Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More on Hughes 38 - Design 1903

We posted an article earlier about the Hughes 38, design, #1903. Trying to follow the history of this design and the other Hughes models generally leads to confusion for many owners.

Here's a little history:
Hughes Boat Works of Canada was one of the largest production boatbuilders for a number of years in the 1970s. And yes it is true that the company was started by the Howard Hughes (no relation to the famous aviator) and his brother Peter. Initially the brothers designed their own products which ranged from small dinghies to smaller sailing yachts up to around 29' length overall. Once they ventured into the larger sized boats they enlisted the help of the firm and from that a handful of models were produced as follows:

Design #1903, Northstar 38, also known as Hughes 38 and the subject of this article
Design #1956, Hughes 48
Design #2098-C6, Northstar 1000
Design #2134, Northstar 80/20
Design #2135, Northstar 500, also know as Northstar 25
Design #2135-C3, Northstar 600, also known as Northstar 26 and Hughes 26
Design #2166, Northstar 35, also known as Hughes 35

The confusion lies in all of the name changes. As we have mentioned in previous postings, in 1969 Hughes Boat Works Ltd was sold to US Steel. Both Hughes brothers stayed with the company until 1971, when US Steel changed the name of the company to Northstar Yachts Ltd. Then in 1977 Howard Hughes purchased Northstar back again and renamed it Hughes Boatworks, Inc, a close variation of the original name. It was then that the names changed for example the Northstar 600 became the H26.

Here are some images of the later iteration Hughes 38, around 1977.

Note the deckhouse was changed significantly: the small step was eliminated in the house top and the windows were reconfigured. The layout was also changed as can be seen in the brochure shown below.

Thank you to the owners who have been kind enough to send us images of their boats.


  1. Nice historical website! And Kudo's to the designers and nautical engineers who put their hearts into their life's work. Can anybody assist me... I have a Hughes 38' that was built in 1972. Apparently Howard Hughes may have even initially built this boat for himself. It has a wooden interior that is very unique to the Hughes 38 line of boats. My query is that it does not have a hull number... I'm curious which number it was off of the Hughes 38 line. According to the company history I suppose it may be more of a Northstar 38, I could be wrong. Is there information out their that may be able to assist me in determining the HIN? Just curious.

    1. I own a Hughes 80/20. The boats had a small engraved plastic name plate over the companionway, fastened with 4 small brass screws. It designated the Northstar logo, model and hull number.

  2. prior to 1972 you didn't have HIN # in 72 they became law. Hughes had a metal plate with the manufacturer serial number of the boat. The mast and mast castings were usually stamped with the serial number also. I believe Howard still has his boat.