Van Dam Custom Boats - The World’s Finest Wooden Boats
Fallen from a stack of archives, a design of a boat was found by the daughter of Fredrick Ford, a Naval Architect of the Great Lakes region. “When the smaller design slipped from the stack of my father’s drawings we were just beginning to catalogue after his passing in 2014, I saw a 31’ powerboat I knew I wanted to show Steve (Van Dam)”, said Susan Ford. This design is what inspired the latest build at Van Dam Custom Boats, Dreamboat. But it wasn’t fate or luck that brought that boat design to the hands of the crew at Van Dam. Naval Architect, Fred Ford, and co-founder of Van Dam Custom Boats, Steve Van Dam, partnered on many boats in the early stages of what’s now become the craftsmanship of “The World’s Finest Wooden Boats”.
After opening their first workshop in 1977, Van Dam Custom Boats started their portfolio with the construction of five commissioned sailboats. Star and Star’s Echo, two of those sailboats, were designed by Fred for he and his family. Star’s Echo was especially crafted for his daughter, who is also commissioning the build in progress, Dreamboat. “I’ve known Steve since he built Star (Wooden Boat Magazine Issue #54) for dad and Star’s Echo for me,” added Susan. The partnership between Fred and Steve has since produced a gallery of intricately customized boats. Fred and Steve again worked together in the late 80’s to build Van Dam’s first power boat – Flicker, and iconic Hacker replica.
Flicker was a catalyst for success, creating waves for the company to enter into the powerboat industry. Simply specializing in the craftsmanship of cold molded custom boats, Van Dam has no limitations to the type of build requested. Their last three commissioned builds have ranged from a 44’ sailing yacht, a 24’ gentleman’s racer, to their current build Dreamboat, a 38’ sedan cruiser.
Dreamboat will be capable of playing with boats much bigger than her own 389’ stature. Her twin Volvo IPS drives will produce 600HP to cut through the waves of the Great Lakes, and the joystick system will make this boat incredibly nimble and intuitive to use in close quarters. To eliminate boat roll, the Seakeeper will keep her steady while out on the water. The lighting and Garmin electronics package are cutting edge, and the Czone system will make the lights and electrical systems completely customizable. However, the real beauty of this boat lies in its design and level of detail throughout the boat. The designers & craftsmen at Van Dam are always up for the challenge to build the world’s finest wooden boats, and their attention to detail is unmatched. “Once you’ve owned a Van Dam boat, you’re spoiled for life because nothing can compare,” said Susan Ford.
At the start of 2021, co-founders Jean & Steve Van Dam sold the business to the second-generation leaders, Erika & Ben Van Dam. After 44 years of business, they decided it was time to hand the helm to the next generation. “We couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity to lead this business into the future. We are incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing team, both in talent and attitude, and we are especially grateful to Susan for continuing the legacy our fathers started,.” said Ben Van Dam. The succession has been in transition for years, with Ben serving as President of the company since 2016. Jean & Steve remain as pillars of the company identity, taking on the role of consultants and regulars in the shop. “Through Ben and I, second generation in both families, the creative partnership between my dad and Steve continues as Dreamboat comes alive in the hands of the world’s best boat builders,” said Susan Ford.
Dreamboat is scheduled to launch in 2022. Naval Architect Donald Blount and the design team at Van Dam Custom Boats took Fred’s original 1971 design and created the plans for Dreamboat. Van Dam Custom Boats have a lifetime guarantee, made for generational enjoyment. “The design team at Van Dam Custom Boats, have created a living legacy in Dreamboat,” said Susan Ford, “From dream to design to delivery, if you love boats, this is your dream team!”
Crafting “The World’s Finest Wooden Boats” since 1977, Van Dam makes only one of each custom build. “There are no replicas or repeats. When you own a Van Dam, you own the only one in the world.,” states Jeremy Pearson. “Each of our boats are privately commissioned and built specifically to the wishes and needs of their owner. Every detail in the boat has been considered with the owners input and wishes in mind. Every part is unique and our design team and craftsmen relish the opportunity to dive into the details. We walk through the process with our customers from concept to creation and beyond.”