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Sundowner Tug Owners - Forum

History of Ho Hsing, The First Taiwan Builder of Sundowner Tugs
04-Dec-13 06:05:34 AM UTC
Doug Robertson

United States, California

I thought it important to provide some background to the builder of the majority of our Sundowner Tugs. After two Sundowner 30s were built in the Seattle area, the molds for what was to be called the SD30 Princess Louisa and the Sundowner 36 were shipped to Taiwan for construction by Ho Hsing of Tainan and Kaohsiung, a seaport on Taiwan's southwest coast. Ho Hsing F.R.P. Co. Ltd. for about 25 years was a fabricator of many fiberglass-reinforced products including Mercedes and Volvo bus bodies, floating docks, bathtubs, modular bathrooms, skate boards, septic tanks, swimming pools and large storage tanks.

Building the Sundowner tugs from 1981, Ho Hsing had fiberglass boat building experience back to about 1974 with the Albin 36 trawler and a sloop or ketch-rigged flush-deck Nantucket 38 design by Peter Cole of Australia. In 1984 their total annual production was about 90 boats by about 300 workers in several plants. Balsa cored decks using Baltek balsa processes could be also in boat hulls at the buyers option, (but NOT offered on Sundowners). Y. C. "Archie" Chen was the general manager of Ho Hsing.

Jack Sarin, N.A. of Bainbridge Island, WA designed the Sundowner tugs to a local boat broker's request after his seeing the success of the first Nordic 26 tug No. 1 with red hull at the 1980 Seattle Boat Show with 45 orders taken. Jack stated he couldn't do it in just 26 feet, so the SD30 design of 29'6" was born. The SD30 and SD36 had teak decks over fiberglass with FRP hand laid-up hulls and deck and house of fiberglass and balsa core, which led to the improved SD32 Sarin design with non-skid fiberglass over balsa-cored decks (no teak overlay) and other owner-suggested improvements. Jack Sarin had prior experience designing commercial tugs for Foss Tug and Towing, before designing the Symbol and Vantare lines of yachts and larger yachts for a Vancouver, WA builder of 124 and 130 foot yachts. Flying Dutchman first of Seattle and then of Bellevue, WA were the Sundowner Tug dealers. The Bellevue dealer also had East Coast representation. Jack Sarin got a royalty fee paid by the selling broker on every Sundowner 30, 36 and 32 sold. The SD32's alternate air intakes for the diesel engine leading to a salt-water box draining to the deck and out a scupper, with engine dry intake manifold air taken from the TOP of that box was a neat commercial practice seen in the SD32. And the hallmark of the Sundowner design, the large North Sea bridge together with deck house tumblehome and overhead camber really sold me on the design. I had studied 14 different yacht tug designs before placing my order, after being aboard two SD32s at La Conner, WA and speaking with the owners.

Ho Hsing built the SD30 and 36 from 1981 to1984 with some delivered as 1985 models after going into bankruptcy in 1984. The 30 and 36 molds were subsequently sold at auction to Chauson of Taipei, Taiwan who continued to build these boats as Sea Tugs, Regency and perhaps other names. Chauson-built Sea tugs eliminated the wood window frames, a source of leaks over time. Hal Jones, a broker in Florida imported and sold Sea Tugs, and he personally owned a 36. In the late fall of 1988, I had the opportunity to peruse the Joint Taiwan Boat Builders Brochure, a cooperative marketing effort that a local marina broker had, as he thought my then-new SD32 might be a Chauson-built boat.

"Archie" Chen in 1987 resurrected his boat-building business "valoriously" as Valor Marine, Ltd to build the improved Sundowner 32s. The first SD32 was hull number SD32/155 of 1987, and twelve known 32s were built through hull number SD32/166 The Hull Identification Number of the Valor Marine SD32s began with the Manufacturer Identification Code of VLR chosen by the American importing broker and approved by our US Coast Guard. It is thought that the Ho Hsing/Valor Marine Sundowners were consecutively numbered. I am unaware of the Chauson-built Sea Tug or other named Sundowner numbers of boats built. I have been aboard 4 SD32s and aboard 3 SD30s of the fleet.

Comments/corrections welcomed.

Doug Robertson ex SD32/162 SEEKER

09-May-14 08:38:01 AM UTC
I think you just wrote the Bible Doug .....Thanks...!
21-Feb-15 09:28:15 AM UTC
Adrian Vuyk

United States, TX

Aloha Doug,

Some time has gone since you wrote the Sundowner Tug history. Wonder if you have any further information on Hull # 115. Just curious.

Some years ago I contacted Jack Sarin, of course he is not talking to a Sundowner Tug owner anymore, at least not to me, and his assistant was not willing to dig up any info. It was all stored in the basement somewhere and rotting away.

Thanks for all the info.

Adrian Vuyk

Sailors are like their boats, you know their names but not their contents.

23-Feb-15 04:06:46 AM UTC
Doug Robertson

United States, California

Thank you Adrian,

I don't think Jack Sarin EVER talked to ANY Sundowner Tug Owners-you apparently got farther than I did with my email request to him years ago, a non-replier. He DID get a commission on every new Sundowner sold to original owners paid by the dealer/s direct to Jack.That probably changed after Ho Hsing went belly up and molds sold to Chauson.

Our first Sundowner Tug Owners site by Owen Youngblood of Oregon had FULL arranged and updated with sales, etc appendix of owners by boat with all C/Ns, etc info needed as a condition of joining the site. I only attempted to track the 12 SD32s built; have original owner's list on the first 11, been on four of them from La Conner, WA to Alexandria, VA but also know much of the 12th one's history.

Owen had a SD30 Princess Louisa model and founded/monitored our first site-this is the third. He sold it and had a welded steel tug custom built named Boomer which he finished the interior of-maybe his site still active for Boomer? If so, get in touch as he may still have original, updated SD owners info. I regret that I never copied it. If Hull #115 was documented from new and continuously, the USCG Documentation Office might be of help. Good luck to you!

Doug Robertson

ex SD32/162 SEEKER, 1988-2011.

07-May-15 06:30:26 AM UTC
Ben Sanderson

United States, MD

Thank You, Doug, and everyone else who loves and shares the rich history of these boats. You seem very knowledgeable on the history of Taiwanese slow boats and the only one I can find that has even heard of Valor Marine. Like many owners of tugs and trawlers from the late 60's thru early 90's, we seek out the lost history of our vessels.

Earlier this year I purchased a 1988 Valor Marine trawler, serial# VLR44002E8, USCG Doc#933301. The boat , 'Last Chance', is very unique as it has a high bow and steep drop off to the midship gunwales. Boaters constantly ask me about unusual looking profile but I have no answers. According to your post, Doug, it was apparently built alongside the later model Sundowners in the same yard. The interiors are somewhat similar. However, it has the original twin Cummins 5.9BT6 and Velvet V drives in which they all run fine and not the Lehman, and is a longer 44 foot plus anchor pulpit.

Records show it was built and completed in January 1988 at Kaohsiung, Taiwan R.O.C. of FRP(fiberglass reinforced plastic) by Valor Marine Co., Ltd for Dundagil Corporation 8January1988 and sold 14Oct1988.

Would this be the same builder as Sundowner? I assume by the serial/hull identification number that it was the 2nd hull from the mold? I cannot find any pictures of similar tugs or trawlers that are like ours but would very much like to get some info if you guys have any. Thanks.

Ben Sanderson 1988 Valor Last Chance

15-May-15 04:13:25 AM UTC
Doug Robertson

United States, California

Thank you Ben,

Your boat's HIN strongly implies that it was the second of its 44' hull design to be built by Valor Marine, Ltd. dated, May 1988, which would be the same Valor Marine that built the SD32 Sundowners. My 1988 SD32162 was shipped from port of Kaohsiung on a slow old freighter as covered deck cargo in a massive wood beam frame leaving port of Kaohsiung in August of 1988, that subsequently off-loaded some cargo in Honolulu and waited there awhile for some more cargo to be contracted/loaded before arriving finally in Long Beach, CA late October. As that time period was during the Long Beach Boat Show, all SoCal boat carriers were booked and my boat did not arrive to be offloaded by truck carrier until first week of November. It had also some US Customs delay in port of Long Beach before I got it to my local yard for commissioning.

Your boat is a totally different design than the Jack Sarin Sundowner-architect of yours unknown to me. Archie Chen was very flexible and accommodating in building customized boats of FRP, both sail and power. I specified larger diameter SS handholds above the PH doors, for example, to fit the hand more fully, and full SS pulpits and lifelines with gates, etc. Some early SD32 PH brow handholds were teak loops, for example. And had bronze (which took a greenish patina) instead of my specified SS foot-rails in the PH. Two, separated engine hatches instead of the logical three joined, etc. Yet, there are some similarities-my Samson post and bow plank SS roller fitting were identical to that of the Albins that he built for the American Albin dealer. So was the pattern of my deck molded non-skid FRP to that of some Albin trawlers of slightly older vintage that I have been aboard. The Swedish Albin sail boats were made in Sweden and woodwork interiors differed in many ways from the Albin trawlers that Archie made. Those Albin sail boats made by Albin-Sweden were shipped to the American east coast importer/seller. Characteristic European construction found oval open companionway passages, rather than a hinged or slider door between cabins, for example. I've been aboard some Swedish Albin sailboats-more open, less privacy except for the head. My first two boats were sail, one by Subic Bay Boatworks, P.I. and the other an Islander made in Costa Mesa, CA.

Your boat may have some similar internal woodwork/cabinetry to the Sundowners. The Asian way of building a boat was to get "family" bids on, say, the teak interior and varnishing. Or, engine and machinery installer "families". So, some Taiwan "families" were more skilled than others, and minor differences could be attributed to who bid and got the particular boat interior finish contract.

So, your boat shares the builder name but not the model name, essentially. Yours is a fine-looking vessel, apparently very seaworthy and certainly original-higher priced. Because your HIN is also VLR, that implies the SAME American Sundowner importer/dealer in Bellevue, WA in 1988 or so was open to getting a larger vessel constructed for owners by Ho Hsiung. Archie was also flexible on marine engines. The last SD32166 was originally commissioned by a Stranahan, heir to the Champion Spark Plug Co. who insisted on a Cummins rather that the standard British Perkins powerplants. I35 Hp or 165 Hp with blower, which begs the question-Why turbocharge a displacement pleasure vessel?

Doug Robertson ex SD32162 SEEKER