Saturday, September 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Lynn Senour, custom boat designer

By Charles E. Brown
Seattle Times staff reporter

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Lynn Senour, a self-taught Seattle boat designer best known for the custom lines of Nordic Tugs and upscale American Tugs, high-end cruising yachts built by competing shipbuilders in Skagit County and sold nationwide, was a "designer's designer."

"He had a knack for drawing graceful and seakeeping lines," said Tom Nelson, whose company, The Tomco Marine Group in La Conner, Skagit County, builds and sells American Tugs.

Some industry insiders compared Mr. Senour's designs to Cadillacs, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He designed thousands of cruisers but never owned one, said Lavinia Senour, his wife of 57 years.

Mr. Senour, whose health had recently declined, died Sunday (Sept. 19) at a North Seattle nursing home, where he had moved three weeks before. He was 89.

A funeral is today at 1 p.m. at the Jehovah's Witnesses Northgate Kingdom Hall, 10015 Ashworth Ave. N., Seattle.

"Lynn did not produce coffee-table books of his best designs or write philosophical columns about design problems. He just built nice boats that people love," said Bob Lane of Anacortes, a contributing editor for PassageMaker magazine.

"He was a designer. He didn't get rich off of it. He just loved the boats," said Mr. Senour's son, Norman Senour of Ferndale.

As a high-school student, Mr. Senour worked in local boatyards in the summer, where he picked up techniques of boatbuilding and repair. He continued in the boatyards after graduating from Seattle's Lincoln High School in 1933. He later served a stint in the Navy on patrol torpedo boats in World War II, and came away with boat-repair and maintenance skills and a love for fast boats, his son said.

He became a certified designer through a correspondence course in naval architecture offered by the East Coast-based Westlawn School of Yacht Design, "but he really learned by working with other designers," his son said.

"Lynn was a real market analyst. He was always smarter than most of us in what the boat world was coming to," said Jerry Husted of Silvana, Snohomish County, a founder of the company that built the Nordic Tug.
Successful at designing and building all kinds of boats, Mr. Senour linked up with Husted in the late 1970s to produce the fuel-efficient Nordic Tug line at a time embargoes were reducing fuel availability. The tugs are still in use.

Husted said the Nordic Tug was introduced at the Seattle Boat Show in January 1980. "We had hoped to sell three in 10 days," he said. "We ended up selling one every three hours for 10 days. It stunned the marine industry, and by the end of January, we had taken 52 orders."

Mr. Senour also designed boats for sports fishermen in San Diego. "From that, he got his reputation for high style as well as fast seakeeping boats," Husted said. In addition, he designed hulls for sport and commercial fishing, Husted said. Mr. Senour's designs dominated the sport-fishing industry along the West Coast.

During his career, Mr. Senour was responsible for yachts built by Grandy; Delta Marine, now a Duwamish mega-yacht builder; and The BoatYard on north Lake Union.

His designs included commercial-fishing vessels still in service in the Northwest and Alaska pleasure boats built on the same hulls that are also still in use.

He developed the line of Marlineer boats that opened up the sport-fishing industry in Mexico.

"He was easy to work with. He definitely had his own ideas and own opinions. But he was a designer's designer in my eyes," Nelson said.

Although Mr. Senour had announced his retirement several times, he continued to design at a drafting table in his North Seattle home. A few months ago he finished another design for American Tug.

He retired earlier this year. "He said he wasn't going to do anymore designs," said his wife.

Besides his wife and son Norman, he is survived by son Dan Senour of Anacortes; daughter Janet Senour of Bellingham; and six grandchildren. Also surviving is his brother, Grant Senour of Shoreline.

Charles E. Brown: 206-464-2206 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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