The story of the Liberty sailing yachts by Peter Hoyt ends in 1989, when the last hull was built at Shin Fa shipyard in Taiwan. From that time on, all Liberty yachts and their owners are closely related all over the world as a great family.
From that time on, all Liberty yachts and their owners are closely related all over the world as a great family.
To tell the history of the Liberty yachts, it is a hard thing to do. We would like to do this with the words of the man, who had the idea to build these beautiful boats - Peter Hoyt. He had an idea of a boat in his mind and he had the force to realize it and so he gave satisfaction to the decision of every owner who bought a Liberty yacht. Every Liberty owner we asked about his yacht said that his choice was the right one because of the yacht's seaworthiness and comfortable layout.
Special thanks to Jo Hoyt - she gave us the permission to use these words, written in a letter to all Liberty owners:
We became enamored with Taiwan boats in the late 60's & negotiated directly with C.T. Chen of TaChiao Yachts for one of his CT-41's. At that time, they cost $22,000 delivered to the U.S.!! A Scottish builder, starting a yard in Taiwan, heard of our interest in the CT-41 & contacted us while we were still living a normal life in Pasadena, CA. He ended up selling us one of his Freedom 45's, a take-off of the Bill Garden "Porpoise". Subsequently, the Scotsman invited us to join him in Taiwan as his General Manager & Office Manager for Freedom Yachts. To make a long story short, we ended up losing most of our money in a short period of time! After the demise of Freedom Yachts, a lot of things happened. The Scotsman tried to "hide" his personal 60' Garden ketch during the Freedom bankruptcy in a cemetery outside of Taipei, so it was aptly known throughout Taiwan as the "cemetery boat". We obtained ownership rights of that boat, built it, shipped it to Seattle, lived aboard it & then sold it. We then returned to Taiwan & purchased a Formosa 47 built by C.Y. Chen at Formosa Yachts. Again we shipped that boat to Seattle, lived aboard it & sold it. We loved the interior of that boat as did everyone who came aboard. Again we returned to Taiwan to develop a line of boats called the Passport 40. Needless to say, there were a lot of things going on concurrently..... but back to the Liberty story.
While our initial early days in Taiwan at Freedom Yachts, we became acquainted with Jack Kelly of San Diego, who was importing a line of 41' yachts built by Formosa Yacht, which he called the Yankee Clipper. Jack sold a ton of these boats, a few of which had minimal warranty problems. When Jack decided to develop and produce his new design called the Peterson 44, he discovered that Formosa Yachts had been "farming out" a lot of the Yankee Clipper boats to another boat yard by the name of Shin Fa. It turned out to be the Shin Fa boats that were relatively warranty free. Thus, he decided to have them build the Peterson 44. So Shin Fa built Jack's molds at their cost. Shin Fa was always a small family-oriented company, managed by the prodigal sons and their wives with the matriarchal "Woo-Chow's Auntie" mother controlling every move. Ultimately, Jack was again selling a ton of the Peterson 44's, and there was no way that little Shin Fa could keep up with his production demands. There was a legal contest and the original Peterson 44 molds were ordered by a judge to be destroyed. Jack moved the design to a new factory and built new molds. In the interim, Peter and Jo had shipped their Formosa 47 to Seattle while they were waiting the completion of the first of the line of the Passport sailboats. As mentioned, people fell in love with our47.... which was literally a piece of junk (a warranty nightmare) but it looked pretty and, as mentioned, the layout was dynamite!
We then decided to go back to Taiwan and try to incorporate our greatly modified version of the Formosa 47 interior into a new boat to be built at a different and a much higher quality boat yard. During that search, we approached Shin Fa to see if they would be willing to build this boat for us. Unbeknownst to us, they had built a new mold, an extended version of the Peterson 44 since they still had the original lines and offsets, for a group of Germans who were importing them as charter boats. It was this "German charter boat" mold that Shin Fa wanted to utilize for our Liberty boat. We designed a new deckmold and let them "have a go at it"! To this day, Peter still can't believe that they compressed the 47' interior in a much narrower-beamed 458 - but they did it and they did it well. At the same time, we opened an office in Seattle to sell the first of the Passport 40's and, a short time later, the first of the Liberty 458's. During this time, Peter was flying back and forth to Taiwan to supervise the changes being made to the Liberty 458's and the building of the first Passport 40's while Jo was handling the retail sales in our Lake Union office in Seattle.
During this time, we had little or no money but wanted to develop a Liberty dealer network for what we believed to be a great boat. So we'd buy a boat from Shin Fa, ship it to a boat show in a specific area and try to develop both a dealer and a customer base in that area. This was a hard process because we just didn't have enough money to buy the demo boats, ship them all over the country and do the very expensive national advertising that was necessary. But the boat was so well received and we had enough 458 orders to keep us busy.
While on the East Coast with the 458, the comments we kept hearing was the lack of space for generators, air conditioners, water makers, etc., items that were not really all that requested for on West Coast boats. We had utilized every inch of space we could on the 458 and so we went to Stan Huntingford to design an extended version of the 458 - the Liberty 49, which had about 40% more volume than the 458. We started that boat, again with Shin Fa as the builder and again on a shoestring for a budget - and the boatbuilding process started to repeat itself: back and forth to Taiwan, during which time Jo stayed in Seattle to manage the business there - selling the Passports, the Libertys, and the Union 32 and 36 as well as a diastrous short-lived powerboat venture plus a Scandinavian racing sailboat! Eventually the emergence of Taiwan boatyard unionization, the "dumping" of Taiwan in favour of Mainland China by our U.S. government and the associated substantial decrease of the American dollar, as well as the imposition of a "luxury" tax of yachts over $100,000, forced us to say to ourselves: "why are we sitting in this high rent office with our feet on the desk, waiting for customers to walk in for something other than cocktails? Let's bag it!" So we took our bag of "bouillon" to Friday Harbor, WA, buried it and now can't remember where we buried it!
So that's the end of Liberty Yachts. It was a great experience and we're proud of what we accomplished. We ended up building 31 of the 458's and 13 of the 49's plus 5 or 6 of our Gatsby 39's. And we ended up with a lot of friends and a lot of great experiences.