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this book is dedicated to the many people who have been a part of the derecktor story; friends, family, customers, colleagues, and most importantly those who have worked at the yards — and built the boats.

Chapter One


On February 4, 1987, Stars & Stripes sailed into Australia’s Fremantle Harbor to the sound of fireworks after completing the final race of the America’s Cup nearly two minutes ahead of its rival Kookaburra III. News helicopters circled above. Fans popped bottles of champagne. And everyone cheered for skipper Dennis Conner and his crew, who had recaptured the oldest trophy in international sports for the United States. The momentum started building during the first race of the competition, weeks earlier, when strong winds gave Stars & Stripes a generous lead over the competition. Sports journalists were watching Dennis’ every move — he was competing for the first time after losing the America’s Cup to Australia four years earlier, in a historic defeat — but he did not appear worried, according to Motor Boating & Sailing magazine. “Pressure is defending the America’s Cup with a slow boat after 132 years,” Dennis said, referring to the 1984 America’s Cup race in Newport, Rhode Island. “I have a nice boat this time. I’m enjoying myself.” PREVIOUS PAGE The America’s Cup comes home to New York in a quintessentially American way — A parade on 5th Avenue.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

Paul Derecktor, who led the build of Stars & Stripes.

Built at Derecktor Shipyards in Mamaroneck, New York in just 86 days, Stars & Stripes was the culmination of decades of yacht building expertise, incorporating lessons learned from two previous versions built in the past nine months. For the first time in the history of the competition, designers used cutting-edge computer technology to inform their work, ultimately analyzing simulation data to determine the shape of the hull and keel. “We did some pretty innovative things in those 86 days,” President and CEO Paul Derecktor, then manager of the Mamaroneck shipyard, told the Westchester Business Journal. Employees worked around the clock, sometimes logging as many as 14 hours each day, and they made every minute count, Paul said. While part of the team sanded down sections of the boat, others


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

painted. The tight schedule meant they had to work in shifts, often continuing through the night. To make matters more complicated, the shipyard was also building the rival and America’s Cup semifinalist 12-meter yacht U.S.A., while maintaining top-notch security due to concerns of designs or strategy being leaked to opponents. Paul’s father, Robert “Bob” Derecktor, had started the shipyard in 1947 with a simple goal: to build the best boats in the world. In the following decades, he and Paul would establish a reputation for craftsmanship, professionalism and grit, and seek out new markets by expanding the business south (with two shipyards in Florida) and north (with yards in Rhode Island and Connecticut). Building on his record of success, Bob aimed higher with each new project, reaching for challenges increasingly bigger in scope and scale.

Valiant, built by Derecktor, was the last wooden 12-meter ever built.

Stars & Stripes was not Derecktor’s first attempt to build a boat capable of capturing the America’s Cup. In 1970, former New York Yacht Club Commodore Robert McCullough commissioned Valiant, designed by renowned naval architecture firm Sparkman & Stephens. It was the last wooden 12-meter contender ever built, before construction shifted to aluminum. Next came Mariner, built for the 1974 America’s Cup to a design by Britton Chance. Skippered by Ted Turner, and costing more than $1 million, Mariner garnered much attention and industry buzz — all of it laid out in the book “The Grand Gesture” by Roger Vaughan — but its performance did not live up to expectations. The New York Times called the yacht


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

“the million dollar mistake of the America’s Cup,” but Bob was not deterred. Since 1851, when a yacht named America sailed from New York to England, then defeated Britain’s fastest yachts in a race around the Isle of Wight, the U.S. continued to claim the Cup in each succeeding competition. Then, in 1983, an Australian yacht beat Dennis Conner’s boat, Liberty, during the race series in Newport, Rhode Island, sending shockwaves through the yachting world. With Conner and everyone who was anyone in the American yachting industry determined to recapture the trophy, there was a lot riding on the 1987 race.

Mariner, built by Derecktor, was the infamous 12-meter commissioned by Ted Turner.

