Kauai boat builder Masakichi Yotsuda

Born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1888, Masakichi Yotsuda emigrated from Japan to Kauai in 1907.

On Kauai, he worked first as a sugar plantation surveyor’s helper and later as an independent sugar grower on 300 acres of leased land, prior to landing jobs as a carpenter with McBryde Sugar Co. and Lihue Plantation.

During his early years on Kauai, Yotsuda became concerned about the dangers and challenges involved in his pastime of exploring in small boats the often rough seas surrounding the island.

Consequently, he began experimenting by trial and error with various hull designs he fashioned at home in his spare time — his ultimate objective being the creation of a sturdy, seaworthy craft that would not rock in heavy seas.

Yotsuda’s practical knowledge of Kauai waters qualified him in 1928 to become the skipper of the tug-boat “Lihue I” out of Nawiliwili Harbor, which he captained many times to and from Oakland, Calif.

Nine years later, in 1937, he returned to Lihue Plantation, retiring there as head carpenter in 1953.

All told, Yotsuda built over 150 boats, many of them while working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in his home garage-workshop in Lihue’s Isenberg tract, taking about three months to complete each boat.

He constructed all of his boats without the use of technical drawings to guide him, except for pencil sketches he made on the sides of his boat hulls.

Patented by him in 1965, his 27-foot “Kauai Sampan” has a high, sharply-pointed bow, a broad beam and a deep hull, with a cabin situated in the hull about a third of the way between the bow and the stern.

Yotsuda sold his hand-crafted sampans to buyers in the Hawaiian Islands and to Mainland boaters as well.

Master boat-builder Masakichi Yotsuda and his wife, Tomoyo, had 10 children.

He died in 1982.


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