Fabulous Fabrications

Fabulous Fabrications

How one company’s ability to manage time, people, and details results in beautifully crafted yacht interiors.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler


 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Interior Construction
• Part 2: Interior Construction

 Related Resources
• Megayacht Feature Index

 Elsewhere on the Web
• J.S. Westhoff & Co.

Whether you are thinking of building a yacht or refitting one or are simply an admirer of them, there’s no getting around the fact that on both a technological and aesthetic level, these vessels are wondrous creations. As you can imagine, it takes an army of artisans, designers, technicians, managers, and others to build one of these beauties. And of course, lots of money.

One of the most important aspects of any megayacht project is creating the interior. That includes not only design and construction but also facilitating communication among owners, designers, naval architects, and the shipyard. Throughout construction, the yard works closely with the vessel’s project manager, most likely the captain but sometimes an individual assigned to the task by the builder. Either way, as the project begins to take shape, the resources of the yard, which may be involved with other projects as well, can become stretched thin, especially when the owner wants something special or even unique. At this point everyone involved may decide to call in an outside contractor with expertise in interior design and construction.

For example, the owners of a 140-foot, Palmer Johnson trideck wanted a double-helix stairway to access all three levels of the boat’s interior, a daunting task that presented design, fabrication, and installation problems. To keep the project on schedule and prevent the yard from having to pull personnel from other work, Palmer Johnson called on J.S. Westhoff & Company, one of the few firms in the world that specializes in yacht interiors.

“On a project like the Palmer Johnson trideck, we were able to construct the stairway according to the wishes of both owners and designers,” says Joe Westhoff, founder and president of the Lexana, Kansas-based firm. “And once we were done building it, it took us three days to put it up,” he adds. 

Since its creation in 1991, Westhoff’s firm has specialized mostly in large, land-based commercial projects, and he says that it was an easy jump from the terrestrial to the marine. “I saw an overlap in the yachting industry [in 1999] and started offering the kind of service not too many other firms were offering.” Since then, Westhoff has been involved in new construction and refits at Palmer Johnson, Northern Marine, Nordland, Swiftships, Pacific Mariner, and others.

When the firm is hired to do a complete interior, teams of veteran craftsmen led by a group of ten engineers first assess all drawings from the naval architect and break down the project into four phases, not only to streamline the work but also to better coordinate the project with the overall production schedule. Phase one involves reviewing the interior design plan with the naval architect, interior designer, and owners and/or project manager. “We go over everything they want inside the boat, including materials,” says Westhoff. Phase two involves developing a pre-engineering bulkhead layout and construction program to determine where everything goes.

Next page > Part 2: Knowing when to call in an outside expert can be crucial to getting a vessel launched on schedule. > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the April 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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