From the beginning, Stars & Stripes was designed to do one thing: win. Led by the Sail America Foundation, a syndicate whose objective was to bring back the Cup, a team of designers worked for three years to maximize the boat’s efficiency and speed. They tested and evaluated multiple versions of Stars & Stripes before agreeing on the final design. “We put more structure in the deck, which made the boat stiffer,” remembered Paul Derecktor. “The change in structure from transverse to longitudinal framing increased hull stiffness fore and aft, allowing for greater headstay tension and better headsail shape — which meant improved performance — that’s one big reason why the boat won the America’s Cup.” That was not all. Stars & Stripes drew on the expertise of three star designers — Britton Chance, David Pedrick and Bruce Nelson — who mixed and matched different features to optimize performance. The boat’s winglets were small and thin while its low-drag upside-down keel had “a leading edge that bulges forward in a kind of Roman nose profile,” writer Guy Gurney explained in the April 1987 issue of Yachting Magazine. Much was made of Stars & Stripes’ winglet design — they were smaller than those of Kookaburra III — and Chance’s assertion that “you get less drag by putting more volume in the keel rather than in the winglets,” Gurney reported.

But is this what sealed the victory? “No boat could win in 1987 without being on the leading edge of technology,” according to Scientific American’s August 1987 issue. “But even such a boat could lose without a highly skillful crew.” The Sail America team determined early on that the 1987 America’s Cup would be as much a race between the sailors as a race between the computer programmers. In addition to boosting the boat’s performance while abiding by the rules governing the design of 12-meter yachts, they were faced with the impossible task of anticipating a host of unknown weather-related variables. The 1987 race would be the first America’s Cup held in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia, leading the team to dive deeply into weather data they would later use to overhaul the design of the boat. Looking at meteorological and oceanographic trends, they developed a computer simulation mirroring weather conditions expected in Fremantle during the races and analyzed how each part of the boat performed in this environment. Based on this research, Stars & Stripes’ designers decided to go with a longer hull and smaller sails, among other design adjustments. But years before the Sail America Foundation was using computer simulation to figure out how to make boats perform better in


Stars & Stripes under construction.



if there was a storm blowing on long island sound and it wasn’t the dead of winter, bob’s boat would be in the water.” — Charles “Butch” Ulmer

treacherous weather, Bob Derecktor was doing the same thing — in a more low-tech and traditional way. “If there was a storm blowing on Long Island Sound and it wasn’t the dead of winter, Bob’s boat would be in the water,” says Charles “Butch” Ulmer, a longtime friend of Bob’s who owned a sail making business on City Island. Bob would call him up and say, “Come on up, I want to go sailing.”

The two friends would go out in the middle of a storm, and Bob would walk around the boat and look at how everything was performing. How was the mast bending, and what was it doing to the sails? What could be done to improve how they worked? “He was constantly innovating on the boats and on the spars that he built and everything else,” Butch remembers. “Every time I sailed with him I learned something.”



Chapter Two

Bob Derecktor

Sometime in the 1930s when Bob was in high school, he designed a 26-foot sloop and built it in his family’s backyard in White Plains, New York — using oak for the frames, fir for the deck and pine for the mast. With the help of a friend, he sailed it to Nova Scotia for the summer. It was the first of many adventures Bob would embark on throughout his life. “I had never seen a boat built and had to depend on books and magazines for my information,” Bob told Popular Mechanics magazine in 1950, describing the design and building process. By the time Bob finished the boat some months later, he added, “the family realized they had a shipbuilder on their hands.” Spindrift, as the boat was named, was so well built, it was still sailing 25 years later, says Bob’s sister, Tinka Topping. She remembers how much time her brother spent reading about boat design and construction, and later studying different charts to plot his journey to Nova Scotia. “He knew what he was doing as a craftsman,” Tinka says. “And he loved challenges.” Tinka, who is three years younger than Bob, remembers her brother as a fearless sailor who valued a hard day’s work in the trades above any other pursuit. After he enrolled at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, she says during weekends, “he would walk to the nearest coal mining town, where he would hang out with what he called ‘real people.’” After a couple of years, Bob left college to focus on his passion. He built a 38-foot schooner and sailed it from New York to Baltimore, where he took a job at the Owens Boatyard, advancing quickly through the ranks to become foreman. Eventually returning to the New York area, he worked at the Edgar Johns Shipyard in Rye


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

The New York yard as it appeared in 1947.

