A Family Business

Since the beginning of Van Dam Custom Boats the business has been a family business. Steve Van Dam started Van Dam Custom Boats with wife, Jean Van Dam, at his side and pursued their passion for boats as a team. As their family grew, each member joined the team at Van Dam Custom Boats in some way.

Steve and Jean relocated to Ontario, Canada so that Steve could apprentice with a wood boat builder there, Vic Carpenter. Vic specialized in building wood sailboats. It was here that Steve tributes his training in the benefits of the newer construction techniques and the use of modern adhesives. Since then Steve has become one of the pioneers of epoxy and boat building.

Steve, the President of Van Dam Custom Boats, has always had a passion for boats and woodworking. This shows in every boat that Van Dam Custom Boats creates. His dream became a reality when Steve and Jean cleared the land next to their home and they built a boat-building shed. This was the beginning of Van Dam Custom Boats that was formally known as Van Dam Wood Craft.

Steve’s attention to detail and aspiration for perfection shows. He had a desire to build a team that had similar passions and similar dreams of building the finest wood boats in the world. He has created a business that prides itself on constant improvement.

Although Jean received her degree in education, after following Steve to Ontario and coming back to the United States, she decided that a career in the health field was more her style. She did this until the birth of her and Steve’s children (Ben and Brie), where she then made the decision to take an active role in the business management of the family business. She makes sure that the finances are taken care of, that the office runs smoothly and that Steve has no computer issues.

It was then that Van Dam Custom Boats was truly set out to become a family business. From the very beginning the oldest of the Van Dam children showed a passion for woodwork and boats. As a 5-year-old, Ben Van Dam built an 8 foot One Day rowboat with his father. Ben was always seen around the Van Dam shop, although he did not officially start working at the shop until he was a teenager. Ben left the shop while he pursued his degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of Michigan. After he received his degree he came back to work at the family business. He grew from a worker, to a project manager and now has become the Vice President of the business with the plan of one day taking on the family business.

Although the youngest of the Van Dam children does not work in the shop, she spent her fair share of time there growing up. Brie Van Dam spent many hours as a child at the Van Dam shop. She even learned the woodworking trade. Displayed in the shop you can find the wood kayak that she built, just like her father she paid attention to every detail and it came out as a great piece of art. Now living in Alaska, she is a scientist that is exploring the world.

You can even find Steve’s brother, Dave Van Dam, popping into the office to help out once in a while. Family is important to the Van Dam clan and you see this reflected in the way the business is run. If you were to ask any one of the employees at Van Dam Custom Boats I am sure you would hear that they feel as a part of the Van Dam family.

To learn more about the Van Dam Custom Boats family check out:



Giving Back

At Van Dam Custom Boats every employee is treated as a part of the family, why not expand this out into the community? It is important to give back to the community that you are a part of and Van Dam Custom Boats does not lack in this department.

Whether it is as simple as being apart of the Evenings at the Gazebo in Boyne City or to giving to the Grandvue Terrace and Recreation Park, Van Dam makes sure that its community is well taken care of. Jean Van Dam has always been a big supporter with her volunteer work. One of the big causes that she gets behind is that for the Raven Hill Discovery Center, a place where children and adults are given the opportunity to link science, nature and art with hands on activities. (You can check them out at ravenhilldiscoverycenter.org). Another important cause that Van Dam Custom Boats supports and that Jean Van Dam has been volunteering for, for many years, is the Women’s Resource Center in Petoskey. (See how you can give to the Women’s Resource Center at wrcnm.org).

These are just a few of the ways that Van Dam Custom Boats gives back. They are also activity sponsors for the Little Traverse Conservancy and for Boyne City Public Schools. Every bit counts, that is something that we must all pride ourselves in, giving back.

Tattler II: A Sandbagger Sloop

The sandbagger sloop is a sailboat that gained its popularity in the 19th century. Its intended use was that of a work vessel, but soon became used as a pleasure craft. The sandbagger was built modeling the shoal-draft sloops that were used for oyster fishing. The term sandbagger came from the sandbags that were shifted from side to side in order to gain the most power from the sails. The sandbags weighed up to 50 pounds. Gravel was actually used to fill the sandbags though so they did retain too much water.

These sailboats ranged from 20 to 30 feet in length and needed a crew of 10 to 15 men in order to sail. The sail areas were disproportionate to their size. The gaff-rigged main was on an extremely long boom and the jib on another very long bowsprit. These boats soon became popular for their racing. Many of these races had large sums of money staked on them. The men would get so competitive that sometimes during a race they would throw a sandbag overboard, or even a crew member!

In the late 1800’s a fleet of seven sandbagger sloops were well-known on Lake Geneva. Many of the wealthy Chicagoans would travel north to Geneva where they would spend the summer. Lt. General Phillip H. Sheridan was one that visited the area. When he wished to see a race first hand, money was collected and a trophy created. They raced around the lake, about a 16-mile race in total. This race became ever so popular in Geneva. By the turn of the century though, the sandbagger style was pushed out of popularity as various other styles began to appear.

It is the wish to reintroduce the sandbagger sloop to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with the Tattler II.

What is a Van Dam?

We say the world’s finest wood boats, but really, what is a Van Dam Custom Boat? A Van Dam is so much more than just a boat; it is an experience, a dream come true, and an heirloom to pass on to generations to come.

With the decision to have a Van Dam you are getting the very best in the business, the very best in the world! Whether you choose a powerboat or a sailboat, you will be on the water knowing that no one will ever have another boat like yours. With the Van Dam name you get custom designs, detail and passionate workmanship.

The use of modern construction techniques and an experienced team has allowed Van Dam Custom Boats to excel in quality, beauty and strength of each boat created. Because of this, they can be so confident in their product that they offer a lifetime warranty. How many other boats come with that backing it?

Customers are part of the team from the very start. With every twist and turn the customer sees the boat come to life, from the computer screen to being set on the trailer. The first-rate treatment is given upon walking in the door.

A Van Dam is a beautiful fusion of engineering and art. Every boat is a floating piece of art.