New Owner of Newport Model Boats Projects Smooth Sailing in 2023 and Beyond

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Don Logan of Newport Model Boats. Photo credit Larry Parker

Anyone who could grow a beard in 1979, should remember the oft-repeated advertising slogan by Victor Kiam, then president of Remington electric razors: “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company.”

Fast forward to January 2023: Newport Beach born-and-raised entrepreneur Don Logan liked a small, Newport-based model boat-making business so much that he “bought the company.”

In large part due to Covid-blamed business slowdowns for the past two years, the 55- year-old, internationally renowned Newport Model Boats Company literally found itself aground, and close to washing into the rocks of bankruptcy.

But like a Coast Guard cutter to a distressed vessel, Logan arrived just in time to rescue the company (Side note: This writer served in the Coast Guard, and has been waiting decades to incorporate this analogy).

Started in 1968 by Kenny Gardiner, a former model maker for Douglas Aircraft, Newport Model Boats was known for its exacting attention to detail in all its model recreations — so much so that famed yachtsmen of the day, such as Roy Disney, publishing magnate Nelson Doubleday, Jr., and oilman/philanthropist Howard Keck, commissioned scale models of their yachts.

One of Gardiner’s 1960’s model masterpieces included a 3/8th-inch scale replica of the oil tycoon’s Sparkman & Stephens-designed, 123-foot ketch, Galileo — crafted for the unheard of price (at that time) of $58,000. Logan estimated that to duplicate such a model, he would have to charge at least three times that sum. Recently, Logan quoted $40K for a fully-rigged, 46-inch model of a 100-foot sloop owned by a Colorado businessman.

In the few months that Logan has owned the company, he has learned that “”virtually everyone who owns a boat, for whatever reasons, wants to display a model of their boat.”

In the U.S. alone, there are more than 25.4 million registered boats, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. There are more than one million in California alone — not including kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, surf boards and other watercraft. Who wouldn’t want a model of their dinghy on the mantle place?

Although Logan has been a lifelong, competitive Newport sailor, he had never heard of Newport Model Boats until he decided to have a “half model” of a Harbor 20 sailboat made for his lady friend, Newport Radiologist Roxanne Chan — herself a Harbor 20 competitor.

Reaching out to the local fleet, he was referred to electric boat maker Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, a lifelong friend — and customer — of the model maker. After Gardiner’s passing, Duffield wanted to continue the legacy that Gardiner had established, so since the craft shop was nearby to Duffield’s manufacturing facility, he took over the helm of the shop and continued to produce superb quality, one-off models in the same old-world, hand-crafted style that had attracted yachtsmen worldwide.

Craftsmen most often work in anonymity. One such was Gardiner apprentice Dean Darusha, who last December worked out a deal with Duffield to take over the company. The deal included more than 1,000 different half-hull molds of both sailing and power boat brands, the majority of which were used to resin-cast models that were mounted on hardwood plaques.

It’s a known “fact” that few artists are businesspeople, and vice versa. But having launched a number of businesses over four decades, Logan feels he excels at the art of business, and so purchased Newport Model Boats with the hopes of expanding the business through both improved technology and more defined marketing.

Considering the aforementioned numbers of boat owners, not to mention all the boat brokers who could gift a model boat in appreciation for their purchases, and manufacturers that could provide promotional models to customers, as well as expansive marine-related retailers, one can see that the market for sales is immense. Today’s basic price for a half model trophy plaque is $150.00. The math is easier than calculating m.p.h. to knots.

Currently, Logan is meeting with Lorenzo Valdevit, UCI Professor of Materials Science and Engineering/Director, Materials and Manufacturing Technology, to explore improved methods of 3D printing production “in a timely fashion, with improved quality. This can change our current labor-intensive model,” he said, in anticipation of energetic growth.

As history has shown, possessing a model of one’s cherished watercraft doubles the pleasure of ownership — and all without additional slip fees.

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