Marine News from the Great Lakes

40 Years of Building the Only One in the World

Published: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ours is a story of drive, of passion, of legacy. Ours is a journey of setting Van Dam apart as builders of the finest wooden boats in the world. We are excited to take our clients on this journey with us. To what end? Van Dam Custom Boats has spent 40 years hand-crafting wooden boats that can be called “the only one.”

When classic wooden boat designs are incorporated with highly evolved engineering, the finished product is strong, beautiful, and singular. Every Van Dam creation is different, but each fulfills a vision — a dream. Founder Steve Van Dam’s dream of sailing to far off places began with a small wooden boat on Lake Macatawa, not far from his family home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Motivated by self-reliance and a passion to learn, Steve complemented these qualities with a love of wood and water - shaping the undercurrents of what Old World masters term "a calling."

His dream became reality in the woods north of Harbor Springs where he and his wife Jean launched the business now known as Van Dam Custom Boats. Together they built their first boat-building shed. Their family, sharing a love of boating, the outdoors, and a strong commitment to the environment, joined them in their pursuit of doing things the right way. Now located in beautiful Boyne City, Michigan, a visceral belief in legacy craftsmanship drives their mission.

Forty years later with his son Ben at the helm, and Michel Berryer, an award-winning designer on staff, the company has the ability to create a world-class custom boat or yacht regardless of its size or complexity. Steve and Jean see triumph in watching a second generation strive to take what they started and loft it to a new level. And, with state-of-the-art computer-aided design programs incorporated throughout the planning and building process, things are definitely moving forward. Metal fabrication and mechanical systems are now accomplished on site.

"We make our own parts and pieces - everything from metal hardware to complex electrical systems," says Steve. The Van Dam crew of 10 to 12 skilled boat builders utilize the finest materials and technology available to build their amazing watercraft.

Be it a custom build or a restoration by Steve, Ben, and their talented crew, each craft and her owner becomes part of the Van Dam family. Together, craftsman and client realize the pride in building the only one in the world. And it continues to be quite a journey.

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tags: Anniversaries, Antique & Classic Boats

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