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Old 04-13-2013, 12:21 AM   #1
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Art Defever has passed...



Art DeFever - Cruisers & Sailing Forums
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Old 04-13-2013, 03:09 AM   #2
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Wow the boating fraternity has lost one of the great boat designers of our age.
His designs will live on and be greatly desired.
He will be sorely missed but leaves a great heritage.
Cheers
Benn
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Old 04-13-2013, 06:19 AM   #3
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Thank you Art! I enjoy your life's work everyday. I trust you to keep me safe and comfortable. Life is measured in deeds not days. RIP



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Old 04-13-2013, 07:38 AM   #4
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The last boat is a DeFever 60. I don't know how a boat's porportions can get any more perfect then that. I would cut off a leg for that boat!
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Old 04-13-2013, 08:52 AM   #5
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My favorite has always been the 49 RPH. I can't remember who (perhaps one of you) posted something about calling the DeFever office, and Art actually answered the phone. I think Art DeFever did what he loved to do, and it showed.
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Old 04-13-2013, 09:20 AM   #6
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My favorite has always been the 49 RPH. I can't remember who (perhaps one of you) posted something about calling the DeFever office, and Art actually answered the phone. I think Art DeFever did what he loved to do, and it showed.
When I bought my boat three years ago, I contacted the office through email and was surprised when he called me! I guess he doesn't do email. Then he snail mailed me some info I had been looking for.

I wish I could have met him in person.

Thanks, Art!
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Old 04-13-2013, 09:48 AM   #7
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I have spoken with Mr, DeFever at least ten times in the last 10 years. I have also met him in person at a DeFever Cruisers get together.

I also have a hand written letter where he tells me to never sell my boat, as it’s one of his favorites but I’ll bet he told that to all the girls.

RIP

Mike
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Old 04-13-2013, 11:20 AM   #8
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Yachts from Art's pen are still being built, many in fact. With no disrespect to Fleming owners, Tony Fleming and his group copied Art in the philosophy of not getting caught up in fashion but rather steadily improving a good model. Just as Tony did with the 55 for going on 20 years now, Art did with the 38, 44, 48, 49, 53 and 60 in their various stretched forms for many decades. He refused to get caught up in cored FRP hulls for trawlers fully well knowing the consequences of what happens 20 years down the road. Some well know builders castigated him for that, backtracking as the years went on.

Install a diesel heater or bow thruster and the thickness of the plug/layup is amazing even in his new boats as other trawler builders have gone to thinner hulls for "weight saving." I was reading a write up in P&MY on the new GB 43 lamenting not one drawer in the guest stateroom, Art loved finding niches for drawers and lockers with gel coated bilges for storing stuff in hidden splendor. I can easily stow 15 cases of beer or wine in my bilges which in the PNW is a perfect place at 47 - 51 degrees. He even knew about that trick with 12 oz can height included in much of the floor and under drawer design.

Southern CA has spawned many great boat designers and still does, Art showed the way. The high demand for his vessels, old and new speaks volumes. RIP.
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Old 04-13-2013, 11:30 AM   #9
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This is one of the many reasons I love/ trust DeFever. That is from the aft cabin roof.

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Old 04-13-2013, 01:35 PM   #10
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I'm sad to hear this, although I suspected that he might have been in ill health since I noticed his personal boat was for sale.

My boat, Island Eagle, was designed by Art. Shortly after buying her in 2003, I had a few questions and I got in touch with Art. He was most generous with his knowledge, and over the next few years I met with him several times when I was in San Francisco on business. At one point we had serious discussions of my writing a biography of him, and as I result I spent many enjoyable days interviewing Art and some of his friends and family.

Although the book project never came to fruition, I can say without a shred of doubt that Art was one of the most interesting people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Born during World War I, dropped out of college during the Depression, designer and builder of a good-size suburban subdivision in San Pedro, naval architect at a major shipyard, direct supervisor of over 10,000 men during World War II, good friend of Howard Hughes (he helped get the Spruce Goose launched)... and that was all before the age of 25!

