A ‘quick’ 3 year stop by newlyweds Jean and Steve, on their way to the east coast, began Steve’s learning of the trade of cold molded boat building from a Master Craftsman in Canada. Returning to Harbor Springs in 1975 they built their own boat, Feather. And after constructing their first workshop in 1977, they launched what is now known as Van Dam Custom Boats. Silvan, their first contract for a large build, began construction in 1979 and is still sailing today.
Clearly a decade of change and growth, both personally and professionally, Van Dam Custom Boats expanded its portfolio with the construction and launch of five additional sailboats including Star and Star’s Echo- naval architect Fred Ford’s designs that he commissioned for he and his family. The company also moved from their home based shop to a site in the Commercial Park in Harbor Springs, Michigan. The skill and open minded tenacity of Steve and his crew were also put to task with the commission of six pulling boats- all beautiful works of art that are still in use today.
Flicker, the first power boat to be commissioned from Van Dam, set the company and the crew on a path of designing and building a wider variety of the world’s finest wooden boats.
With a family first mantra as part of the Cultural Fundamentals of the organization, Jean and Steve welcomed the addition of their children, Ben and Brie, to the family- all while juggling college, crafting legends and staking their place in the world of wooden boat building. The 80’s also boasted the official addition of Jean Van Dam to the business in the position of all things ‘front of house’ related- a crucial part to the success of the company. Her first computer purchase? The newly released Apple MacIntosh- with 1 MB of storage. My how things have changed!
While effort is appreciated, we reward and celebrate results.
When water is the cradle of your livelihood, Van Dam jumped at the opportunity to acquire property in Boyne City, Michigan. It consisted of a Lake Charlevoix waterfront launch, a 35 ton travel lift, storage barns, a large workshop, a showroom and a marine service yard. Van Dam Marine Company was born and there was no looking back.
Jean was excited to move from a makeshift office location lofted above the construction floor to a modular office building attached to the front of the woodshop. This would be home to her and future office staff for the next two decades. The company’s first website, designed by a 16 year old high school student, was released to the world and gave fans all over the globe a glimpse at how the Van Dam crew builds its world class boats.
As with most new opportunities, the first exotic speed boat put before the crew at Van Dam catapulted the company’s exposure in the wooden boat building arena and it became clear that no style of boat, and no engineering challenge, could best our elite crew of craftsmen. Alpha Z, a Michael Peters’ design, was borne of mahogany and unrivaled build quality at the hands of Van Dam.
It was a decade of focus, honing our craft and welcoming commissions that truly explored the gamut of design and functionality in wooden boat construction. With launches like Geronimo, Nokomis, Jacqueline and Susan C to name a few, Van Dam continued to make waves (no pun intended) in the world of custom wooden boat building. No vision was out of reach and several clients experienced the Van Dam journey of bringing their boating dreams to life.
Such unique commissions drove the decision for Van Dam Marine Company to sell the marine service and storage division of the business. It was time to focus on what they do best- designing and building the world’s finest wooden boats.
Not shying away from challenges put before them, Van Dam Custom Boats again took ownership of the marine service and storage yard located on property. This new venture, Boyne Boat Yard, was soon followed by the inception of Boyne Yacht Sales. Together, the companies rounded out the Van Dam consortium of businesses located in Boyne City, Michigan. With a dedicated president at the helm of both new entities, the ability to launch, service, refinish, store and commission watercraft of all types has been added to our offerings.
Son, Ben Van Dam, has stepped into the role as president of Van Dam Custom Boats. A much needed space addition to the wood shop, expanded office facilities, a dedicated sales team and ramped up marketing efforts now surround the crew and shape the future of the company. Additional legacy builds like Madeleine, Tattler II, Victoria Z, and Italmas, ensure that craftsmanship will live on for generations to come.
The company continues to grow, adding critical positions to our team as we challenge ourselves to always build the finest wooden boats in the world. Our Apprentices continue to move through their Apprenticeships on their way to becoming Craftsman.
In 2020, Erika Van Dam officially joined the company as Vice President. Van Dam Custom Boats is steadily forging a path as a second-stage business, focusing on strategic planning, processes, and organizational structure. On January 1, 2021, after 44 years of business, Jean and Steve Van Dam officially retired and sold the business to Ben and Erika Van Dam.
In the coming years, our team will launch a stunning 24 ft gentleman’s racer and a 39 ft sedan cruiser perfectly outfitted for a day on the lake. View our current builds here.
What’s in store for Van Dam? Continuing our obsessive pursuit of perfection and leading the way in innovative construction techniques.
OWN PIECE OF HISTORY
The uncompromising standards represented in each Van Dam will continue to provide years of memories on the water.
Superior strength and beauty are drawn from that which only nature can provide, coalesced to shape boats of unrivaled prestige and luxury.
Go the extra mile.
Be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the job…plus a little more. Work hard to exceed people’s expectations.
Want to Be a Part
of our future?
If you feel you have what it takes to work with the best of the best, we would love to hear from you.