Willards - the first production trawler yachts!
Willard Marine was founded in 1957 to build custom fiberglass yachts. Its first trawler yacht, the Willard 36, was launched in 1961--three years before the first Grand Banks, 10 years before the first Marine Trader, and 28 years before the first Nordhavn.
The William Garden designed Vega 36 was sold primarily as a sedan flying bridge cruiser, but also as a motorsailer and a pilothouse North Sea Trawler style. Until 1977 the term "Vega" was used to denote the hull style. It does not identify a model. (More about William Garden and the Vega 36.)
A wide range of 30 and 40-foot models were added to the line in the 70's and 80's. Although never intended as luxury yachts, it is a testament to the line that so many of them are still around, and are highly sought after by knowledgeable boaters looking for tough, comfortable, dependable boats.
Willard ceased pleasure boat manufacturing around 2003, to focus on military and commercial vessel sales. ["End of an Era" Press Release]
Summary of Willard Production Trawlers:
|Model||Years Built||No. Built||Versions|
|8-ton Cutter (30')||1975-1976||36||32 + 1 custom + 3 kits|
|Mark IV (30')||1976-1978
A Brief History of Willard Marine Recreational Yachts
Provided by Patrick Gerety, Willard Marine, April 2003
Here is the Vega history as related to me by company officials who were with Willard Boat Works at its inception.
Bill Tighe (pronounced "tie") started what eventually became Willard Boat Works, and later Willard Marine, in a vacant lot in Costa Mesa, CA in the 1950's. Bill's trusted right hand man, boat right, and confidant was Willard Buchanan. Bill eventually named his company after his friend.
In the late '50's a fellow by the name of Ramsey Armstrong approached Bill with a set of plans for a 36 foot trawler that he paid Bill Garden to design. Ramsey owned a company called Vega Marine in Southern California which was primarily a marketing firm. It was sort of like PAE (Pacific Asian Enterprises), the marketing firm for Nordhavns. PAE designs the boats and then contracts with other companies to build them. They don't actually build any boats. This is the same way that Vega Marine operated.
Ramsey contracted with Bill Tighe to build the Garden 36 which was called the Vega 36 as a result of Ramsey's company name. After a few years and several complete boats, Ramsey tired of the project and sold the hull mold (which was built by Bill Tighe but Ramsey owned the rights) to Bill. Bill continued to build the boat (in three different models) and marketed it through his own company, which was then called Willard Boat Works, as the Willard Vega 36.
The Willard Vega 36 project ended in 1970. In 1972, Willard Marine started building a 30 foot trawler in five different models – Searcher (fish boat style), Nomad (Sedan), Horizon motorsailer), Voyager (pilothouse) and Sailboat (cutter rigged). In 1973, a 40 foot trawler in three different models was started – Nomad (flybridge sedan), Voyager (pilothouse), and Motorsailer. It was convenient to keep the Vega designation for continuity and so the boats became the Willard Vega 30 and the Willard Vega 40. All of these Vega boats had solid fiberglass hulls with fiberglass over plywood topsides.
Around 1975/1976 Willard Marine decided to update its tooling with cored fiberglass topsides. Some styling changes were made to the topsides when the tooling was made. Only one model of the 30 was offered at that time, the Willard 30 Flybridge Sedan (sometimes called the Willard 30/4). Two models of the Willard 40 were offered, the W40 Flybridge Sedan and the W40 pilothouse. At that time, 1975/76, the Vega designation and model names were dropped to reflect the new direction of Willard Marine.
In 1999 a Willard 30 Pilothouse was added and in 2001 a new, redesigned Willard 40 Pilothouse.