I think that his role in the design and construction of offshore cruising power vessels has actually been minimized compared to what it actually was. In the mid-1950s, a group of Southern California yachtsmen created the Offshore Cruising Society, the idea being to adapt the design of fishing vessels for pleasure boating. These men included the largest Cat dealer in California, the head of RAND Corp., the cofounder of Hanna-Barbera, the owner of the first Ford dealership west of the Mississippi. From this group came half a dozen boats, all of which are still cruising.

My boat, Island Eagle, was launched in San Diego in 1964, and in an amazing bit of coincidence the drawings were done, by Art, the day I after I was born.

Here she is, in Princess Louisa Inlet, looking the way a cruising boat should look:
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Old 04-13-2013, 02:03 PM   #11
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DeFever's design inspired Anerican Marine's Alaskan series in wood. When Tony Fleming, who managed the American Marine yard for a few years, left to start his own boat manufacturing company, he "took" the Alaskan design with him and based his own boat on it, which he still does today. That basic deFever design embodied in such boats as the Alaskan 49, the deFever 46, and the Fleming 55 is to me the best recreational boat design on the planet.

Art deFever had the best sense of vessel aesthetics for cruising boats of every designer out there, past and present, in my opinion.
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Old 04-13-2013, 02:22 PM   #12
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Island Eagle is one fine looking boat!

Whenever I spoke to Mr. DeFever on the phone he made me and my little boat feel like the most important subject in the world.

At DeFever Cruiser rendezvous he was the most approachable person at the event.

Even though my boat was marketed by PassageMaker Yachts, a division of Jensen Marine, as the DeFever 40, Mr. DeFever would always refer to it as the 38.

When a friend of mine and I set up a grid to make measurements for a lines drawing, we discovered it was 38 ft.

It’s almost exactly the same as the wood 38 as built by the Oriental boat company in Japan. Just a few small changes to accommodate frp tooling.

It was his first glass production boat.

Mike
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Old 04-13-2013, 02:36 PM   #13
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DeFever's design inspired Anerican Marine's Alaskan series in wood. When Tony Fleming, who managed the American Marine yard for a few years, left to start his own boat manufacturing company, he "took" the Alaskan design with him and based his own boat on it, which he still does today. That basic deFever design embodied in such boats as the Alaskan 49, the deFever 46, and the Fleming 55 is to me the best recreational boat design on the planet.
Actually, this is not quite accurate.

Art designed the Alaskan 46 under his own name in the mid-1960s, and he contracted with American Marine to produce it as the "DeFever Alaskan 46". For the first several years, this is the name it was sold under. At the time, American Marine was producing boats for a number of different companies.

In the early 1970s, American Marine decided to expand, and among many different ventures it acquired the Alaskan business from Art, making a number of contractual promises to him. Sadly, due to a number of factors American Marine went bankrupt about 1975. The remains were bought by Grand Banks, who moved to Singapore.

In the meantime, American Marine wanted some larger Alaskans, but since they did not want to pay royalties to Art, they turned to another naval architect, Dair Long, for the Alaskan 49 and 53. Art successfully sued them, but by the time he won American Marine had gone belly up. Art emerged with the name Alaskan and the rights to the boats, which was one of the reasons that the new Grand Banks stopped producing the Alaskan series.

As for Tony Flemming, I was told by Art that Tony build his first Flemming for an owner of a Defever 52, a pilothouse trawler built by Oriental Boat Company (OBC) in Japan. According to Art, this was one of the first boats Tony had designed, and Art claimed that Tony copied the 52 basically down to the inch.

Finally, the owner of the OBC was finding that wages in Japan were to high, and he looked around the area for a better locale. After a bit of work, he settled on Taiwan, and he and Art were pioneers in the entire Taiwan boatbuilding industry. The first boat they built there was the DeFever 49, an updated version of the old Alaskan 46.

As an aside, this is why Art was able to market "Grand Alaskans", and why GB was not able to sell "Alaskans" but had to sell "Aleutians".

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Old 04-13-2013, 02:44 PM   #14
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Interesting info Scott, thanks much. American Marine actually put together their Singapore yard in 1972 or perhaps even earlier. They built in wood there initially, just as they were doing in their still- operating Kowloon yard. But the Singapore yard was much larger and gave them the space to set up molds for producing the Grand Banks in fiberglass.