and Minneford’s in City Island, building minesweepers designed to detonate underwater mines during World War II. Bob soon joined the war effort himself, enlisting in the U.S. Navy in the early 1940s. In 1947, shortly after returning from the Pacific, the young boatbuilder launched Robert E. Derecktor, Inc. on Boston Post Road in Mamaroneck, New York. With a talented crew which would continue to grow along with the company, he expanded the yard, following the evolution of the boatbuilding business — transitioning from wood to aluminum, from cruising boats to race boats, from sail to power, and then to larger yachts and commercial boats. A mercurial, quick-thinking leader who relied as much on his gut instinct as on his experience, he quickly became the go-to boatbuilder for the biggest names in business in New York and beyond. Bob, who often appears in photos with his trademark cap and suspenders was, by all accounts, the kind of person who could immediately command a room. “Bob would walk in with his suspenders, and it seemed like he was a magnet. Everybody would be quiet,” Tinka says, remembering Bob’s appearances at dinner parties held by their parents. “And he would start talking about some idea he had or conversation he had with (renowned architect and inventor) Buckminster Fuller (who Bob befriended later in life) about angles and so forth. And people were entranced, absolutely entranced.” Bob’s longtime friend, Archie Cox, Jr. — a fellow sailor and former chairman of Barclays Americas whose father served as special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal — describes him as “irascible,” the kind of man who would keep sailing through the heaviest storms.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

“I remember one time we were down in the Chesapeake doing the fall series on Salty Goose and one day it was so windy and cold and raining hard that they canceled the race,” Archie says. “Well, we went out and practiced anyway. I think we were the only boat that went out. And everyone thought we were nuts. We didn’t think we were nuts; we thought it was a great opportunity to practice in the heavy wind. But that’s typical Bob.”

Paul, who, along with his brother, Tom, grew up learning the boatbuilding trade at the Mamaroneck shipyard  — making plugs for wooden boats when they were as young as 5 or 6 — remembers his father as an innovator who was always sketching ideas on scraps of paper or bar napkins. Paul, Tom, sisters Barbara, Debbie and Elizabeth, and brother Bobby grew up sailing every weekend on Long Island Sound with their father and their mother, Jane. Paul and Tom later built careers in the shipbuilding industry. Paul took over various operations of the company in the 1980s and now leads

Bob Derecktor


The Derecktor Kids: Paul, Barbara holding Elizabeth, Bobby, Tom and Debbie.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

Derecktor as its President and CEO; Tom is founder of Derecktor Design, a company specializing in marine technology. Friends and colleagues remember Bob as a man who never seemed to sleep, always calling in the middle of the night with one idea or another. His designs were not limited to boats, but they were inspired by them — like the boat-shaped home Bob designed for his parents, or the wooden nautically inspired chairs still being used in the conference room in the Mamaroneck shipyard. Barbara, the oldest of the Derecktor kids, recalls her father’s determination to teach her and her siblings the importance of work over what he considered to be less constructive pursuits. “One time, when I was around 13 or 14, on the day after Halloween, Dad was unhappy with how late I’d returned home the night before — and the news that I’d been out with a boy! Well that was it for him. He hauled me down to the yard with him and made me sit by myself in the front of the shop, where I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. I had to sit and watch how people worked.”

When it came to boats, Bob was always looking to improve efficiency and figure out if something could be tweaked. In building his 54foot yacht Salty Goose for her debut in the 1973 Southern Ocean Racing Conference, he created what the New York Times called “an anomaly among sailboats.” The aluminum boat had rather straight sides, a rounded, low-resistance hull and retractable keel, as well as a feature radical at the time: a reverse transom. Ken Imondi, longtime General Manager at Derecktor’s Dania Beach shipyard and a protege of Bob’s, says he was fascinated by a comment Bob once made. “Bob would say to me, ‘people think I’m a genius; I’m not a genius. I just think about things a lot,’” Ken remembers. “And he would — he would think about the same thing over and over and over and then he would draw a sketch and draw the sketch again and think about it again, and get people’s opinion until he found out exactly what it is he wanted.” When it came to his leadership style, Bob was as generous with his employees as he was exacting.

