The following was submitted by David Toombs 2014
of Lion Yachts.
It all started in 1960 when I was in
the market for a sailboat in the 35’ range. I had occasion to be in San
Francisco and had heard of a 35’ all teak Arthur Robb designed sloop,
the LION class, built by the then unknown CHEOY LEE SHIPYARD of Hong
Kong, and which could be seen in Alameda. The price was right and the
quality very high so I ordered one. On arrival and on closer inspection
it seemed even better so I decided to establish a dealership, LION
YACHTS. In the remaining 3 months of the year LION sold out CHEOY LEEs
entire production of 25 units of the LION class for that year. All this
Subsequently we went on to encourage
CHEOY LEE to build in the then new and unfamiliar material now called
fiberglass, of which they were well aware as they had engaged in much
experimentation and coordination with LLOYDS (Surveyors), to establish a
moulding and materials Specification. As our business continued to
prosper we developed more modern designs, the ROBB 35, the 41’ Reliant,
and the many Bill Luders designs (LUDERS 36, the CLIPPER series
33,36,42,48’, OFFSHORE 47), the Ray Richards designs, and lastly the
PEDRICK series, (36,38,41,43,47,55). At the peak of production CHEOY
LEE became probably the world’s largest builder of sailing yachts, with
Sailboat production at CHEOY LEE
ended about 1990 when they elected to expand their very large motoryacht
business, now 61’ to 200’, and to increase their ongoing commercial
business in steel, aluminum, and fiberglass. Today CHEOY LEE hull
numbers exceed 5,100, and employment is about 1,000. Since 1962 CHEOY
LEE has been a fully LLOYDS APPROVED Shipyard, in all building
materials, and in 2006 completed ISO 9001 Certification.
Here are some of our more interesting
Owners of Cheoy Lee’s:
· The founder of SCHAEFER
MARINE Fred Schaefer.
· The then President of
· Jimmy Buffett, the
· The then Chairman of
Admissions at the New York Yacht Club (and at one count 26 other
· Several Commodores of
recognized Yacht Clubs: Royal Bermuda, Seawhanaka, Indian Harbor,
· Bill Luders himself
(considered to be one of the top 3 NA’s of his day).
· Herb Dow of DOW CHEMICAL
· Al Merck of MERCK
· Don McGraw of MCGRAW-HILL
· Dave Cherubini of
CHERUBINI, perhaps the most respected sailboat builder on the East Coast
· The then owner of DODSONS
SHIPYARD, Stonington, CT (refitters of many older CHEOY LEE’S).
· One of the then Editors of
· Bill Terry, noted
African/Arabian explorer and friend and Agent of the Sultan of Oman
· Everett Smith, of MAINE
POINT, circumnavigator in his CL-41 (5 Years)
· Retired Marine Construction
engineer (Port of New Orleans) who cruised his CL-48 for over a decade
throughout the Pacific. A perfectionist, his boat looked as new when I
was last aboard in New Zealand
Not to mention myself, the Owner of 6
CHEOY LEE SAILBOATS FROM 35-50’, All serving me well, and all Surveying
normally. Today we Broker only used CHEOY LEE sailboats and only those
in superior condition or realistic candidates for rehabilitation. After
over 80 trips to Hong Kong and over a year in residence at the Yard no
one else is as well qualified to assess, discuss, and Broker these fine
LION YACHTS – Dave Toombs
following was submitted by Wayne S.. sailing "Sumatra" a Frisco Flyer, thanks
Wayne for the info, we all appreciate your imput, james...
May I pass along some information on Cheoy Lees? It may be commonly known; I
really don't know. I have heard some of this from various sources, and all of it
from a man who worked in the Cheoy Lee yard in 1963, overseeing the construction of a
large yacht for a wealthy American buyer. Do you know anyone who could give us
any further verification?
With some Cheoy Lees (the glass Frisco Flyers, for instance), the hulls would be built in
one spot in Kowloon and then launched and towed to another location where they would
be finished out with interior, deck, etc. (I doubt the same was true of the wood ones.)
The reason: the boat shops
where the glass hulls were built had to be dehumidified. When the boats were
finished out, the work was done by families who made their living as boat builders, and if
the boat was large enough the family might move aboard until the work was done.
(Most certainly this was NOT done with the little Frisco Flyer hulls, which were built by
a large number of men who would arrive at work in the morning and leave in the evening, at
closing time.) There was no electricity as of 1963 in this second yard, and any milling of
wood, joinery, etc. either had to be done somewhere else or done by hand on site.
Most of the hulls had intricate carvings of dragons in their interiors. The families which
built the boats would make their dragon carvings different in large ways or small to
indicate which family had built that boat.
Since then I have heard this last detail said about boats built in other Kowloon yards--
but I've only had some verification of it for the Cheoy Lee yard.
A famous cruising couple in the fifties and sixties was Al and Marjorie Patterson.
Al Patterson died of cancer some years ago; Marjorie published a book, a great read,
titled "Red Skies at Night," before her death a few years ago. The
book includes a page or so on the Cheoy Lee yard, which was near a yacht club which
they visited. (Not many details.)
Well... hope I am not boring you with things well known--
Pics of Cheoy Lee Yard from old
Teak log pile in Cheoy Lee yard,
one of these logs may be part of your boat...
Couple of old yard
pics submitted by Sunny Soquel
submitted by John Spears aboard "Moon Beam" from the following:
Advertisement in Sea Magazine - 1972
sailors come aboard one of our Cheoy Lee yachts for the first time, they are invariably
amazed at the lavish use of Burma teak, the unsparing attention to detail and the overall
But they are even more amazed when they ask the price, and find it to be unbelievably
lower than expected.
Of course, there is really no inscrutable mystery behind our prices. Just some highly
Cheoy Lees 90-year-old 1500 man shipyard is located on the bustling Hong Kong
waterfront, where it is possible to cut many costs in the construction of fine sailing
yachts, without cutting corners in the overall quality.
The truth is, no one could sell these yachts at these low prices if they were built
(The man-hours on a Cheoy Lee yacht, for example, are about ten times greater than those
spent on comparably-priced American Boats. And while the cost of Burma teak is highly
reasonable to us, it would be highly unreasonable by the time it were shipped to the
States for use on domestic boats.
Cheoy Lee passes these savings on to discriminating sailors in a truly extensive line of
fine sailing yachts, all of moulded fiberglass and built exactingly to Lloyds 100A1
The standard models of all Cheoy Lee yachts are loaded with unexpected standard features
that spell the true difference between a "boat" and a "yacht".
Natural Burma teak (which needs little maintenance and is for all practical
purposes immune to decay and worms; teak neither swells not shrinks to any appreciable
degree and owners should enjoy the teak overlays and joiner work which requires very
little care); hollow noiseless sitka spruce spars; Formica galleys; stainless steel or
chromed bronze deck hardware; Wilcox Crittenden toilets; large seacocks on all thru-hull
fittings; and deluxe instrument panels.
These are only a few of the standard features youll find on Cheoy Le yachts. And
there are many custom features that can be added, again at prices far below what you might
expect to pay.
Cheoy Lee Sailing Yachts. If they werent built in Hong Kong, we honestly could not
afford to sell them at prices you could afford.