The molds were designed and built by Howard Abbey and the first fiberglass GB36 (hull number 360) came out of them in mid-1973. Abbey directly supervised the hull layup of every GB until he left the company in 1974 as he could see the company had overextended itself and was headed for financial trouble.

The Kowloon yard continued to build in wood for a few more years and then it was closed or sold and all American Marine operations were consolidated in Singapore.

Interestingly, American Marine kept a tight lid on their preparations to switch the GB line to fiberglass. This was pretty easy to do as the media was not the omnipresent, invasive eye that it is today. They did this because they knew a lot of people were still suspicious of fiberglass back then and they didn't want people damaging the boat's reputation with negative speculation about fiberglass until they a production glass boat for people to see.

This " keep it quiet" campaign was so successful that when the first reporter from a major boating magazine was invited to Singapore to examine and test drive "an improved" GB36 he assumed he was going to see a wood boat. He'd actually been on board for a few minutes before he realized the boat was glass.
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Old 04-13-2013, 02:57 PM   #15
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Island Eagle is one fine looking boat!
Thanks!

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Whenever I spoke to Mr. DeFever on the phone he made me and my little boat feel like the most important subject in the world. At DeFever Cruiser rendezvous he was the most approachable person at the event.
Yes, he was a remarkably unpretentious man. However, he was also a hell of a tightfisted businessman. In an industry that attracts more than a faiir share of dreamers, Art was first and foremost in the business to make money.

The other thing that most people don't know is that in the 1970s and 1980s he designed a number of superyachts, including Paiminusch (Feadship - Royal Dutch Shipyards), LAC II (The 45m Feadship Motor Yacht NOBLA - Charterworld Superyacht and Luxury Yacht Charters) and Southerly. He was the first NA to put a helipad on a yacht.

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Even though my boat was marketed by PassageMaker Yachts, a division of Jensen Marine, as the DeFever 40, Mr. DeFever would always refer to it as the 38.
Just as an aside, Art's in-house design numbering system was "Year-Length", so that's how he referred to almost all of his designs, I think that yours was "70-38". Unfortunately he did not have a database of all of his designs.


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It’s almost exactly the same as the wood 38 as built by the Oriental boat company in Japan. Just a few small changes to accommodate frp tooling.

It was his first glass production boat.
I think that it was originally produced on the East Coast, then the molds were sold to Jensen and it was produced in Coast Mesa. Not sure, but I think that maybe those molds were then shipped to Taiwan.

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Old 04-13-2013, 03:03 PM   #16
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Interesting info Scott, thanks much. American Marine actually put together their Singapore yard in 1972 or perhaps even earlier. They built in wood there initially, just as they were doing in their still- operating Kowloon yard. But the Singapore yard was much larger and gave them the space to set up molds for producing the Grand Banks in fiberglass.
I don't know if you have a copy, but Nautical Quarterly had an in-depth article on American Marine which covers this time period in extensive detail.

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The Kowloon yard continued to build in wood for a few more years and then it was closed or sold and all American Marine operations were consolidated in Singapore.
Actually, I am virtually certain that the yard was taken over by (Victor?) Kong, who had been the yard foreman, who along with (Lars?) Halvorson started Kong & Havorson / Island Gypsy. Early K&H/IGs are virtual knockoffs of GBs.

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Old 04-13-2013, 03:15 PM   #17
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Actually, I am virtually certain that the yard was taken over by (Victor?) Kong, who had been the yard foreman, who along with (Lars?) Halvorson started Kong & Havorson / Island Gypsy. Early K&H/IGs are virtual knockoffs of GBs.

Scott Welch
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You could be right. I. Have always thought that Kong and Halverson set up shop somewhere else in the area and were operating while AM still had the Kowloon yard. The AM Kiwloon yard was very small-- I have some photos of it-- and it would have been very difficult to set up hull and superstructure molds on the property which was part of the motivation for AM to open the Singapore yard.

So far as I know K&H produced in glass from the outset but I could be wrong about that.