Bob Derecktor


bob would say to me, ‘people think i’m a genius; i’m not a genius. i just think about things a lot.’” — Ken Imondi

“I was kind of a pencil for him,” says Gavin Higgins, who started working for Bob in the 1980s, shortly after finishing naval architecture school, and stayed for the next two decades. “He would sketch out an idea, I would draw it up, he would come in and sort of lick his thumb and wipe the paper and that would straighten out what he liked or didn’t like on the drawings. And I would trace over that again.” Gavin, now CEO of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, Washington, says Bob “would give you room to hang yourself,” but this ended up being a valuable learning experience. While Bob could at times be a critical, demanding boss, he “was very clear about where the true strengths of the company were,” Gavin adds. “They were always in the people working for him.”

One of the qualities Bob valued most in his employees was technical skill, whether this applied to woodworking, plumbing, welding or another trade. For those who make a living in or around the water, it’s easy to see why. “The marine environment is the toughest environment there is on the planet. And building boats and repairing them so that they’re going to survive no matter what — I think that’s been the overall driver,” Tom Derecktor says. “Failure is not an option in the ocean.” Or in the Great Lakes, as prominent real estate developer Larry Silverstein learned firsthand in 1981. Larry, who is known for rebuilding the World Trade Center complex after 9/11, among other high-profile Manhattan projects, had just picked up a brand new 76-foot motor yacht from Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc,

Bob Derecktor


Wisconsin and decided to cruise it to New York via Lake Erie when he and his crew were caught in a bad windstorm while on a dock. “It slammed the boat repeatedly against some steel pilings, which caused the hull to collapse at the point of impact with these pilings, and the collapse broke the cap rail and made such a mess with it,” Larry says. “I just couldn’t conceive of how this could ever be repaired.” But when Larry called Derecktor Shipyards in Mamaroneck, Bob Derecktor just said “Larry, don’t worry about it,” he remembers. “It’ll be as good as new when I finish with it.”


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

Chapter Three


In the 1980s, when Harry Macklowe — another New York real estate giant, known for reshaping the Manhattan skyline with ultramodern, minimalist skyscrapers — wanted to build a boat matching his taste in art and architecture, he knew Derecktor Shipyards would successfully translate his vision into a sleek and powerful 71foot sailing yacht. “I think building a boat is an art. It’s all based on arithmetic and science and Bernoulli’s principle, but the execution of it is an art,” Macklowe, who draws inspiration from the Bauhaus art movement and the idea that form follows function, says. “The client on a custom boat is anxious to build the boat of his dreams. And a good boat builder is very enthusiastic about that.” To build Unfurled, Harry and his team set up an office in the loft at Derecktor Shipyards, where he worked closely with Paul Derecktor,

production manager Eduardo Ingles, and designer David Pedrick to create a yacht with a low, streamlined exterior and a contemporary interior large enough to accommodate eight people. Harry also insisted on adding a winged keel after Australia II won the 1983 America’s Cup. Harry calls the America’s Cup “a crucible for innovation” in the yachting world. “It’s always, ‘Why not? Not why,’” he says. “The sponsors of the America’s Cup, the participants, are always willing to experiment, and Derecktor is very eager to help that experimentation and add to it.” From its early days, Derecktor Robert E. Derecktor, Inc. captured the attention of seasoned yacht customers in the New York City area, which in the years following World War II was home to as many as 20 shipyards. Today, Derecktor is the only one left.


The New York yard as it appeared during the height of Dereckor’s wooden sailboat era.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

“Bob knows as much about boats as any man on the coast,” proclaimed Popular Mechanics Magazine in its August 1950 issue, featuring the recently established shipyard. The article praised Bob’s passion for woodworking and lauded the superior boatbuilding skills he had picked up working in shipyards for much of his youth. Building exclusively out of wood in those days, Bob used mahogany for the trim and the hull, oak for the frames, and cedar for planking. “There’s always a beautiful smell when boats are being built out of wood,” says Don O’Keeffe, who got his start at Derecktor as a boat designer in the 1960s. “And you can hear the cry of the machines and the planes as they run over it.” Although he left Derecktor about five decades ago, Don, now chief designer for Burger Boat Company, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, says he can still remember almost all of his colleagues by name — from the bookkeeper to the cleaning man to the uniquely talented loftsman who drew the plans for the boats directly on the loft floor. After George Runco translated the blueprint into full-size drawings, the boat would begin to take shape. “It was an intimate place where you all worked together and there was a harmony about it,” Don says, adding that the collaborative spirit was vital to the company’s success. The shipyard became something of a gathering place for the yachting elite. As mentioned earlier, Robert McCullough, the New York Yacht Club Commodore chose Derecktor to build an America’s Cup contender — and he was not alone among yacht aficionados in seeking out Derecktor. Avard Fuller, President of the Fuller Brush Company, commissioned the 61-foot light-displacement ocean cruiser Jim Hawkins, an innovative yacht still inspiring designers to this day. Ted Turner, the businessman and Atlanta TV station owner One of the more unusual boats to come out of Derecktor, Jim Hawkins was an innovative and efficient passagemaker.



