From Zeeland to Friesland

In recent years, we talked a lot about organization and working principles of major Dutch companies that build yachts. However, in many respects they are the exception to the rule, because their customers constitute a very small group of people who can afford a boat worth tens and hundreds of millions of euros. And who builds boats for widely represented in the Netherlands and neighboring countries the middle class?

In the early 2000-ies “small-bore” shipyards in the Netherlands were not considered, but natural selection post-crisis decade have forced many to curtail production. Only in the last two years of business came Jetten, Storm Yachts, Privateer and other, however, the decline of competitors is not greatly facilitated the task of those who survived. After the exhibition METS in 2018, we visited seven shipyards that are members of the national Association HISWA to meet their development strategy and approach to manufacturing that enable them to stay afloat and succeed. Moving from South to North, we started from the shipyard Jachtbouw De Alm, looked at Van den Hoven Jachtbouw and Elling Yachts, then participated in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Linssen Yachts, inspected De Boarnstream and Sturiër Yachts, and completed the program at North-Line Yachts.

The General and the particular

All of these companies by the standards of the Netherlands belong to the category of small business with its advantages and disadvantages. Doesn’t belong there is that Linssen Yachts, beyond the small-scale producer, but more on that below.

  • Jachtbouw Zevenhuizen acquired the brand Kuster and resumed the construction of these yachts

Being a small Dutch shipyards is largely determined by their history: private enterprise in this country is the absolute norm and no one will be surprised if yesterday’s farmer suddenly starts to build a yacht in his back yard and does it very well. So in the Netherlands were born almost all the shipbuilding industry, which to this day remains a family affair in the second, third and even fourth generation.

The positive side of this is, first of all, limit the company’s flexibility: its own premises and with minimum staff on the payroll, the Builder may, without much damage to regulate the volume of production and in the absence of orders, go into hibernation. Moreover, some, such as De Boarnstream, diversifitsirovat business by private marinas, slipways for winter storage of yachts, brokerage, dealer activities, which allows you to survive difficult market times.

On the other hand, such a model implies a careful and reasonable relation to earned money (it’s the Dutch blood!). Many family shipyards can’t afford the services promoted the design and engineering Bureau (and especially towing tank basins), so often they cooperate with designers of the second echelon, independently develop the design of their yachts and reach the intended level of quality most practical way — otherwise their products become not just competitive. All we saw of the shipyard, in addition to Linssen, building yachts exclusively to order and in rare cases, keep one or two demo models.

The need to save affects marketing strategy: you will almost never find these brands at the boat show in Cannes, say, or in Paris, after extensive advertising and exhibition campaigns and expensive presentation technologies, they can’t afford. In successful business years they try to appear in düsseldorf and HISWA te water, however, do not hesitate to go “underground” if sales fell. The fact that they sell mainly through word of mouth and instead of participating in international exhibitions, conduct open days at home. With an average production volume of 10 buildings per year this strategy is most effective. By the way, in this case, it is much more profitable to sell the boat through dealers, and through individual agents in different countries who are familiar with the peculiarities of vessels of this type and can explain their benefits to customers. In addition, a small company with care work under the scheme trade-in and rarely compete with his own yacht on the brokerage market.

Interestingly, the Dutch shipyard building boats up to 24 m, took keen interest in the market review and gradually, often without advertising, developing a direction. Some take to refit only the court’s own production or boats close friends and acquaintances (Van den Hoven), whereas others (De Boarnstream, North-Line) is not limited to certain brands and are willing to work with any pleasure yacht. Since a large part built their fleet is still in Holland, Belgium and Germany, the owners, as a rule, not difficult and not expensive to drive your boat to the shipyard, especially since the first refit of a steel vessel is usually made after 10-15 years when it needs painting, redecorating and furniture hauling, and replacement of on-Board electronics to more modern.

As for warranty, in the absence of dealers small shipyard just send the team to solve problems and strongly recommend that to the customer upon receipt of the new vessel did not immediately go away, and “whirl” in Holland for 2-3 weeks to possible defective equipment was fixed promptly.

Production model

The nature of the production process we saw the shipyards are divided into three groups: one will involve a large number of contractors, while others seek to carry out all the work yourself, and still others a combination of both in varying proportions.

A typical example of the first approach is to De Boarnstream. The father of the current Director of the shipyard Vis Hokwerda began to build small steel boats in 1964 as a hobby and 1980, did the forces of his family, but after switched to very popular in Friesland model. De Boarnstream orders the manufacture of steel buildings according to their specifications from the contractor (the construction takes three months), and then sends them to the sandblasting to another company (another two weeks), and then holds pre-assembled (installation of tanks, engines, heaters, PU, communications occupy a total of 6-7 weeks). Then the ship goes to painting (three months) and returned for final completion, and by this time another contractor is completing the manufacture of furniture.

