We took time this month to visit Hebbeke Shipyard in Hoorn, Netherlands. The driver was a Factory Acceptance Test on our Explorer Yacht Tender. She
is 95% completed, and we were keen to see how she worked.
Four of us visited. Myself and son Rhys, from Manchester, Jeff and my friend John Johnson from London. I will report more on the tender in next week's Blog, but I wanted to say a little about Hebbeke for now.
The Dutch have a very active yacht-building industry from the big boys like Damen downwards. If there is a class of boat out there, they will make an example of it. They are organized but professional at the business, and perhaps, importantly, they love the sea. In my dealings with Hebbeke Shipyard, I have spoken to either Orm de Waart, the yard owner, or Geerten Lankelma, the Manager specific to this project. It is not hyperbole to say that their approach was clear and clean throughout the process; they may not have been the easiest to negotiate with, though we ended as we started on good terms.
Hebbek specializes in smaller-size planing hulls, mostly RIB-type designs from 10 through 20M LOA. Armed with that knowledge, we expected to see Search and Rescue craft, police tenders, and special forces equipment in production. We were not disappointed. Further, we saw hulls 20 years or older returning for annual overhauls. Customer loyalty does not happen accidentally. These hulls, especially the police craft, had obvious signs of the life they lead. These were hard-working boats no frills. One hull we looked at had a manually operated inflator on the transom. It's to assist in self-righting. The instruction label was upside down—a classic bit of forward-thinking.
Leaving the yard, I was saying goodbye to Orm. He was watching an older gentleman working. A press or an English Wheel on the shop floor below. "That's my father; he started this yard and, at 78, comes in daily." Says it all.
Our tender started as a specification from ourselves, and experiences of the tender fitted to XPM-001. She was designed and created by a company specializing in Police or Search and Rescue. Ice protection, dive doors, diesel propulsion ...... not toys. I think she will be up to the task ongoing.
We will show details of the Tender in next week's Blog. Until then, here is a taster.