The world’s oldest – Hourston Glascraft Ltd.

Hourston Glascraft at Port Hardy Government Dock

Aug 8, 2019

Hourston Glascraft at Port Hardy Government Dock in 2017 (Photo courtesy of the John MacFarlane collection.)
The world’s oldest continuously operating fibreglass boatbuilding company is Hourston Glascraft in North Vancouver.

Charles ‘Chuck’ Hourston was born in Vancouver BC in 1923. He attended Vancouver Technical School before serving in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. He was an avid hockey player and played for the Army. After the War, in 1948, he worked for Hamish Davidson (Davidson Manufacturing Ltd.) building Sabot sailboats. Davidson experimented early with the new technology of fibreglass in boat construction, and Hourston taught himself the art of building hulls with this material. His first boat was a dinghy.

Made in BC for British Columbia waters, Charles Hourston began this company in his garage in the 50′s building his first, and perhaps the first fiberglass boat in BC, and 8ft runabout. From there, he worked his way up building larger boats throughout the 50′s and 60′s as well as introducing the first real fiberglass V-haul boat in 68, the 18 footer. The big revolutionary industry changer however came in 1972 when Mr. Hourston built the company’s first 23 ft Sedan. This boat, measuring 23 feet in length with and 8’10″ beam had boat owners and charter operators drooling. Backed by the reputation Hourston had already built with boating enthusiast of all kind, it was no surprise that over 60 of these boats where ordered when it appeared for the first time at the Vancouver Boat show.

26 Hourston Sportfisher Today, you will find that these boats are used by many charter operators. And there is a big reason for this. For their length, these boats are perhaps the most stable, safe, and easiest to fish from boat in the industry. Pod this boat out as many charter operators have, and you have more usable space than any other boat in its class. And though this may not be the most expensive looking boat, in my books, they are the sexiest. Their lines and curves appeal to young and old alike.

In the market to charter or purchase a charter boat? Visit the Hourston Glascraft plant in North Vancouver and talk to Bill Hourston himself (as I discovered, Bill is a very approachable/likeable person with a lot of knowledge of the boating industry). Mention the word Hourston around boating enthusiast in British Columbia and listen their response (actually, in 2005, Charles Hourston was inducted into the NNMA Boating Hall of Fame for his extraordinary contribution to recreational boating). Talk to some of the charter operators in Sooke, Port Renfrew, or Ucluelet and hear what they have to say about their Hourstons. Or simply come down to the Sea Air Terminal in Nanaimo during the month of May or the Public Docks in Ucluelet during the months of June-August and check out my boat. See for yourself how this boat compares to other boats in its class. And then you be the judge. I’m sure you’ll discover that the Hourston 23 ft Sedan is dollar for dollar, foot for foot, perhaps the greatest fishing machine ever to fish the waters of British Columbia.

Hourston GlascraftThe company at its height of activity required two full shifts of workers to produce the boats. The whole family was involved at one time or another. The company claims to be the world’s oldest continuously operating fibreglass boat building company.

Charles Hourston used one of his own boats, the 26’ Hour Glass, for personal use. It is still afloat and owned by a family member. The Tern, a 20’ model, was the first of the models to sport a hard top.

Hourston exhibited in boat shows but relied mostly on the word of mouth recommendations from previous customers to generate orders. He was inducted in 2005 into the Canadian Boating Hall of Fame. He never considered himself to have been retired, such was his passion for the company. He passed away in 2005 in Vancouver BC.

Material for this article came from Turk (Andrew Turkstra) Owner and operator of Reel Time Fishing Charters, Vancouver Island and http://www.nauticapedia.ca/

– Bob Nicoll

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