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Thursday, September 21, 2023
Sept. 21, 2023

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Final two yachts from Christensen Shipyards about to hit the water

One could begin trip to nearby marina as early as Wednesday

By , Columbian business reporter

The last two yachts from Vancouver builder Christensen Shipyards are scheduled to launch in the next two weeks, marking the end of a 30-year era for the boat-building facility in the Columbia Business Park, which will be repurposed to serve as a manufacturing site for Portland-based Vigor.

The first of the two yachts was being mounted on moving equipment Tuesday and is expected to begin the trip to a nearby Columbia River marina as early as Wednesday. The other vessel will follow suit as soon as the first one is in the water.

“One’s headed to the water this week and the other is going next week,” Christensen Shipyards owner Henry Luken said Tuesday.

Vigor announced in February it would purchase the Vancouver facility to manufacture a new type of landing vehicle for the U.S. Army, and Luken announced plans to restart the luxury boat company at a new facility at Tellico Lake, Tenn.

The announcement came after a lengthy legal battle between Luken — a longtime investor, customer and later co-owner of the company — and the family of company founder Dave Christensen, who died in 2018. Each side blamed the other for financial struggles the company faced in the years after the 2008 financial crisis.

Luken filed for Christensen Shipyards to be placed in receivership in 2015, and later bought its assets out of receivership and restarted the company as a new business entity. He sued the Christensens in 2016, seeking to recover millions of dollars that he said he’d lost when the original company went under.

The Christensens pushed back, alleging that Luken had used his co-owner position to force the company into a series of bad business decisions with the intention of bankrupting it so that he could take over. The lawsuit reached a settlement in February, shortly before the sale to Vigor was announced.

Officials at Christensen said the handover of the Vancouver facility would take place around the end of June, but the company would first have to finish work on two yachts still under construction. One of them was described as nearly complete, but the other wasn’t far enough along to be finished in time.

The tentative plan was to bring the unfinished hull up to seaworthy status and then sail it to the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal and up the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers to reach Tellico Lake, where it would be completed at the other facility.

That plan appears to have changed. Reached for comment on Tuesday, Luken said the yacht scheduled for launch this week is the completed vessel. The unfinished yacht has been sold and will be finished by the buyer, he said.

Luken said the unfinished yacht will be moved to a new location to be completed, although he said he could not disclose its destination or the identity of the buyer, saying only that the yacht would remain on the West Coast rather than traveling to Tellico Lake.

The process of moving and launching a multimillion-dollar yacht is slow and deliberate. According to Anna Pipher, an employee at the Vancouver facility, crews are scheduled to begin moving the first yacht before sunrise Wednesday morning, and it will take all day just to move it less than half a mile to the top of the marina ramp near Southeast Marine Park Way.

The yacht will sit on the ramp Thursday while preparations are made to lower it into the water, which is tentatively scheduled for Friday. It will not depart immediately, although Pipher said she couldn’t say how long it will remain in the marina.

Columbian business reporter