Van Dam Custom Boats - The Worlds Finest Handcrafted Wooden Boats
Van Dam Custom Boats has spent over four decades hand crafting custom, wooden boats. It is a journey of setting Van Dam apart as builders of the finest wooden boats in the world. It is a story of drive, dedication, culture and keeping legacy and craftsmanship alive. And now as the second generation takes hold of the wheel the story of succession and family dynamic are added to the script.
In the early 70’s a ‘quick stop’ by newlyweds, Jean and Steve, on their way to the east coast, launched Steve’s learning of the trade from a master craftsman in Canada. He became skilled in wooden boat building via new construction techniques and the use of modern adhesives. Four years later in 1977 he and Jean returned to Harbor Springs, Michigan and began what is now known as Van Dam Custom Boats. And when the opportunity for much needed water access arose in Boyne City, Michigan, they moved the business, and family, from its original location in Harbor Springs.
While the company has adapted and evolved through the last four decades - in design and construction methods, metal work and business practices in general - delivering on client expectations and the excellence of craftsmanship has remained a constant. That excellence is borne of diligence and care. It’s a philosophy that is embraced wholeheartedly by everyone on the Sixteen Acres, (the in-house name for the sprawling campus of storage sheds and workshops, as well as service and storage facilities), and supported through the Cultural Fundamentals the company has created. These fundamentals are not earth-shattering revelations, but more a set of 37 principles everyone on the Sixteen Acres can relate to. Fundamentals like #1 Practice Continues Improvement Every Day, All Day. # 22 Communicate To Be Understood. And # 27 Assume Positive Intent. From the long-range business plan to the weekly shop clean-up, every task is tackled mindfully, efficiently, conscientiously.
Although boats are the company’s product, what they uniquely offer is an ability, and an eagerness, to work with their customers to produce a boat that is not only tailored to fit, but designed from the ground up as an extension of the owner’s personality. In a marketplace full of luxury goods that conflate “bespoke” and “custom” with “available in different colors,” Van Dam acts as curator of their clients’ most extravagant fantasies, lending their expertise to ensure that their clients’ ideas – often literally sketched on envelopes and bar napkins – coalesce into a whole that exceeds every expectation.
Whether docked at the shore of a quiet, inland lake or resting at the ready as a vibrant yet functional yacht tender, Van Dam boats are unmistakable marks of quality. Their craftsmanship is the marriage of timeless legacy, patience and an appreciation for artistry. Any boat of any styling can get you from here to there, but owning a Van Dam is as much about the journey...the personal experience...as it is about transportation. And while their skill begins at the drawing board with every custom design, it also crosses the aisle into the arena of renewal; keeping up with the ever-changing needs and wants of their clients. It can be the space between beginning and end that is the most memorable part of the experience, and that carries over to the upgrades, re-invention or refreshing of any Van Dam creation. The legacy doesn’t end at first launch. In the hands of true craftsmen, it can be shaped and reshaped to meet the needs and wants of several generations. Which is what Van Dam has come to expect.
A Van Dam boat isn’t a thing you buy, it’s a process you undertake. One worth waiting for.