who launched a media empire, was a fixture at Derecktor Shipyards during the 60s and 70s. Bob developed a reputation for catering to the rich and famous, prompting the New York Times, in 2002, to nickname the yard “The Billionaires’ Boat Maker.” Every project would begin with a discussion about what the client wanted and how Bob and his staff could make it happen. Don O’Keefe remembers going to Greenwich, Connecticut on several occasions to meet with J. Burr “Joe” Bartram, another former NYYC Commodore credited with reenergizing the America’s Cup. In 1965, Joe led the syndicate that financed Intrepid, an innovative 12-meter yacht which successfully defended the America’s Cup in 1967 and 1970. Now he was interested in having Derecktor build a power yacht for his personal use. “Joe would call me and say to come up to his house for a drink before supper some evening,” Don remembers, “and he would share ideas with me.” Don would then take Joe’s suggestions, add his own ideas and draw up a few sketches, and go back and forth a few times with Joe to determine the appearance of the boat, number of cabins, placement of crew’s quarters, and the seating area. Oftentimes, Don would make a miniature boat to show the client before the final design was transferred to the lofting floor. “Finally, the frames would be made from molds taken off the floor, and the boat would be erected down on the main floor below the loft there.” One of the boats to come out of these discussions was Joe’s 71-foot yacht, Exact, built in 1973. Don remembers it as an “odd sort of mix,” with tall deckhouses and upright windows in the pilothouse. “The

hull itself underneath was what they call ‘a deep V.’ So it was sort of a fast boat, even though it didn’t have the appearance of a fast boat.” By the 1990s, Derecktor was building almost exclusively in aluminum, and it was building increasingly bigger boats to keep pace with the demands of the industry. In 1993 the yard started building her biggest yacht to date, the 114-foot MITseaAH, complete with four staterooms, a piano in the main salon, and a sophisticated computer system — a rare feature for boats of that time. The boat continues to draw accolades from design enthusiasts who praise her attractive styling and interior. She left a lasting impression on the Derecktor employees who worked on her, among them electrician Domingos Fernandes. “It’s the first time I did a PLC control box,” Domingos says, referring to the wiring that connected the boat to a computer. “So it’s complicated. And we had a tough time building that boat and making it work.” MITseaAH was among the first yachts ever to feature this type of advanced technology and the experience has stayed with Domingos to this day. He says he learned more from it than any other project he worked on in his 40 years at Derecktor. Originally from Portugal, Domingos was recruited by Bob on one of the frequent trips he took to interview, test, and hire promising craftsmen who had honed their skills in rigorous apprenticeship programs. “The majority of the boat builders that came here from Portugal trained on wood, and Bob understood and respected their skills and


The 114-foot MITseaAH, launched in 1993 garnered world-wide plaudits. Boat International called her “what many are rating as the best yacht to be built in America in some years” while Showboats International awarded her their ‘Years Best’ title, proclaiming “she simply does everything right.”


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard


Eduardo Ingles, longtime production manager in NY, was one of many Derecktor employees to come from Portugal and have a lasting effect on the company and its culture.

he was able to adapt their skills to build out of aluminum,” says Steve Drago, Production Manager at the Mamaroneck shipyard, adding that Derecktor was a pioneer among U.S. shipyards in building boats out of aluminum. In addition to having the unique capability to adapt their craft to any medium, the craftsmen Derecktor hired from Portugal were cross-trained to be able to work in any trade — whether it was woodworking, plumbing, or welding. Many, including Bob Derecktor, would credit the success of the company to the skill and dedication of its workforce, whose versatile staff could transition seamlessly between projects, from sailing and racing boats, to military and commercial vessels, to — in recent years, hybrid construction. For employees, some of whom have marked 30, 40 or even 50-year anniversaries at the company, the recipe was simple: challenging work, fair pay, and a sense of teamwork.

