They were big and bold, built to take on the Seven Seas and carry their owners to any port in the world. They were the Feadships, a fleet of luxury yachts that emerged from the ruins of war-torn Europe to become one of the leading names in the history of recreational boating.
It all started over cups of coffee.
In 1949, the owners of seven Dutch shipyards got together at De Roode Leeuw’s coffee house in Amsterdam, hoping to re-build the Dutch ship and the boatbuilding industry in the Netherlands that had been ravaged by World War II. Led by naval architect Henri de Voogt, the group formed the First Export Association of Dutch Shipbuilders, which they shortened to Feadship. The idea was to build cabin cruisers and larger yachts for the North American market.
By 1951, Feadship was ready to go, and the organization showcased its products at the prestigious New York International Boat Show; the boats received an enthusiastic response and three models were sold. Owners responded to the bold looks and luxury accommodations of the Feadship designs, including the large hull, the sturdy wheelhouse and the broad deck. Two years later, the Feadship Capri was crowned Queen of the International Motor Boat Show.
By the mid-1950s, Feadship had transitioned from wooden hulls to steel and aluminum construction, and the yachts got bigger and bigger. Over the years, chief designer Fritz de Voogt, along with prominent designers Jon Brannenberg, Al Mason and John Munford, were turning out custom yachts 85 feet and up, the largest well over 100 feet. Innovation became important, and Feadship helped popularize accessories such as air conditioning and stabilizers.
Feadships became the popular choice for high-end boaters, including Malcolm Forbes and Henry Ford. Over the years the yachts have inspired a fierce loyalty. Tiky, the boat pictured here, is a good example. The 62-foot, twin-diesel, steel-hull design by Feadship Royal Dutch Shipyards was launched in 1961 and travelled European ports for more than four decades under different names. When the time came for a refit in 2006, a new owner stepped in to bring Tiky up to date, culminating in a 2014 relaunch and delivery to San Remo, Italy. The owner was quoted as saying, “Barely a day goes by without someone stopping and asking about her.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue.