Sea — August 2001
By Capt. Bill Pike
The Great Yacht Co-Op
|The Dutch build some of the savviest, most sophisticated vessels in the world. Why?|
I recently spent a week in Holland touring shipyards, traveling around the windmill-dotted countryside in a big, rented van with a polyglot bunch of marine journalists from places as diverse as Turkey, Italy, and New Zealand. During dinners there were so many languages flying about I sometimes felt like I was chowing down in a crowded restaurant at the top of the Tower of Babel. The trip was culturally broadening, of course, which is not a bad thing for a country boy who dwells amid the swamps and bayous of North Florida. But it was also enlightening from the standpoint of boatbuilding technology.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve gummed up innumerable sets of deck shoes in innumerable boat- and yachtbuilding plants, sheds, and barns in the United States and Europe while examining vessels made of fiberglass, steel, aluminum, wood, and combinations thereof. Certainly these experiences were instructive and impressive, albeit some more than others, but not a single one prepared me for what I saw in Holland–a whole pile of marine-related technological developments that went so far beyond what I’ve seen in other parts of the world, it darn near popped my synapses.
Some of the reasons
for this are obvious. To begin with, the Dutch are inveterate international
traders, and advancements in the realm of commerce generate advancements
in the realms of ship- and yachtbuilding, which cross-pollinate vigorously
in Holland. Also, both commercial and recreational seafaring are deeply
rooted in the Dutch psyche. Much of the land that constitutes Holland,
after all, was claimed from the sea by means of ingenuity, hard work,
and persistence. Moreover, the countryside is spider-webbed with canals,
lakes, bays, harbors, streams, and rivers, all teeming with vessels of
every conceivable description, from barges to yachts. In 13 years of traipsing
around the planet doing marine journalism, I’ve never seen as many
boats per capita as I saw in Holland. Almost everyone seems to have one.
Then, too, there’s the demographic slant. Because the Dutch live
in one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it’s
certainly possible that their enthusiasm for yachts and yachtbuilding
stems in part from the fact that the waterways seem to be the only places
left in the whole country where people can enjoy a semblance of solitude.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.