 27 was designed by Howard
in 1965-1966 while located in factories on Munham Gate, Scarborough, Ontario).
Twenty Hughes 27's were built at this location and then they moved the entire
manufacturing operation to Huron Park Ontario called Centralia at the time. The
Hughes 27 continued in production in Centralia until replaced by the Hughes 29.
said that, "While the Hughes 27 and Hughes 29 are
very different boats they share very similar hull lines with the exception of
below waterline. The Hughes 27 was an older concept long keel design with the
rudder attached to the aft end of the keel which had been the norm at the
time. During the 1965 to 1969 period the concept of fin keels or separate
keel and rudders was developed primarily by Sparkman and Stephens and George
Cuthbertson of C&C and most production boats since then have been in that
configuration. We worked very closely with S&S for many years and truly honed
our production boatbuilding skills with a lot of personal input from Olin J
Stephens and Rod Stephens. Olin and Rod became my very good friends during
those seminal years in the industry and acted as our mentors passing on the
lessons learned over many years designing the most successful boats ever. Olin
passed away last year (2008) at 100 years with Rod a few
years ago in his very late nineties. They were the very best and I learned a
great deal about building boats and life in general from both."
Hughes Boat Works Limited was
incorporated on February 23, 1967 for the “undertaking of the manufacture of
pleasure boats” the company was registered as Ontario, Canada Corporation
1968-1969 - Production moved to Centralia, Ontario, a Royal Canadian Air Force
Commonwealth Air Training World War II fighter pilot training
airport near Exeter, Ontario which was converted into an industrial park after
the war and re-named Huron Park. The factory was in a large building near
the centre of the ground side hanger buildings (now the site of Exeter Machine)
with a test tank pool outside of the building – The Hughes 22, H25, H29 ( all
designed by Howard ), H38 & H48 design #1956 (both S&S designed and jointly
developed)* a note of interest - Hughes also produced H38 hulls for Hinckley
Yachts ( Hinckley 38) who produced their own deck and interior, and the H48 was
originally designed for Seafarer who was unable to continue production.
1969 - Hughes Boatworks became a Division of United States Steel Corporation.
Both Hughes brothers stayed on with the company.
1971 - Howard & Peter leave
1971 - 1974 - US Steel changes name to Northstar Yachts Ltd. The Northstar
lines of sailboats were built to plans commissioned by Hughes Boat Works, most
drawn by the design team of Sparkman and Stevens. The S&S designed
Northstar 500 class – 25ft -later the NS600 design #2135, Northstar 1000 class –
30ft (1/2 ton) S&S design #2098-C6, Northstar 1500 class – 35ft (3/4 ton)
S&S design #2166, and the Northstar 38 and the Northstar 80/20 – 41ft S&S design
#2134 were launched. The Bruce Farr designed NS727 (7.27m / 24') was also
introduced during this period, along with a 30' model the N900 were introduced
in 1973. The Northstar 22 – 22ft was also built during this period. Either the
Northstar 500 or the NS727 won the ¼ ton world championship.
The annual information return
of February 23, 1975
lists 4 Canadians and 3 Americans as directors of the company. The 3
Americans are named as the President, Secretary and the Treasurer respectfully
are J.T. MacKenzie, D.F Tuthill, and D.M. McAvity (possibly the directors of US
Steel). The corporation profile report lists December 10, 1975 as the
The retail price of a Northstar 500 with
standard options in 1973 was $CAD 11, 004, FOB Huron Park.
At that time the Canadian dollar was worth slightly more than a US dollar, so
the price was essentially the same in both the US and Canada.
1977 - Howard purchased assets of Northstar and name was changed back to Hughes
Boatworks Inc. The NS600 was modified to become the H26. A new model called the
H27 was introduced. The NS1000 was modified to become the H31 by rolling
out the sides and stretching the transom. The NS1500 was renamed the H35 and the
NS80/20 became the H40 (Hughes also sold H40 hulls to Tartan Yachts who like Hinckley
(38) produced their own deck) Hughes sold the Farr designed tooling (only
producing a small #), deciding to focus more on family cruisers not racing.
1978 Columbia (Coronado Yachts
was also blended into the Columbia line) closes down because of labour problems,
but another reason which also maybe true, is that it was due more to lack of
cash flow. Columbia sold a reported $250,000 worth of parts to a marina in
to cover payroll and expenses.
1979 - 1980 Hughes purchased Columbia Yacht Corporation, one of the worlds
largest builders of sailboats and moved all production to the Huron Park
factory, Centralia, Ontario, Canada. Name changed to Hughes~Columbia Inc. The
36 was launched (designed by W.Tripp Sr.), along with production of the Alan
Payne designed 8.3(27'), 8.7(29' Motorsailer), 10.7(35') & 11.8(39'), 42 and 48
- Production of the H31, H35, H38 & H40 (Ketch) also continued. All models were
available fully finished or in kit form.
1982 - Hughes~Columbia went into receivership (largely due to debt incurred by
the acquisition of Columbia closely followed by a deep recession and high
interest rates - people stop buying boats when int. rates are 18%)
1982 - Aura Yachts takes over
Columbia. According to the USCG website, CLY, Columbia’s Manufacturers
Identification Code (MIC) was retired August 28. Aura Yachts built the
Hughes 35. The Hughes 35 was also built by South Hants Engineering in
Great Britain (called the S.H. E. 36). South Hants Engineering may have
also built some Northstar 1500s. The last hull number might have been 102.
1986 - Howard with some partners again purchases assets after the failure of
Aura and mainly produces custom built H40's in Orangeville plants.
1989 - 1991 Diversifies into the manufacturing of large one piece fibreglass
swimming pools. A tremendous success, unfortunately a fire breaks out destroying
the factory, and the insurance co. (Firestone Insurance) turns out to be a
fraudulent company, leaving Hughes empty handed. At this point most tooling for
the boats had been moved outside the plant where they still remain to this day.
Hughes Boat Works Ltd. Was the largest
sailboat manufacturer in Canada for several years, building a total of
approximately 3,500 boats. During the company’s peak years it employed 250
to 300 staff.
HBW was issued to: HUGHES BOAT WORKS
and then HOFEMAN BOAT WORKS
|Scanned pictures OF HUGHES BOATWORKS
Supplied by Robert Hess of Hessmarine (Atomic Four Engine Service
- Delta, British Columbia, 1990 – 2006) unknown if photos are of
Orangeville or Centralia
Canadian Yachting Magazine - September 1980
Sorry but above was borrowed from various sources on the internet
and a number of generous people who used to work for the Hughes brothers.
In May 2009 Howard Hughes edited the above history which I thank him for.
has anything to add or if there are corrections to be made please contact Bill
at email: email@example.com