Myths and Legends of Columbia Sailboats

The Islander Connection

Curt Cylke seems to be a kindered spirit, but his addiction is Islander yachts. If you have read the Columbia Myths and History, then you are aware of the Columbia/Islander connection. Here is what he has found.

This is the best I have been able to come up with after a year on the trail. I would appreciate any comments on the acuracy of the "facts" as I have been able to find them and information on any details I have missed. Curt Cylke.

Joseph McGlasson, the Islander 24 and Bahama 24.

Joseph McGlasson, a west-coast wooden boat builder, developed an interest in fiberglass production in the late 1950s. According to his widow, Evelyn, Joe formed a corporation called McGlasson Marine Corporation to begin production of his first fiberglass boat, the Islander 24. Using a 24 foot wooden boat, the Catalina Islander, which he had designed, built, and successfully marketed in the mid 1950s, Joe made a mold. The resulting mold had planking lines from the wooden boat and gave the fiberglass version of the Catalina Islander the look of the wooden boat.

The hand-laid up hull with internal lead ballast resulted in an incredibly durable boat. Ed Thrall, a Islander Bahama 24 owner and yacht broker who sold more than 135 of the Islanders before production stopped in 1970, hit a 15-ton channel buoy in a fog and only scratched the chrome off a couple of bolt heads on the stem fitting. When he dug one out to replace it, he found it was 5 ½ inches long. Ed asked Joe why he had put so much glass in the stem and Joe responded "You didn’t break the stem did you?" As an owner of an Islander 24,I also can attest to the study construction.

Mass production of the Islander began in 1961, when Joe worked with Glas Laminates to begin full scale production. The boat was very popular and McGlasson was able to sell out the entire production run the first year. Excited by the initial popularity of the Islander 24, McGlasson became involved with Wayfarer Yacht Corporation and continued production of the Islander 24. As the popularity of sailing increases, boat sales soar, and at some point, Wayfarer production is taken over by Islander Yachts of Costa Mesa, California. McGlasson’s relationship to Wayfarer, although it appears he was at least part-owner, remains vague. His relationship to Islander is even less clear. By 1965 at the latest, Islander Yachts is producing the Islander 24 and Islander Bahama 24. Islander Yachts in the mid-1960s was a subsidiary of Cosmodyne Incorporated and by 1972 Islander had become a subsidiary of Radlon Incorporated. This changing corporate ownership suggests that by the mid-1960s, Joe McGlasson had walked away from the boat and its production.

The five years following the production of the first fiberglass Islander 24 were surround by intense production pressures as demand for the Islander 24 and Bahama 24 was apparently greater than production capacity. Where there are quick profits to be made unsavory businessmen are sure to follow, and so they did. Indeed, Joe McGlasson’s foray into fiberglass boat production left him bitter at the industry. According to Evelyn, Joe believed he had been ripped off by Glass Marine, Inc. While Evelyn could not remember all the details, she was clear that Glas Laminates could not keep up with production demands and that Joe agreed to let Glas Laminates contract out some of the production.

The relationship between McGlasson, Glass Laminates and Wayfarer sours when Glass Marine Industries begins to produce the Columbia line of sailboats. Wanting to quickly capitalize on the demand for small affordable yachts, someone at the Columbia Sailing Yachts Division of Glass Marine Industries modifies the mold for the Islander 24 to eliminate the grooves and the wooden boat look of the Islander 24. The modified mold is used to produce the first in the series of three Columbia 24s. McGlasson was outraged at having his design stolen. The Columbia 24, Columbia Contender 24, and Columbia Challenger 24, all have the same hull, McGlasson’s Islander 24 hull.

As Islander Yachts expanded into the bigger yacht market, the corporation’s interest in the Islander 24 and Islander Bahama 24 rapidly declined. By 1971, Islander Yachts did not even have files on the Islander 24. In response to a letter from and Islander 24 owner inquiring about winches for the Islander 24, Charles Underwood, Chief Engineer for Islander wrote "We have almost no documentation of the Islander 24. I am enclosing a print of the only drawing on file, which happens to be stamped obsolete. The Islander 24 hull is the same as the Bahama 24 hull. We have no available information on LWL, Draft, Ballast or displacement for your boat." By 1971, after producing over 500 Islander Bahama 24 and unknown number of Islander 24 models, Islander Yachts washes its hands of this particular line of boats and its creator Joe McGlasson moves to Newport Oregon to open a small shop and retire. Joe passed away in the early 1990s.

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