But there was also a culture of accountability built into the structure of the company from its early days. Back in the 60s and 70s, Roseanne Cicchiello, who was Derecktor’s executive secretary for decades, would walk around with a notebook, asking every one of the employees what they worked on that day, and for how many hours. “That was a terrific record to keep,” Don says, reminiscing about the early days of the shipyard. “The next day, you couldn’t say you did the same thing—because you had already recorded you did that yesterday.” “It’s a tough thing to be asked, ‘What did you do all day?’”



Chapter Four


Fast forward to the 1980s in Middletown, Rhode Island — where Derecktor’s newest shipyard was employing some 1,000 people — and the accountability scenario shifts from productivity to nutrition. Every day, a big catering truck would come by the shipyard, tempting employees with the aroma of freshly cut French fries, Ken Imondi remembers. Employees could smell the grease from half a mile away, and start lining up for their deep-fried fix. “But one day there were no french fries,” Ken says, and employees began to complain. “Bob said, ‘no more.’ They’re not healthy for you,” Ken recalled. The health conscious Bob, who certainly would have known nutrition has a direct impact on productivity, had recently undertaken his biggest project yet in the Middletown shipyard. Some might have called it audacious, signing up to build nine 270-foot cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard with no prior experience doing anything close to this scope and scale, but Bob had reason to be confident. Since the 1970s, business had been good, as the yachting industry expanded due to a growing appetite for more and bigger yachts. The ongoing success of the 17-acre shipyard in Dania Beach, Florida, established in the mid-1960’s, and booming business in Mamaroneck — where the yard had already built dozens of notable yachts and was about to start work on patrol boats for both the U.S.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

One of the tugs built for the U. S. Army, under construction in Rhode Island.

Navy and the Venezuelan National Guard — all left Bob eager to tackle new things. The Coast Guard project, by far the company’s most ambitious to date, faced challenges right off the bat. Mark Donahue, who traveled to Washington, D.C. to deliver Derecktor’s bid to the U.S. Coast Guard — a number so low, he remembers, there was a gasp in the room when it was read aloud — would spend the next few years dealing with paperwork and red tape. In addition, the Coast Guard cutters would be built on a former Navy base with its own set of problems. On top of all that United Steelworkers union workers were on strike. “It was ugly. I mean, they were putting nails out and tires were getting flattened,” Mark remembered. “They actually had a picket line set up while the Coast Guard was there for our pre-award survey.” By the time Gilbert Melo started working in Middletown as a woodwork supervisor in 1986, construction was well underway and the yard was humming with activity. Gilbert, a woodworker who had immigrated from Portugal’s Azores Islands and prior to Derecktor spent a decade working on composite boats, remembers walking through the shipyard on the day of his interview, dwarfed by giant modules of ships and moving cranes. Gilbert says he was fascinated by the assembly process and wanted to figure out how it worked, so, when Bob offered him the job, he took it immediately.

For the next 25 years, Gilbert would rise through the ranks and earn Bob and Paul’s trust for his honesty, candor, and integrity — and for occasionally pushing back against his boss. “Bob told me that he had a lot of respect for me,” he says, “that I was not afraid to stand up to him and put my job in jeopardy for the right reason.” One of the biggest challenges of working on such a large-scale project was finding the appropriate equipment, while training staff to do the specialized work was another, says Mike Fehn, a master machinist who had worked on many large projects before coming to Derecktor. Each of the cutters needed propulsion systems, shafts, and propellers, steering mechanisms, and other major parts — and the pieces needed to be made in duplicate to maximize productivity. Bob ended up getting the work done with machinery imported from Europe, some of which had been used during World War II to build warships, and precision was key. This is where Mike’s intensive training in a 1940s-era machine factory in Esslingen, Germany proved useful. “I was good at making setups that are productive and repetitive,” Mike says, who began his apprenticeship with a master machinist in Esslingen at the age of 14, learning not only to make parts in a machine, but to make the grinding, drilling, and forging tools as well. “That was the key in everything: make something that you can make one and the next one comes out the same, the same, the same.”


USCG cutters, along with a Staten Island ferry, under construction in Rhode Island.



