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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited by Moderator)
Does every boat have a soul? (Even the most miserable 14’ Bayliner?) Ponder this.

(Note this long post is not about 14’ Bayliners. This is about two small modestly successful sailboat programs from the halcyon days of Northwest fiberglass boat production in the 1970s. Ones that involved a young Ed Monk Jr. and Bob Perry.)

The automotive author L.J.K. Setright once pondered if all mechanical devices have souls. A car, a steam engine, a motor launch, sailboat is basically an appliance, no matter how simple or exotic he opined. Do all appliances have souls? Does a washing machine have a soul? How are cars/engines/boats somehow different than any other appliances?

His conclusion was, (I paraphrase) …cars (sailboats) have souls because no matter how simple or exotic, they have enthusiasts who are interested and dote over every aspect of their creation, operation and history. To prove his point, he pointed out that there were no enthusiast magazines called “Thoroughbred and Classic Refrigerator” or “Vacuum Cleaner Motorsport.” Therefore he reasoned, all cars, sailboats, steam engines - no matter how humble - must have a soul.

So, 14’ Bayliner, you must have a soul.

This post is to search for some answers on the history and evolution of the Cheetah 26 to Sun Yacht 27 (Sun 27). This begat the Specialty Yachts (Vancouver) SunStar 27/28 (sometimes mislabeled Spencer 27/28 as Spencer built them for Specialty Yachts). Oh yeah, and the Sun 838 (that’s seven names for the same basic boat if you are counting). Seven names for one boat design? That’s just the beginning of the confusion.

Briefly, the accepted history is that Ed Monk Jr. designed the original hull as the Cheetah circa 197(2?). They were built from 1973 to 1976.

The Sun 27 was an evolution of that hull, lengthened a foot and a half to 27.5’ LOA (and why the guy who was doing their marketing didn’t round up to make it a Sun 28 is perhaps the most eternal of all mysteries). The improved house and interior arrangement was clearly market driven: room for six footers, an open and airy layout as possible (built around a limiting 9’ beam), lot’s of carpentry and teak, inboard power (the Cheetah had an outboard well) and some involvement by a known boat designer were all in the recipe. (But how they missed rounding up to “Sun 28” is still unclear).

If you read what is probably the only copy of the Sun Yacht brochure in existence (graciously supplied by a Sun Owner), you will see they checked all the boxes for the Sun 27 at launch, including heavy name dropping of Robert "Bob" Perry. (see the next post that follows this for the complete brochure)

There are two versions of the story with Mr. Perry’s involvement: One is that by this time the junior Monk was on his own and was renting space in his office and that Mr. Perry provided some suggestions to the required re-design and lengthening of the Cheetah hull. But Monk did the new top house and interior arrangement of the Sun 27.

Another story is that Mr. Monk did only the hull modifications from the Cheetah on his own as a project, and later Mr. Perry was contracted for the new top house design and interior layout (or some subset that was felt allowed the heavy use of his name).

Reading the text of brochure certainly makes a strong statement about strong "our friend, Bob Perry" involvement. Mr. Perry has spoken of his limited involvement with the Sun 27 in this forum before. It would be interesting (and for history's sake) to determine who actually did what, and for whom. Inquiring minds want to know.

“…and for whom” is another open question.

Sun Yachts existed only as PO box in Marysville, Washington. Note that Bayliner, Uniflite, Clark, GlassPly and of course Reinell are all within 50 miles of Marysville in 1977, with Reinell at ground zero. Plus there existed a bunch of smaller cottage industry builders and repair shops and part suppliers in the region. That’s a whole host of suspects and potential builders/contractors/cast of characters.

The accepted history is that the Sun Yacht is an evolution of the Cheetah 26. So the key principles behind the both efforts are assumed to be the same, but different contracted builders and suppliers may have been used for the two programs.

(If you managed to read this far, embedded below are a series of easier-to-answer “crowd-source questions” that the owner of any of these boats could likely answer with full authority. Please answer as many as you can and the winner will receive a signed copy of the Sun Yacht brochure signed by the responsible designer – whomever that is)

Early or all have a HIN of RIN (that rhymes !). It is said that later Cheetahs had their own HIN, but what it was is unknown. However it was not SYV (Sun Yachts HIN). What is the later Cheetah HIN? (first crowd-source question).

There is a story that the first Cheetahs were built by Reinell under a contract construction arrangement, but later production was done in a garage shop. The location of that garage shop is said to be 1) Marysville, 2) Bellingham or 3) Arlington. Any takers on that one?

