Along the water’s edge of the Columbia River, Will Pollard pauses to admire the classic wooden lines that run 72 feet from one end of Radiance to the other. With its smooth curves and mahogany hull glistening in the sunlight, it’s no surprise that this sailboat was built out of a dream.
Radiance was launched in 1994 by Pollard’s father-in-law, Stan Bishoprick, president of Washougal-based Exterior Wood Inc. As Pollard tells it, Bishoprick’s dream to build Radiance began when he was in high school, after helping his father build a 56-foot Marco Polo schooner.
“That’s when his passion began for recreating his dream boat,” said Pollard.
The birth of a company
With the successful launch of Radiance, Bishoprick realized that bringing the classical sailboat designs of his youth into the 21st century was entirely possible. Enter his new company, Legendary Yachts.
“Our passion is to recreate the beautiful designs from yachting’s golden age,” explained Pollard, who as vice president, runs the company for Bishoprick.
“It is a niche that we’ve created because we build wooden boats,” he added.
You won’t find many wooden boat builders in the United States today, as most of the boating world has shifted to fiberglass. In fact, Pollard said, Legendary Yachts is the only outfit on the West Coast doing it.
“We focus on wood primarily because that’s Stan’s passion, but folks that are like-minded have experienced the nuances and pleasures of having a wooden boat with the natural insulation for temperature as well as sound…” Pollard explained. “They’re not these thin fiberglass or carbon fiber hulls like the ultra-modern type boats. Our clientele are usually folks that have that experience… They want that rich wood.”
Sale of the sail
Ideally, Pollard said, Legendary Yachts has two projects underway at any given time. With just a handful of employees, he said the company isn’t equipped to handle much more than that.
“If we’ve got one pretty big one, or two medium-sized or three smallish projects, that would be wonderful for us,” he said.
Of course building with resources like mahogany, maple and fir comes with a price – a very hefty one at that. Vessels for sale on Legendary Yachts’ website range from $180,000 to $2.5 million in asking price. However, Pollard reiterated, they don’t shy away from working smaller jobs.
“As long as [the customer] will let us build it in wood and it has beautiful lines, we really don’t care if it’s a nice wooden sea kayak or a 130-foot schooner,” he said.
Navigating the market
According to Pollard, custom-built wooden yachts are popular in the Puget Sound area, but overall are much more in demand on the East Coast. Given the challenge of overcoming that geographical distance, he said the company has been very careful about where they spend their marketing dollars.
For example, the company relied heavily on print advertising to attract customers in the past, appearing in publications such as Ocean Navigator. Today, Pollard said most of his inquiries are coming from around the world via email, from folks who stumble across their website.
In the end, whether they live in the Northwest or Norway, Pollard said a Legendary Yachts customer understands and appreciates the romance of a wooden built boat.
“Not to take away from folks that are involved in different boat styles and different construction techniques, but ‘woodies’ – wooden boat people – are very passionate about their wooden boats and very opinionated, but that’s the neat thing about them. It’s a big community, but it’s a small community. We all just share that love for wooden boats and we want to experience them with each other.”