Ditmar & Donaldson: SoCal’s Legendary Boat Builders

Islander/Point Loma/Pescador/Red Rooster
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California’s rich boating history boasts many legendary names.  Ditmar & Donaldson are two that deserve recognition.  The legacy they built lives on in the exceptional boats they crafted, even decades after launching their first craft.

West Coast Craftsmanship (1940s – 1980s):

High school classmates, Ditmar and Donaldson went into the boat building business as the Sea Boat Company shortly after World War II.

They launched one of their earliest designs in 1948: Miss Balboa.  The speedboat was capable of taking 36 passengers from Newport Beach to Catalina Island in just 20 minutes!

Miss Balboa
The crew that built the Miss Balboa.  Left to Right: Lyle Ellis, Ohmar Clawson, Don Donaldson, Dick Ditmar, Ralph Coke, and an unidentified boatyard worker.

Ditmar & Donaldson established themselves in Costa Mesa, California. Their reputation flourished thanks to their expertise in building both commercial vessels and luxurious pleasure yachts.

Renowned for Quality:

Ditmar & Donaldson were known for their meticulous craftsmanship and dedication to quality. They built boats revered for their durability, whether navigating the open ocean or cruising the coastline. Rumors suggest their builds were “built like icebreakers,” a testament to their commitment to lasting performance.

Private yacht Huntress displays the familiar lines of a Ditmar Donaldson design.

Beyond Pleasure Craft:

Ditmar and Donaldson didn’t limit their repertoire to pleasure yachts. Many SoCal anglers have become very familiar with their enduring designs as the pair branched out into the realm of commercial sportfishing vessels.

While many D/D designed sportfishing vessels remain in service to this day, more than 50 years after they were launched, some are gone for good.  Below is a small sample of the Ditmar Donaldson legacy.

Click on the individual pick for a larger view.

A Lasting Legacy:

Don Donaldson died in 2010 at the age of 88.  His obituary, posted in the Daily Pilot, recounts some of the details of his partnership with Dick Ditmar and the spirit of their craftsmanship.  Ditmar died in 2000, also at the age of 88. Their surviving vessels are a testament to their dedication to quality and a reminder of the bygone era of West Coast boat building. 

Do you have a Ditmar & Donaldson story?

If you’ve owned, restored, or simply fished aboard a Ditmar & Donaldson boat, share your experiences in the comments below! We can piece together these individual stories to ensure their legacy is not forgotten.


  1. worked on the Victory for about a year. Victory was sister to Western pride and San Diego. I think this design was the best day boat for fishing. Big boat lots of beam giving her a lot of deck space. Large full service galley with booths. George Xenios bought the Victory while I was working and George still owns her.

  2. All the boats they built have stood the test of time and are pure quality through and through. Their designs were ahead of their time and other builders eventually used some of their ideas such as heads that did not require going out into the weather, spacious gallies, and professionally appointed wheelhouses.

    • They don’t make them like they used to. In fact, they don’t really make wood hulled boats anymore. Not of that size.

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