  • Shipyard De Boarnstream with a certain amount of time to build a new model Elegance with optional built-in system of tenting cockpit Canopeasy

Vis Hokwerda, De Boarnstream: “Until the line of Elegance the average age of the buyers of our boats was in the range 65-70 years. To offer a more modern design, we relied on a relatively young generation, but to our surprise the age group of customers Elegance was divided into 40+ and 80+ years, and many of these people were previously owned by composite yachts, but decided to switch to steel”.

All partners De Boarnstream is located in 10 km radius of Jirnsum and cooperate with the shipyard for several decades, although offer similar services to other brands. Boats from point to point transported on trailers, and Manager of quality control constantly runs between them and monitors the progress of the work. In former times De Boarnstream yachts built with typical Dutch conservative design, but now concentrates solely on the line Elegance, which thanks to modern design is popular far beyond the borders of the Netherlands.

Located in the town of Stavoren on the picturesque coast of an artificial Bay IJssel shipyard Sturiër Yachts for a century, practicing the opposite approach and in the construction of classical steel yacht tries to do almost everything yourself. This applies to interior design and appearance, welding and painting of hull, for laying electrical and carpentry work.

Despite extensive experience (built over 800 ships), shipyard orders at Vripack engineering studies and other design Bureau, but this is an exception. By the way, for yachts of the new line of Dutchman Explorer, the company offers optional compliance with the requirements of Ice Class 1 (under the supervision of Lloyd’s register), which is quite rare in small shipyards.

By the standards of the Netherlands from Sturiër Yachts decent staff — about 25 people; some work here for a long time. Interestingly, the name of the Sturiër comes not from the surname of the founder of the shipyard, like many other, but from peoples who once lived in these parts.

Father yakko van Maastricht, the current Director of shipyard De Alm, founded the manufacture in 1977 in the area of Werkendam, where he began to build the steel hull pleasure boat, which customers then independently equipped and completed. Pretty soon the number of orders increased, and people wanted to ready the boat. Now De Alm makes the steel semi-displacement trawler yachts are semi custom lengths from 13 to 23 m with classic and modern design, and the production model combines the pros and cons of the above options.

Cutting of steel and painted hulls, the shipyard orders from contractors despite the fact that every boat in the course of construction have to be towed through the water. Generally, in contrast to the shipyards that build superyachts and always invite contractors into their own boathouses, small shipyards are rarely able to afford, for example, paint the boxes with climate control and air purification, therefore, forced to carry the boats to different companies.

Bart van den Hoven is one of those for whom it is not necessary the experience of previous generations. Being a carpenter by profession, he founded the shipyard Van den Hoven in his garden, where he began to build small boats. When the work increased, he rented the production facilities and began developing the model range in collaboration with designers Arnold de Reuter and John van Leuven, which resulted in the existing range of Executive, which develops in the direction of more interesting for the Mediterranean areas of design.

  • A characteristic feature of the yacht Van den Hoven is the “tooth” of the gunwale amidships

Salaried Bart van den Hoven work mainly welders and assemblers interiors, while the steel cutters and a number of other works shipyard instructs the contractors. It is noteworthy that as an option, Van den Hoven today offers to integrate into the housing of the so-called pile-device — a kind of anchor in the form located at the bow of the pile, which sinks into the muddy bottom of shallow inland waters and holds the ship in place.

Apart from the shipyards is described Linssen Yachts, which annually builds an average of 70 steel yachts in the mode of conveyor production, and has rich set of machines, including the platform CNC for plasma cutting. Founded in 1948, the family company tried hand at fiberglass and light alloy, but abandoned these materials in favor of steel. Its Assembly line has 12 workstations and is organized in the same way as many Italian and French shipyards. The hull is carried out at each station, two and a half weeks, and once ready the boat leaves the boathouse, on the line immediately add another past painting the hull.

Organize the closed cycle of production, Linssen tries to ensure its power full load, in any time, because it can afford to build boats before the advent of customers. Linssen yachts are very popular in Northern Europe, so big problems with sales are not occurring, plus the shipyard is a private Charter company Linssen Boating Holiday with a fleet of 70 yachts. In addition, Linssen relatively recently began working with a major French Charter operator Leboat and builds for him the steel electric boats for a day.

  • The yacht is from a new line of Dutchman Explorer, which replaced the classical models Sturiër Yachts

  • Linssen yachts has received the greatest popularity in Northern Europe among the ships of this type

North-Line Yachts, Elling Yachts and also going his own way, specializing in fiberglass vessels. The first is a typical family business, established in 1976 (Jachtbouw Zevenhuizen) and started with the Assembly of motor and sailing yachts, and working boats of steel, aluminum and composite materials. Later, the shipyard began to build motor yachts, and in 2004 the son of its founder Sipko background Sluis launched a range of all-weather yacht on the basis of a pilot boat Nelson, and called it the North-Line.

