North-American shipyard Palmer Johnson, originally located in Great Lakes region of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, once belonged amongst major US builders. The company started as wooden yachts builder, now boasting a 100-year-long history. They launched such famous vessels, as Fortuna for the King of Spain, unrivalled in the terms of speed for 10 consequent years, and explorer Turmoil, sailing around the globe three times. Yacht Harbour takes a closer look at the company’s long history and where they arrived at today.
Palmer Johnson was founded by Hans Johnson and Herman Gmack in 1918, originally named Johnson and Gmack. During the 1920s, the boatyard made its specialty repairing rowing skiffs and commercial fishing vessels, with its first wooden yacht launched later in 1928.
The company went through hard and prosperous periods through its history, under different owners. Sometimes its activity was affected by international events, as well. For instance, when the United States entered the WWII, most American industries rallied around the war effort. During the war years, Palmer Johnson built over forty 45-foot air-sea rescue boats and four 65-foot “T” class freighters.
King Juan Carlos' Fortuna
In 1956 the company was sold and renamed after the founder’s son, Palmer Johnson. Starting from the 1960s, Palmer Johnson becomes one of the pioneers in the field of aluminium yachts building, with the first unit Isanti built in 1962 for an American banker.
Within five years, the company delivered the world’s largest aluminium sailing yacht of that time, a 25,6-metre ketch Firebird. Firebird was surpassed by Fortuna, a 30.5-metre yacht for King Juan Carlos of Spain, setting the record in 1979. She was capable of reaching an incredible speed of 46 knots, remaining the fastest yacht in the world for over a decade.
During 1989-1992, the company was extending its facilities; inaugurating new 7,000-square-metre facility at Jefferson Street and First Avenue and expanding to the East Coast.
In 1998, the same year Palmer Johnson celebrated its 80th anniversary, the company launched the largest all-aluminum yacht built in the USA, La Baronessa (59,5-metre LOA).
In 2003, following several unproductive years the company was sold to her current owner, English businessman Timur Mohamed, after he had purchased a 120-foot yacht christened Cover Drive.
Under his direction, Palmer Johnson introduced its SportYacht series in 2004, featured with contemporary exterior styling and interior design by Nuvolari Lenard. Launched during a peak of prosperity for yachting in general, the series becomes one of the most popular in the midsize superyacht segment.
In 2012, the shipyard announced its new carbon-fibre SuperSport performance superyacht series as a follow-up to its SportYacht series. Despite several deliveries, it couldn't quite replicate the initial success of the previous series partly due to a different economic climate.
However, in 2015 it was announced that the Sturgeon Bay shipyard would be closed and sold after delivery of its last boat. Since 2017, production was moved to the Netherlands, although it is for now unclear under what form that currently exists.
The company reported that the relocation had a strategic purpose to increase production of the new carbon SuperSport series. It was though rumoured that the move was inevitable as sales had diminished against escalating foreign competitive pressures. Some sources reported that the closures resulted in the loss of about 100 jobs.
One of the most recent yacht launched by Palmer Johnson, was 2016 sport yacht Sanam with LOA of 52,4 metres, the last one built within US facility. Following this, Palmer Johnson announced collaborations with Bugatti on a 66ft day boat and a day boat called the PJ63 Sport, clients for the projects, however, remain to be found so far.
Nonetheless, the company still announces ambitious projects. The largest one has been revealed recently, jointly with Korean designer Chulhun Park. The companies have presented new 229-meter superyacht concept Valkyrie. Time will tell if the concept is a sign of big things to come from an iconic brand.
