Hi-Laker History Comes Alive in La Conner
Northwest Yachting reader and, Hi-Laker owner and now Hi-Laker expert, Steve Hurt, checks in from the La Conner Classic Car and Boat Show earlier this month:
By Steve Hurt
The show was off to a good start with the weather in our favor. In the early morning there was a nice pancake breakfast that was offered for a small amount at the La Conner Retirement Inn and many took advantage of this. A large number of nice vintage cars, motorcycles and boats were present in the parking lot. There were also many classic yachts to see on guest dock F.
Once again, I want to thank Jack Barchek, the original maker of the Hi-Laker boat for his time and sharing of the making of the Hi-Laker boat. I also want to thank Kurt Hoehne from Northwest Yachting magazine for his help with the on-line exposure that he gave me with my Hi-Laker boat. With this help I was able to find and organize the history on the Hi-Laker boat. I was also able to find former local makers and the original maker Attbar, Inc. of Ridgefield, Washington. Now I’ll be able to share some of the past Northwest boat builder history with others and give a new life to my Classic Hi-Laker boat after its restoration.
Click on any photo to enlarge and open slide show.
In a telephone interview February, 2015, Jack Barchek one of the owners of Attbar, Inc., shared some words on the making of the Hi-Laker boats.
Jack Barchek and Al Pratt, owners of the Attbar, Inc. were makers of fiberglass parts for the trucking industry. Eighty percent of their business was making truck parts for Freightliner, Kenworth and Volvo in Ogden, Utah.
Attbar made their first boat about 1953 when water skiing was just gaining popularity. They named this water ski boat the “Sea Bird.”
Attbar, Inc. was also the original makers of the Hi-Laker boat which they began building about 1958. The builders gave the boat this name with the idea of making a small car topper boat so that customers would not need to buy a boat trailer. They could then easily load the boat on their car topper rack and remove it hassle-free at the high mountain lake sites.
The company’s first Hi-Laker was a 10′ boat which accommodated a 3HP motor. Customers began purchasing this boat from local sporting good dealers but were using a 10HP motor only to find that the boat would porpoise in the water. The boat dealers had mistakenly neglected to inform customers that the boat was only designed to be used with a 3HP motor and that the hull was a displacement hull that was not designed to be used as a speed boat.
After receiving many complaints, the boat molds were destroyed and Attbar began making an 11′ boat with a planning hull which proved successful.
Jack Barchek stated that to the best of his knowledge Attbar, Inc. was the first company to make the lapstrake fiberglass hull, and this was done using a chop gun. By using the lapstrake style in building the boat it enabled Attbar to build a much stronger and lighter boat. He also mentioned that Attbar made the first fiberglass drift boat. Woody Hinaman, a guide on the Rogue River in Oregon, made and used plywood drift boats but wanted a fiberglass drift boat for his business. So Jack and Al made Woody a deal. They asked Woody to make them a plywood hull and from that they made him a fiberglass drift boat.
At the start of the making of the Hi-Laker, Jack and Al hired a retired mold maker named George Yates. He made molds for aircraft and eventually made the first and then all the wood patterns for the Hi-Laker 10′,11,’ 12′, 14′ and 16′ boats.
At one point Attbar, Inc. was producing 11 Hi-Lakers per day. They made this boat for about five years. They sold this boat not so much to the boat marinas, but to various sporting goods dealers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Unfortunately, during the time this boat was being produced, there were a few people who would buy a Hi-Laker, make a mold of it, and then would open a business for themselves using the Hi-Laker name.
The sporting good dealers that purchased the Hi-Laker from Attbar, Inc. wanted to buy the boat stripped from the plant so they could then sell the accessories such as speedometers, tachometer, etc. In this way, they found they could gain a better profit. Jack stated that Attbar, Inc. sold about 90% of their boats stripped.
A few of the other local former makers of the Hi-Laker were Nelson Plastic, Ballard, Washington, Janco Plastic, Monroe, Washington and PlastOlite and Trailerdyne, Beaverton, Oregon.