A feature of the shipyard is that it performs forming fibreglass (sandwich) along with a set by vacuum infusion in a single approach, which allows to obtain a durable yet lightweight design. To contractors the company is drawn only for the manufacture of roof and upholstery, and the rest make their own. However, the volume of production at North-Line is small, only two or three ships a year, and Sipko has no plans to increase it to, according to him, not to turn a hobby into a job. In 2015, the company acquired the bankrupt Kuster Yachts, which built steel displacement yacht and revived this once-popular brand. Hull Marina Kuster order from the contractor, but painting and Assembly themselves.

Elling Yachts, a division of a major shipyard Neptune Marine, by contrast, does not use vacuum infusion for molding the enclosures and doing all the contact, but further reinforces the hull with Kevlar, which well compensates for the tensile force at impact and prevents the formation of holes. Semi-serial production of Elling perfectly optimized, so the construction of 15-meter-long model of E4 takes exactly 10 weeks (built over 300 buildings).

The Director of the shipyard Anton van den BOS gave the staff the task: in the course of the year to learn to do the same time and the flagship Elling E6 (60 feet). Anton is convinced that the best gelcoat worse than the bad paint, so the hull of all boats paint to prevent degradation of fiberglass.

Despite the fact that outwardly Elling remains a classic yacht with the hull of a transition type, the shipyard relies on modern equipment-for example, on Board the E6 uses a lithium-ion battery with an inverter of 14 kW, which involve photovoltaic cells. On the other hand, the company has taken a conservative position in relation to the main engines: Elling all are equipped with one main diesel engine (this helps the self healing of the vessel after the coup), and for insurance have a low-power motor without the electronic “brains” (suddenly the lightning!), working on the separate screw.

A portrait of the owner

The story of these shipyards would be incomplete without a General description of a group of people, which today chooses a typical Dutch boats with their classic design, low speed, traditional layout and sometimes old-fashioned finish. Buy them for the most part, couples who have already raised children, accumulated enough money and retired. They have no health problems and lack of free time; they lead an active life, keeping the interest in the world outside your beloved home chair. Often they travel and live on the boat, because the comfort and reliability of the vessel they are much more important than extra beds. They do not need to rush anywhere and even more to demonstrate their status, so they choose a court that creates the least problems, reasonable consuming fuel and sedately walking on the waves.

  • The younger generation of the family Linssen, which today runs the company

  • The mastermind and head of Elling Yachts Anton van den BOS

Many of these people in my youth used to sail, but with age, boarded a displacement steel “slug” in order to feel the sea as before. If in Russia such units in the Benelux is similar to the “retired” constitute if not a majority, then a significant portion of their age group. But times change, connoisseurs of Dutch classics is getting smaller and what to do in retirement the current youth, is the big question. Shipyards feel it and try to adapt to the situation, relying on the fact that a well-built yacht will not be lost from the scale of values of the future generations.


De Boarnstream Year established 1964 Number of employees 18 Built yacht 1100+ , the Length 10-20 m case Material steel RCD Category “C”, “B”, “A” corps in the year 15 Average construction period of 10-14 months

Van den Hoven Jachtbouw Year of Foundation 1999 Number of employees 11 Built yachts 52 , the Length of 15-21 meters case Material steel RCD Category “B”, “A” Corps in year 3 , the Average construction period of 13-14 months

De Alm Jachtbouw Year established 1977 Number of employees 14 Built yachts 285 , the Length 13-23 m case Material steel RCD Category “B”, “A” Corps in year 3-5 Average construction period 13-18 months

Sturiër Yachts Year of construction 1918 Number of employees 25 Built yachts 500+ , the Length of 15-28 m case Material steel RCD Category “A” Buildings in year 5 , the Average construction period of 12 months

North-Line Yachts / Yachts Kuster Year established 1976 Number of employees 12 Built yachts 500 , the Length of 8-20 m hull Material GRP, steel RCD Category “B”, “A” corps in the year 2-3 , the Average construction period is 8 months

Elling Yachts (Neptune Marine) Year established 1972 Number of employees 70 Built yachts 350 , the Length 13-20 m hull Material GRP RCD Category “A” Buildings in the year 18-20 Average construction period 10 weeks

Linssen Yachts Year established 1949 Number of employees 110 Built yacht 3000+ , the Length 9-17 m case Material steel RCD Category “C”, “B”, “A” corps in the year 70 , the Average construction period is 7-12 months


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