When I recently got in touch with Mr. Takao Sato after a long interval, I heard about the communication between Mr. Fukunaga of Osaka and the Mariner Owners Association and was faxed the actual messages. This brought back my memories of when I was planning to build a Mariner 40 on my own with some friends back around 1970 when I was still in college, and had visited the Yokosuka boatyard of Far East Yachts many times. I thought that I would like to give my impression of those days to the members of the Mariner Owners Association.
At that time, Kawasaki Bussan, a subsidiary of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, was involved not only with Far East Yachts, a joint venture with Mr. Clair Oberly for the construction of yachts, but also with Toa Yacht for the construction of motor cruisers. However, they were planning to remove themselves from both joint ventures.
Mr. Clair Oberly was looking for a new partner for Far East Yachts and although I was still a college student, I was able to introduce him to Mr. Shuhei Omori who was the secretary of Mr. Sasagawa, the director of the Japan Boating Promotion Association, but this did not result in a joint venture. Later in 1972, I introduced Mr. Oberly to Mr. Takuji Kato who was the president of the Tokiwa Group Corporation and later became a Parliament member (a Japanese Congressman for the American folks) whom I had met through an organization that I headed at that time called Kuroshio Yacht Club, and this resulted in the formation of Clair and Kato Yachts.
Unfortunately, this union did not last very long either and after a few years Mr. Oberly decided to move the base of operation for the construction of Mariner Yachts to the United States. He took the mold for the Mariner 36 back to the West Coast with Mr. Takao Sato and some others and established the new boat yard by the port of Long Beach, which I have visited and seen with my own eyes.
Around this time, Mr. Makise and Mr. Nakazaki, a principal sub-contractor of Far East Yachts had established Fuji Yacht Builders and were constructing the Fuji 35 and Fuji 45 based on a John G. Alden design prior to the formation of Clair and Kato Yachts. The reason that the Mariner 32 and the Fuji 32 were made from the same mold was that when Clair and Kato Yachts was disbanded, Mr. Oberly took only the molds for the Mariner 36 back to the United States with him and the other molds were left in the care of Mr. Kato. Mr. Kato later allowed Mr. Nakazaki to use them in his Fuji Yachts lineup. Also, I knew that the mold for the Mariner 36 had gone to Tayana Yachts in Taiwan but I do not know how many yachts were built using that mold. I also do not know if that mold still exists today.
In 1957 when Mr. Clair Oberly established Far East Yachts, there were three major players in the yacht building industry that exported to the United States. Along with Far East Yachts there were the International Marine where the Chairman of our company, Mr. Shin Omori, teamed up with the American, Mer. Albert Mock to export about 120 Samurai 28s and Mr. Bill Harding who had 35 foot and 40 foot wooden ketches designed by William Garden subcontracted to be built by Okamoto Shipyard who later used the brand Tokyo Yacht. Around 1960, Bill Harding moved his operation to Taiwan where he established a joint venture with the Chen family which later broke up into the C. C. Chen boat yard, C. T. Chen boat yard and the Formosa brand yachts. By the 1980’s Taiwan’s boat industry had expanded to almost 100 boat yards and their low prices hurt the sales of both the Mariners and the Fuji Yachts. According to Mr. Omori, Mock was the first foreigner to construct yachts in Japan with Oberly following very soon after him.
I myself have owned the Mariner 31, Mariner 32 and the Mariner 36 as my club boats and was responsible for nearly half of the Mariners sold in Japan along with importing the 35, 41 and 45 foot ketches built by Bill Harding in Taiwan. However, the industry switched in the direction of constructing and importing large power boats and this became the major portion of our company’s business until the burst of the economic bubble.
Through the 30 years of personal experience in the yacht industry, the Mariner still leaves a very strong impression in its beauty of design that I first saw when I was still a student. In 1993, I along with some friends managed to obtain a 118 foot wooden ketch built in 1896 and relearned the painful happiness of endless restorations. We also own a Mariner 32. I would like to share my knowledge of the circumstances involving Far East Yachts with the members of the Mariner Owners Association to the best of my abilities.
As a final comment, our company is now constructing a 28 feet all-teak runabout motorboat in Southeast Asia, and have been asked to take up the building of other boats by local corporations. With the advice from Mr. Takao Sato, we are undertaking some research to help the members of the Mariner Owners Association in the restoration of their Mariner Yachts. If you have any comments or questions, please contact me at any time. Our company’s webpage address is http://www.cariad.co.jp/ and my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org . I will be looking forward to hearing from you.
President, Finnsale Marine Company, Limited
1-38-6 Izumi, Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Fax: (81) 3-3327-2870
Translated by Bill Gale