There are many reasons why the quality of Van Dam Custom Boats surpasses that of all their competitors. Perfection is in their nature. Notably, they are the highest quality handcrafted wooden boats on the planet. Their team of master craftsmen, and all members of the Van Dam team, have a passion for not only the outcome of their creations, but the process inits entirety. From day one of starting a new project, their team of craftsmen begin to learn about the soon-to-be boat owners and their lives. By getting to know their clients, they can fully understand the vision and aspirations for the boat being commissioned. Van Dam can build a boat to the fullest extent of the client’s imagination, to the deepest definition of customized. The process itself is part of the Van Dam experience that significantly sets them apart from the rest. The craftsmen take pride in not only their intricate and unparalleled attention to detail, but also in their lifetime guarantee, which hasn’t had a claim in over40 years. A record like this speaks volumes to their caliber of workmanship and the care that is executed with every move. They take pride in their continued commitment, ensuring every inch of the boat is in mint condition, even after it’s out of their hands.
Van Dam maintains perfection by offering a yearly check-up on their work, going through every detail of their boats with a fine-tooth comb. The Van Dam masters go down a checklist to ensure all is still in pristine condition. As any boating enthusiast knows, life happens, and so do mishaps. The open waters can be unpredictable. What makes Van Dam stand out is they take these moments into account, and make it a priority that all is perfect.It is in the winter that these boats come back to Boyne City, Michigan from throughout the country where they live with their owners. From California to Florida, the boats are towed on trailers back to their original Van Dam home, where the craftsmen who built them and know them inside and out take a deep look at any wear-and-tear that the previous year may have caused. And even if everything is in pristine condition, which it usually is, this is still an opportunity to lay a fresh coat of varnish or polish up a “mirror on wood job.” Sometimes an owner’s vision of what they would like do on their boat changes. The beauty of their work is that the boat can change and be reinvented in collaboration with the owner, making owning a Van Dam boat a lifetime partnership. It is an instrumental component of Van Dam’s mission to ensure customer satisfaction that doesn’t end once the new owner receives their boat.
Jeremy Pearson: We have what we call our “cultural fundamentals” and they’re basically 37 guidelines that we live by and work by. We feel that’s what we need to make our company and our people successful, and distinguish us from the others. It’s things like attention to detail, making quality personal, impeccable response time, being curious about our customers and really getting to know them and who they are, not just what type of boat they like. We want to know their interests and their family history. When they build aboat with us, we spend a lot of time with them - on the phone, visiting with them, emails, text messages - we’re constantly getting their input and their feedback. It’s always nice to have as much background as we can so we can make the whole process a little more personal.
What is it like to continue to allow the Van Dam craftsmen to perform maintenance and upkeep of the boat?
I’m not aware of any other boat manufacturer that has a lifetime warranty on their product. And fortunately in 43 years we have never had a claim of any sort.That makes us proud.So part of that is because a lot of our boats come back to us year after year for storage, and many of the boat owners insist on that so that we can go through the boat with a fine-tooth comb, ensuring that not just mechanically everything is perfect, but also cosmetically. Obviously our boats are made of wood and typically wood can rot with the elements.
How are your boats built to allow a lifetime guarantee against leaks, rot, swelling, and cracking?
Our construction process is such that the wood, water, and air never really interact with each other. Unless there’s some kind of failure, such as dropping a wrench in the bilge and it causes a fine crack. With the customers that bring their boats back year after year, those are the simple things we look for, to make sure there wasn’t an accident that was overlooked. Our customers know that when they bring their boat back to us, we’re looking at every detail.
What kind of cosmetic or performance alterations are typically done?
We sometime do refits of the boat. One of them being Chiara. It’s been refit a couple of times. The owner is a local guy and he launched that boat originally in 2005. We launched it as version 1 and it was exactly what he wanted. Gunmetal grey, it was kind of a military tactical boat, which is what he wanted; it was great. They used it for a few seasons, brought it back and wanted to put a hardtop on it, so we engineered a hard top, put in some windows, dropped some things down a little bit, re designed the seating and layout for it to be more of an entertaining boat. Sometimes we do refits if the boats changes owners and they have a conceptually different idea, like for our boat Iris. When the new owner got it, he had a new idea for it and wanted to make it his own. Our boats are made for one specific person, so from the height of the seat to how far away the steering wheel is, it’s completely customized for them. If it changes owners, the new owner wants to make it their own, so of course we make those alterations to fit their specific needs. When our boats leave for spring launch, every owner knows and is assured that everything they asked us to do will get done. I think that the owners appreciate that peace of mind. Who better than us to look at the boat we built.
How many boats come back for maintenance over the winter season?
It depends - we’ve got a lot of boats. Anywhere from 10 to20 come back every year. We get boats from Wisconsin and locally from Michigan. And every few years we have other boats that come back from New York, Idaho, Washington, California, Florida, and Texas, to get some cosmetic work done, some new varnish, a new clear coat, or just some upkeep to make it look fresh again.
What is the range of things that may be handled in atypical maintenance requisition over the winter season?
Mainly small things. It depends on how much action the boat sees, that determines the life of the vanish and how well it’s protecting the wood. We use an automotive clear coat, similar to a Bentley or Maserati. It’s a very similar product which is great for keeping the elements out.
What is the spring launch season at Van Dam CustomBoats? What does it mean for you?
The spring launch is basically when it’s time to start delivering boats, when the roads are finally thawed out enough and we can start getting our boats back to the owners. It’s exciting because we’ve been looking at these boats all winter and working on them all winter. It also means that our team is very busy during the launch season. Owners will sometimes callus up last minute wanting to have a few extra things done to their boat. It’s an exciting time for us and for the boat owners, getting their Van Dam back on the water for another season of boating.