Dutch “Downeast” Style


Passage Maker - - Seamanship - STORY DAG PIKE

The Downeast style of boat is a very dis­tinc­tive class in the United States, orig­i­nat­ing from the lob­ster boats that needed space on deck for han­dling pots as well as a fair turn of speed to get the catch back to mar­ket in good time. The style has trans­formed into a wide range of leisure craft that match work­boat her­itage with stylish lines and luxury in­te­ri­ors. Typ­i­fied by the beau­ti­ful styling from a num­ber of renowned builders, such as Hinck­ley and Sabre/ Back Cove, the Downeast-style lob­ster boat is steadily find­ing its way into yacht mar­kets be­yond North Amer­ica.

Based in Tur­key, Vicem Yachts is one of the best-known builders out­side the United States mak­ing this style of boat. Vicem has adapted the Downeast style to in­clude sizes up to 80 feet, and their boats find a ready mar­ket in the U.S. among own­ers who ap­pre­ci­ate the sea­wor­thy de­sign of clas­sic style paired with Vicem’s at­tempt to max­i­mize the in­ter­nal vol­ume in the in­ter­est of luxury ac­com­mo­da­tions. In Aus­tralia, Palm Beach Mo­tor Yachts—now merged with Grand Banks Yachts’ head­quar­ters in Malaysia—also builds a stylish cruiser along with Grand Banks’ ven­er­a­ble East­bay Se­ries, one of the orig­i­na­tors in the style that first launched in 1994. Ital­ian boat­builder Mochi Craft of­fers a range of what they call “lob­ster boats,” but there is lit­tle left of the orig­i­nal con­cept in these mod­els. In typ­i­cal Ital­ian fash­ion, ex­trav­a­gant styling and per­for­mance de­mands have taken over the prac­ti­cal as­pects of tra­di­tional Downeast style.

When it comes to stay­ing true to Downeast style, how­ever, the Dutch have prob­a­bly got it right. There are a num­ber of Dutch builders who are build­ing prac­ti­cal low-pro­file mo­to­ry­achts. Prob­a­bly be­cause Dutch yards find it hard to com­pete on price with the mass-pro­duced fiber­glass yachts, they have opted to fo­cus on the high­est qual­ity, cre­at­ing mo­tor cruis­ers that com­bine func­tion with tra­di­tion. The prac­ti­cal Dutch have found the key to bring­ing the high­est qual­ity of de­sign and con­struc­tion to a con­cept that is em­i­nently prac­ti­cal. The num­ber of builders and their an­nual pro­duc­tion demon­strates just how suc­cess­ful they have been.

Sturiër Yachts

There are yards of all sizes that have each pro­duced their own ver­sions of these beau­ti­fully crafted ves­sels. Auke van der Werff of Sturiër Yachts out­lines the pos­i­tive fea­tures of the “Dutch Downeast” style: “The low pro­file con­trib­utes to a nice de­sign; it en­ables the yacht to nav­i­gate un­der bridges and it con­trib­utes to ex­cel­lent sta­bil­ity and sea­wor­thi­ness. We have been build­ing this style for over 50 years in a ship­yard that was es­tab­lished 100 years ago, so we have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in know­ing what works. Our range of leisure yachts is based on this ex­pe­ri­ence, and we have built many com­mer­cial fish­ing boats in the past.”

Sturiër’s yachts are pri­mar­ily built in steel, but the yard can also build in alu­minum, which is of­ten used when a client wants higher speeds due to the weight sav­ings. “All our de­signs use round-bilge hulls for both dis­place­ment and semidis­place­ment de­signs,” van der Werff noted. On­line: sturi­ery­achts.com

Se­ri­ous Yachts

I am re­luc­tant to call the mo­to­ry­achts from Dutch builder Se­ri­ous Yachts purely “Downeast.” While in ap­pear­ance they share a de­riv­a­tive low pro­file with the clas­sic Maine boats, they take the con­cept to new heights of luxury and de­sign. This is far re­moved from the fish­ing ori­gins of Downeast boats, but with their Brightly range, Se­ri­ous Yachts has pro­duced one of the high­est qual­ity and most stylish boats that I have had the priv­i­lege to board.

The style starts with the hull shape, fea­tur­ing a dis­tinc­tive flare at the bow and a rounded and dou­ble-curved tran­som— and all this in steel con­struc­tion, which is not noted for be­ing very co­op­er­a­tive when it comes to curves. Ev­ery­where you look on this boat things are of the high­est qual­ity, in­clud­ing the best woods and fab­rics, stitched leather, and stain­less steel fit­tings that could be classed as an art form in and of them­selves.

The Gently range from the same builder takes style back a few years with a tra­di­tional ver­ti­cal stem and a much more up­right style matched to qual­ity wood in­te­ri­ors. The Gently I went aboard had three fea­tures that I thought I would never see again on new mo­to­ry­achts: a ro­tat­ing clear view screen in the wind­screen—like some­thing out of a 1940s clas­sic naval movie—goose­neck vents on the fore­deck, and the mast sup­ported in a taber­na­cle so that it can be low­ered. The mod­els in the Gently range show more of their fish­ing­boat her­itage than those in the Brightly range, but like all the Se­ri­ous boats they are based on dis­place­ment hull forms.

It is not just the style that makes Se­ri­ous stand out. The paint fin­ish fea­tures a deep luster that you do not find on com­pos­ite hulls. Delve into the his­tory of the builder and you find out why. Derk Bon­sink, who founded Se­ri­ous Yachts in 2004, owns one of the ma­jor su­pery­acht paint­ing com­pa­nies in Europe. The same skilled team that goes into ship­yards to do the paint­ing on su­pery­achts has done the paint­ing on the Se­ri­ous line. Bon­sink’s story sounds like that of many founders:

He bought a 1975 Bow­man Trawler but could not find a yard that would re­fit it to his re­quire­ments, so he founded Se­ri­ous Yachts to build it for him. On­line: se­ri­ousy­achts.nl

Van den Hoven Jacht­bouw

In busi­ness for the past 20 years, Van den Hoven Jacht­bouw has evolved from build­ing mo­tor cruis­ers with a high pro­file and upper steer­ing sta­tion to pro­duc­ing low-pro­file ver­sions that re­flect the more modern take. Like so many Dutch yards, this is a fam­ily busi­ness. Hus­band-and-wife team, Bart and Monique Van den Hoven, started the yard in 1999, and they have since been joined by their daugh­ter Michelle. “The cur­rent de­signs of our Ex­ec­u­tive line have been de­vel­oped over the years,” said Van den Hoven. “Since our es­tab­lish­ment in 1999, our yachts have been con­stantly de­vel­op­ing. The goal dur­ing all the years has al­ways been to make the in­te­rior of the ship more spa­cious. The open­ness of the wheel­house in­creased and this re­sulted in the Ex­ec­u­tive line, where liv­ing, kitchen, and helm are on the same level. By align­ing these is­sues, the low de­sign has been cre­ated. Our new alu­minum con­cept is also de­signed in this way, with the liv­ing room, kitchen, and helm on one level with a fly­bridge as stan­dard but avail­able in a low-pro­file ‘Downeast’ style.”

The low pro­file of the Ex­ec­u­tive 1500 was de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for the French canals where air draft is lim­ited, and the de­sign also works for most of the Dutch canals. These yachts are built in steel with a beau­ti­ful soft bow shape com­bined with a dis­tinc­tive flare. The un­der­wa­ter hull form has been op­ti­mized for run­ning ef­fi­ciency.

Now the yard is mov­ing into in­creas­ingly con­tem­po­rary de­signs with yachts from 15 to 24 me­ters in length that are much curvier ver­sions of the “lob­ster boat” style. De­signed by René van der Velden, these boats will be con­structed in alu­minum to al­low higher speeds for the semi-dis­place­ment hulls. Like nearly all Dutch yards, Van den Hoven places a very high pri­or­ity on qual­ity. On­line: bvan­den­hoven­jacht­bouw.nl

Mul­der Ship­yards

A rich his­tory is also part of the Mul­der Ship­yard, which is also very much a fam­ily af­fair. Nick Mul­der, who is the third gen­er­a­tion at the yard, said, “My grand­fa­ther founded the com­pany and de­liv­ered hun­dreds of our Fa­vorite Cruis­ers with their steel hulls and ma­hogany su­per­struc­tures. Many went to the States and they can still be seen in Dutch wa­ters. From 2000 on­wards we were work­ing on larger yachts, but my fa­ther did not want to lose track of the 50foot mar­ket, so he worked with de­signer Guido de Groot to de­velop the Mul­der Fa­vorite 1500.”

The first of these beau­ti­ful Fa­vorite 1500s was for the fam­ily and had a very low air draft of about 9 feet, but this was later in­creased to 11 feet for a more prac­ti­cal de­sign. As Mul­der ex­plains, “The de­sign of the Fa­vorite was a com­bi­na­tion of a com­fort­able ride at sea with very high qual­ity and a beau­ti­ful style. Ev­ery­thing in the con­cept is aimed at high qual­ity and clients can fully cus­tom­ize the de­sign.” Mul­der uses alu­minum con­struc­tion and all their hulls are round bilge but de­signed as semi-dis­place­ment yachts to al­low higher speeds.

Nick’s fa­ther, Dick Mul­der, said, “We de­sign our yachts with a dis­tinct Dutch style, in many cases us­ing a tra­di­tional style. We want to build beau­ti­ful yachts which are head-turn­ers” This is borne out by the Fa­vorite 1500, which has a fully curved hull and low pro­file that is one of the sleek­est de­signs that I have seen; per­haps it is the faster ver­sion of the equally attractive yacht from Brightly. On­line: mul­der­ship­yard.nl

Sturiër 565 OC

Se­ries Yachts Brightly 1530

Van den Hoven Jacht­bouw Ex­ec­u­tive 1500 Mk2

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