Kong's son, Shing Kong, has a GB and was active on the GB owners forum providing a lot of direct observation history from that period. I'll go back through the archives and see what he says about the creation of K&H.
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Old 04-13-2013, 03:24 PM   #18
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So far as I know K&H produced in glass from the outset but I could be wrong about that.
Definitely not. They produced a 32' in wood, I personally looked at a 68' in wood when I was looking for Island Eagle, and there is a beautiful cold-molded 72' K&H for sale near you: 1980 Kong & Halvorsen kong & halvorsen kong and holversen Power Boat

The 68' I looked at was built in 1977 and truly suptuous. Wall-to-wall teak, bathtub in the master, the whole nine yards. The bilges were bone-dry and flawless.

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Old 04-13-2013, 03:37 PM   #19
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Some minor DeFever history

Scot,

I just reread “Art DeFever - the man and his boats” from the winter 1998 issue of PassageMaker magazine.

Island Eagle was mentioned, ane the writer says that he and DeFever walked over to the yard where IE was being worked on.

Same boat?

I tracked down the production line manager for the DeFevers built by Jensen. He told me that originally the idea was to have the 40 built in Taiwan, import them into the US and sell them thru Jensens large Cal and Ranger dealer networks.

The warranty costs on the first two boats exceeded the selling price, so DeFever and Jensen cut a deal, and Jensen produced the tooling. Mr DeFever sued in the Taiwan court system to have the molds destroyed but, sunrise, surprise, the Taiwanese builder won.

Jensen built 132 40's, a much smaller number of 34's and a handful of the 48's.

When Bangor-Punta, and thereby Jensen, went belly up, the molds were sold to Downeast Yachts, who built another 20 or so. When Downeast went bankrupt, the molds were sold to a small MX yard that built around 5 or under the name Baja 40. When they closed, DeFever had the molds destroyed. He had always retained partial ownership in the molds. Like you say, a smart businessman.

Bob, whose last name escapes me at the moment, the line supervisor, told me that working with the sailboat side of Jensen was like pulling teeth. He said that it was easier to walk across the street and poach workers from Willard and WestSail than from the Jensen sailboat line. All it took was a dollar a hour raise.

Source - Mr DeFever, the production supervisor (who currently owns a boat dealership in Newport Bch. CA, and Bill French who ran the marketing operation for Jensen /PassageMaker.

Mike
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Old 04-13-2013, 03:55 PM   #20
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Island Eagle was mentioned, ane the writer says that he and DeFever walked over to the yard where IE was being worked on.

Same boat?
Yes, 2 owners before me. Who are hopefully strung up on a yardarm somewhere, since they covered up a bunch of deck rot with Home Depot plywood, bondo and polyester resin. Wankers!

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I tracked down the production line manager for the DeFevers built by Jensen. He told me that originally the idea was to have the 40 built in Taiwan, import them into the US and sell them thru Jensens large Cal and Ranger dealer networks.
Makes sense. I'll gloss over the details, because it would take a book, but Art was about 50 years ahead of his time. He was the Steve Jobs of boats, and realized that he could sell the design without wasting capital building a boatyard. "DeFever" was in fact nothing but a brand, one he protected and promoted every single day.

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Jensen built 132 40's, a much smaller number of 34's and a handful of the 48's.
That sounds about right.

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When Bangor-Punta, and thereby Jensen, went belly up, the molds were sold to Downeast Yachts, who built another 20 or so. When Downeast went bankrupt, the molds were sold to a small MX yard that built around 5 or under the name Baja 40. When they closed, DeFever had the molds destroyed. He had always retained partial ownership in the molds. Like you say, a smart businessman.
Yep, a mighty smart businessman. As one of his associates told me, "No matter what happens you can be assured that Art will be looking out for Art.".

With the yards in Taiwan, things were pretty wild-west in the late 70s. However, two big things changed that: First, people started getting picky about what they were buying. Second, yards in Taiwan started becoming big businesses.

Art capitalized on this in a very clever way: he took great care to promote the "DeFever" brand. Then he went to the yards in Taiwan and basically said look, here's the scoop: if you put my brand on your boat, you'll make more profit even after you pay me my royalty than if you sell a boat under your own name. The yards realized that this was true, and started paying Art for every boat they produced. For the past thirty-five years that has been the DeFever model.

As I said, no different than Apple: "Designed in California", sold under a great brand, with the capital risk taken by the factories. Brilliant.

Scott Welch
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