Cheetah production is estimated at 50(?) hulls from 1973 - 1976. The Cheetah had a dealer network, though most sales seem to be in the Northwest.

The downfall of the Cheetah seemed to be that it was a budget segment-boat built independently but on a shoe-string. This offered minimal profit opportunities. The solution was a boat named after a bigger cat with up-market pretensions. This is the raison d'etre for the follow on Sun 27 evolution.

At this point if anyone has any additional Cheetah history (especially a brochure or even a company name/address) you know what to do. Also, what was the sales price?

The Sun Yacht moved the Cheetah design up-market with the checklist of goodies mentioned above and described with many superlatives in the brochure. The 1977 sales price is thought to be $20,000. That was the price of a baseline Porsche 911 in 1977 for reference.

Does anybody know who/what was behind the brochure referenced "PO Box 188, Marysville WA"? A black hole? A portal to another universe? The ultimate company behind the Sun and Cheetah projects? (A nice little old lady has that PO box today.)

Approximately 175 Sun 27s were built. 50-ish hulls in 1977, the majority in 1978 and a trickle in 1979.

So now we move to the major three constructor theories:

1) The Sun (and also the Cheetah) was built by Reinell as an independent, nu-associated division, and so when Reinell imploded in early 1979 when Rainer Bank pulled the plug, so did Sun Yachts.

2) The Sun (and also the Cheetah) was built independently by a cottage boat builder hiding behind a PO box. The first Cheetahs were built by Reinell under contract, but later Cheetahs and Suns were built by Sun Yachts, in their own shop or 2) a contractor in: 1) Marysville, 2) Bellingham or 3) Arlington.

3) Spencer Boats in Canada built parts and shipped them to the US for assembly in Bellingham

Then there are several theories of why the company disappears mysteriously in 1979 after a strong 100 hull production year in 1978:

1) It was Reinell all the time, and the Sun Yacht project died with Reinell’s fall.

2) The Sun’s were built by Reinell , and production stopped with the crash of Reinell when no other contract builder could be found.

3) It was a successful independent program. At 175 hulls and having run its course, a buyer was sought and found for the intellectual property and molds (Specialty Yachts of Vancouver BC) allowing for a successful exit (would this be a first in the boat world?).

Sun Yachts had quite an extensive dealer network. They are found in all major US and Canadian marine markets. Clearly something happened for 1979 models to slow to a trickle followed by a rebirth occurring in 1981.

A model re-fresh was done in late 1978 creating two minor variants. This covered the existing house window ports with a more modern dark smoke plexiglass single panel and added some minor interior color changes. This was called the Sun 833 (27.5 feet in meters). The second was the SunStar 27 which seemed to be created as an export market with an eye to Canada to the north.

Was there an early Canadian Connection?

The SunStar name shows up in Canadian registered boats as early as 1978. This appears to be the name of the export model. Some clues say that there was Canadian money/involvement with the Sun 27 program from the beginning.

The careful observer will note the pictures in the brochure are all shot in Canada (it’s the Vancouver waterfront). “Bagherra II” is found registered with the Vancouver Yacht Club in 1977-78. Bagherra is Hindi for “big cat” (a cheetah being another big cat). It is thought that the boat is the prototype Sun 27 and the original name for the program was to be Bagherra in keeping with the big cat theme (as started with the Cheetah). Later this was changed to Sun, as "Here comes the Bagherra!" didn't have the same ring to it.

Sun 27s and SunStar 27s start to be registered in Western Canada as early as 1977. Were these US production, or…?

The purchaser of the US molds in 1980 was Specialty Yachts in Vancouver. They were a large marine conglomerate at the time, but was split up in 1986 (the brokerage business still exists). They represented various boat brands and commissioned their own designs up to the breakup of the business in 1986. Specialty Yachts contracted Spencer Boats Ltd. of Richmond, BC. to build the SunStars in Canada between 1980 and 1985. Were they in fact built there earlier with a second set of molds? Was Specialty Yachts involved since the start of the Sun Yacht program? Questions, questions, questions…

Were 1977-78 Canadian registered Sun / SunStar 27s imported by Specialty Yachts who later saw a build opportunity utilizing Spencer with the wind up of US Sun Yacht 27 production?

The Spencer built Sun hulls appear to be a near build-to-print until the later years when some wood pieces start to disappear. Documented production is from 1980 to 1985. Spencer has no records, but it is thought 60 hulls were built, the highest single production of any Spencer-built type (including their own designs).

