Industry mourns longtime California boatbuilder

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Brad Buettner (left) and Stan Miller (right) meet with representatives of Coast Bank at the Stan Miller Yachts showroom in 1987. James Lynch and Jim Wulschleger of the bank are second and third from left.

Brad Buettner (left) and Stan Miller (right) meet with representatives of Coast Bank at the Stan Miller Yachts showroom in 1987. James Lynch and Jim Wulschleger of the bank are second and third from left.

Brad Buettner (left) and Stan Miller (right) meet with representatives of Coast Bank at the Stan Miller Yachts showroom in 1987. James Lynch and Jim Wulschleger of the bank are second and third from left.

Stan Miller, who founded what today is known as Stan Miller Yachts, died Nov. 17 in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 91.

He founded Stan Miller Sailboats in 1955, but his love for the water arrived long before. In the mid-1930s, Miller spent his summers sailing an 8-foot dinghy in Newport Harbor, Calif. After serving in the Navy, Miller returned to his love of sailing and became heavily involved with racing, rigging and repairing sailboats.

In 1954, Miller realized he could translate his love for working with sailboats into a full-time business. In 1955, Miller and his brother Jim established the original company.

Construction began in Seal Beach, where masts, rudders and leeboards were built. The two-story building would later become the Stan Miller Sailboats & Hardware store. Close friend and sailmaker Lowell North, who was developing and growing North Sails, worked upstairs.

The Millers loved sailboat racing, and in the early 1970s, Stan Miller and his partners bought Ragtime, a New Zealand-built sailboat. In the following years Ragtime captured two wins in the Transpacific Yacht Race, racing from Los Angeles to Diamond Head Lighthouse in Honolulu. Additional trophies were earned in the Mallory Cup, the California Cup and other regional sailboat races.

Stan Miller Sailboats continued to flourish and began branching into motoryacht sales. The company was renamed Stan Miller Yachts to reflect its growing market.

In 1976, John Buettner joined Stan Miller Yachts as a licensed and bonded broker. He and his brother Brad Buettner had met Stan Miller in 1965 when their family moved to Huntington Beach and purchased their first sailboat from Miller.

Stan Miller (center) is shown with John Buettner (left) and Buettner’s brother Brad in May 2008 at the Stan Miller Yachts office in Long Beach, Calif.  

Stan Miller (center) is shown with John Buettner (left) and Buettner’s brother Brad in May 2008 at the Stan Miller Yachts office in Long Beach, Calif.  

John Buettner remained a broker at Stan Miller Yachts until 1983, when he and his brother became partners with Stan Miller until Miller’s retirement in 1989. Afterward the Buettners took full control of Stan Miller Yachts.

“It was an opportunity to join an industry leader that could not be refused,” Brad Buettner said in a statement. “Over the years, both Stan and Carolyn Miller demonstrated virtues such as kindness, friendship and enthusiasm for the marine industry that have been instrumental in my development and will have a lifelong impact on me. I will be forever grateful to them for their graciousness and willingness to allow me to be a part of the Stan Miller Yachts legacy.”

Miller is remembered by the entire team at Stan Miller Yachts, his family, friends and the sailing and boating communities of Long Beach, Calif., and Astoria, Ore., as well as the many lives he touched. 

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