The 85m explorer yacht Victorious has been launched at the AK Yachts facility in Turkey. This explorer, whose building process had been postponed for 14 years, can accommodate up to twenty guests in ten cabins and has a 200-square-meter beach club, gym, hammam and massage room. Powered by two Caterpillar (3512B) 1,495hp diesel engines, Victorious is capable of a top speed of 15 knots and cruises comfortably at 13 knots. Her interior was designed by the famous H2 Yacht Design (UK), andJonny Horsfield, the company’s founder noted “From starting a project to delivering some drawings and information to the shipyard could take 12 months on a normal build… we had to redesign the whole boat in three or four months.” AK Yachts was founded in 2017 in Turkey. Their main focus is building exceptional quality yachts with uncompromised value. Credits: H2 Yacht Design
April 9, 2021
Ocean Eco 90 Explorer is solar-assisted electric long-range cruiser with the added feature of extra space on the upper deck. At 27.5m, this yacht has an impressive 14m beam; the lower deck houses four cabins for guests and three for the crew.Her estimated cruising speed is 8–10 knots and top speed is 16–18 knots. See new images of the interior below.OE 90 main saloonOE 90 main saloon OE 90 master cabin OE 90 master cabinOE 90 master cabin at nightAlva Yachts was founded in Germany in early 2020 by Mathias May and Holger Henn. It was built on the former PICA yachts, which has launched more than 40 boats. Credits: Alva Yachts
April 9, 2021
The 300m scientific exploration vessel Earth300 has been presented by Iddes Yachts' founder Ivan Salas Jefferson and is equipped with 22 state-of-the-art laboratories and a “science sphere” on the aft deck. This giga yacht can accommodate more than 400 people, including 160 scientists, 20 experts-in-residence, 20 students, 40 VIP guests and 165 crewmembers.Of course, this futuristic yacht was designed for emissions-free sailing and will be powered by nuclear tech known as molten salt reactors (MSRs).The project is supported by an impressive number of partners, including IBM, RINA, Triton Submarines and EYOS Expeditions.Iván Salas Jefferson, the Iddes Yachts founder and naval architect, has worked for leading Dutch naval architecture studios such as De Voogt (Feadship) and the Oceanco bespoke superyacht builder. Iddes Yachts was founded in 2012 and offers experience project management services supported by the design and naval architecture studio.Credits: Iddes Yachts
April 9, 2021
The 52m Amels 180 Limited Editions Grace is going back to the shipyard in the Netherlands where she was originally built for a refit. Grace was delivered in 2009. Eleven years on and Grace is now returning to Vlissingen for a four-month refit which will see a number of works take place, including a technical upgrade, a complete hull respray and interior modification.“It’s wonderful to see Grace back at the yard,” says Damen Yachting Sales Manager Michel Coens, who knows the yacht well from her time at the yard during the original build. “Being able to welcome yachts and their crew from the fleet back to our yard is always a great honour. There is a real sense of pride in welcoming back one of our own and also having the opportunity to once again shape a yacht to the owner’s wishes.”Damen Yachting, a division within the Damen Shipyards Group, was created in 2019. The division combines the pedigree and heritage of Amels yachts with a growing portfolio of SeaXplorer yachts and Yacht Support vessels.Credits: Damen Yachting
April 8, 2021
The latest Pearl 62 has been delivered to its new owner in the UK. This unit, hull number 4, is the first with Kelly Hoppen’s Luxury interior design style. The Pearl 62 is available with either Luxury or Modern interior styles, both composed by world-class interior designer Kelly Hoppen MBE. The Pearl 62 is a family yacht. She has four guest cabins. The full beam owners’ cabin is accessed via a private stairway and features a large, centrally placed bed, a desk, a reading corner and his and hers closets. Two twin cabins can both convert to doubles. The VIP cabin is fore and has a large, centrally placed bed, a dressing table, his and hers storage and an en-suite with a walk-in shower.The saloon has large glazed areas that sweep upwards so that the interiors are bathed in natural light.The full-length flybridge is accessed via a staircase on the starboard side of the aft cockpit. This large and versatile space has a helm station with joystick controls and Garmin touch screens with controls for everything from the yacht’s anchor to its Fusion entertainment system. Next to the helms there is comfortable seating that can convert to become sun pads. A hardtop with an opening central section is optional, but a wet bar with a cool box, sink and BBQ grill is standard. Volvo IPS propulsion gives the Pearl 62 optimal performance and efficiency characteristics, while joystick controls with dynamic positioning system and an integrated Garmin touch-screen display make helming and accessing all of the yacht’s systems easy and intuitive.UK-based Pearl Yachts was founded in 1998 with the aim of designing a range of luxury motor yachts offering voluminous interiors, combined with opulence and design excellence. Pearl’s fleet consists of the all-new Pearl 62, the Pearl 80, and the Pearl 95.Credits: Pearl Yachts
April 8, 2021