Crowd source question No. 4 - It is assumed that Spencer built SunStars have Spencer’s HIN code (if a HIN code is used/required for domestic Canadian production). What is the HIN of a SunStar 28?

SunStar 27 or SunStar 28?

Crowd source question No. 5 - Did Spencer really extend the mold six inches? Is a SunStar 28 really 28’ LOA? Or just rounded up to 28?

And what are Spencer 27s and Spencer 28s?

It is thought that because the original sellers names have faded away, these boats got to be known as Spencer 27/28s because they carry the Spencer HIN. Spencer built the SunStar on contract to Specialty Yachts who made the final delivery to the customer. Spencer had no involvement with the final customer delivery. So they were never sold as Spencers (and a Spencer “Spencer 27” is something else altogether).

While we are visiting speculation land, here are some further really, really wild theories to ruminate on:

Spencer actually built the hulls for Sun Yachts in Richmond, imported them to Bellingham where they were completed in a garage shop. Thus Spencer built local examples sold by Sun Yachts (or Specialty Yachts) earlier than 1980.

A set of molds existing in both places, and with the wind-down of US production, one set of molds was used to create the longer SunStar 28?

End – Fine – El Fin: the Sun 27 and Sun Yachts

Production of the last SunStar 28 variant ended in 1985. Production estimated at 175 US built / 60 Spencer built – 235-ish total. Not a bad run if you add in the 50-ish Cheetah hulls.

The end of Canadian production could be due to a number of factors: By 1985 the Monk design was starting to be a bit long in tooth (the Cheetah hull from 1973/the 27 layout from 1977). Or perhaps Specialty Yachts was pulling the plug due to their own business issues (the business split up in 1986).

Second Wind?

Oh, and one rumor can be firmly dispelled: Second Wind Boats who are listed as the holder of the SYV HIN didn’t have that HIN assigned by the Coast Guard until 1996. HINS are re-cycled and so was this one nearly 20 years after the demise of Sun Yachts. So the romantic theory of a tiny little boat shop in Belfair putting together the Spencer production scheme with a mold they bought for ten bucks at auction can be firmly put to bed. Nice try Internet.

So why does one have to cast out to the Wild, Wild West of Internet forums to seek these answers? Shouldn’t this all be written down somewhere?

Recorded history has not been kind to these boat programs:

o This all happened 50 to 40 years ago. The original players are dead or sadly in Alzheimer’s land.

o Cheetah/Sun Yachts was always a PO box front, now closed 43 years ago; no name of any original principles are known or seem to have been published.

o Reinell’s records, drawings and contracts mysteriously disappeared in 1980 prior to bankruptcy proceedings

o Specially Yachts broke up in 1986, the remaining brokerage business doesn’t kno’ nuttin’ about nuttin’.

o Spencer didn’t keep their records after the family sold the business

o And the list of dead ends goes on and on. You can find more documentation on the ship of Theseus than this little boat.

However, both Ed Monk Junior and Robert Perry were young-ish bucks when these boats were hatched. Perhaps they can be persuaded to give more complete statements as to their actual involvement to put to bed the mystery.

The Sun Yacht is but a footnote in fiberglass sailboat design in the 1970s/1980s. But few boats have such a tangled, tortured and mysterious production history. The truth deserves to be known.

The Internet is by definition of a bell curve, you know where you fit in on it. Pile on if you know more. Someone out there must know something about something. The truth must be told.

"Someday everyone will see the light. You can see it today!" (Sun 27 Tag line)

The original Sun 27 brochure can be seen below:




Font Wood Motor vehicle Parallel Sink
Motor vehicle Recipe Food Machine Advertising
Triangle Font Art Illustration Handwriting
Boat Cloud Sky Watercraft Sailing
Amber Orange Art Font Paint
Water Boat Watercraft Sky Naval architecture



577 Posts
Actually, some appliances do have souls by your definition. I was at a party years ago where about 6 gas stove afficionados spent the entire evening discussing old models of kitchen stoves, where to get parts & keep them operating, and the pros/ons of various models. I thought they were kind of nerdy at the time but now realize that they were men and women of the (cast iron) cloth.

4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've used that opening quote in several posts about various subjects. I agree that any human made industrial object can have a soul, if loved by its devotees. That said, I do report that the Thoroughbred Refrigerator folks have never spoken up in any posts.

When we love an Industrial object enough to give it a name it makes it easy. Ask Mike Mulligan...

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