The nine Coast Guard cutters — Famous-class vessels designed for a variety of law enforcement, search-and-rescue, and military missions, and equipped with the latest technology and a helicopter deck — are still in commision today. But unfortunately the Middletown shipyard closed in 1992, following labor and political problems. Around the same time, Derecktor was beginning to build a new type of vessel in New York — high speed ferry boats. This development would have lasting effects on the New York yard, and lead to Derecktor’s expansion into Connecticut. Paul Derecktor and his lifelong friend John Koenig had started a ferry company to respond to New York City’s request for proposals to bring high-speed (defined as a service speed of over 30 knots) ferry service to New York Harbor. The company, New York Fast Ferry, would build two big fast ferries with the capacity to carry up to 350 passengers and

travel at speeds of up to 36 knots. The boats represented a milestone for Derecktor and for the ferry business in New York City. “Before our boats, Bravest and Finest, there had been no genuine high-speed ferry service in New York,” Koenig said. “They helped usher in a new era for the harbor, and for Derecktor.” By 2005 things were also booming on the waterfront in Bridgeport, Connecticut as well, where Derecktor scaled up its construction of commercial vessels, building a pair of 238-foot ferries for the Alaska Highway System, two 124-foot ferries for the government of Bermuda, and a number of other commercial vessels with a wide variety of missions. “Personally, I really have enjoyed working in the commercial market, because it’s an aspect of business where you’re building boats that are


The New York Fast Ferry vessels Finest and Bravest brought true high-speed ferry service to New York harbor and propelled Derecktor to a prominent role as a builder of fast ferries of many types.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

fit for purpose — to go to work,” Gavin Higgins says. “They are used daily by people to make their living on and, consequently, it’s kind of a two-sided relationship; the boat has to perform to be able to work, and then the boat has to look after the people working on it. So safety is an enormous side of our lives as well.” Finest and Bravest, for example, are continuing their service after more than two decades and show no signs of slowing down. The ferries have since relocated from New York — Finest to Washington State and Bravest to Alaska. “The boats keep running,” Gavin says. “The routes may change, but they keep running.” The Connecticut shipyard may have started out building ferries, but the megayacht Cakewalk, launched in 2010, remains the yard’s breakthrough accomplishment, as well as a significant milestone in the history of the company — and in American yacht building. The 281-foot vessel came complete with a spa, theater, game room, gym, and dining table with seating for 16. It is the largest yacht by tonnage and volume ever built in the United States. “It was an extraordinary project,” Gavin says. “It was a difficult time for many reasons. The economy was obviously upside down. But it was a huge growth stretch for the yard as we jumped from building yachts in the 120-foot sort of scale to yachts of 270280 feet.” In fact, while Cakewalk would be over two times the length of those previous boats, it would be more than 20 times the volume — the true indicator of size.

Paul Derecktor, Gavin Higgins and a colleague chat by one of the Alaska ferries.


Fairweather, one of the two passenger and vehicle ferries built for the Alaska Marine Highway System.



Paul and Tom Derecktor.

At one time, there were as many as 400 people working on Cakewalk, says James Brewer, who managed the second part of the project, beginning in 2009. At the same time the boat was being built, a separate team led by Tom Derecktor worked on a launching strategy, which included modification of a floating dry dock to accommodate a vessel as large as Cakewalk.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

“One has to bear in mind that a yacht of this size is essentially a floating city,” James says. “It makes its own water, disposes of its own waste, it creates its own electricity, all while providing the hospitality of a five-star hotel. All that is done on a platform that is able to cross oceans.”

Cakewalk, the largest yacht ever built in the United States.

Chapter Five

Dania Beach

While many in the shipbuilding industry were still reeling from the global financial crisis in 2012, Derecktor Shipyards bet on the future — investing in a 900-ton mobile boat hoist for its Dania Beach yard. It was one of the largest mobile boat lifts in the world, and its tremendous capacity and efficiency for hauling and moving large yachts made the yard the destination for service on the East Coast. The huge machine, which enabled Derecktor to handle the increasingly larger superyachts beginning to dominate the Fort Lauderdale market, epitomized the same spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking the company had embodied since its early days. More often than not, each challenge taken and obstacle surmounted laid the foundation for Derecktor’s next opportunity. The company came to the Fort Lauderdale area in 1965 after Bob Derecktor was urged by clients to expand to Florida to service their boats when they came south for the winter. Bob bought a 17-acre plot on the Dania cut-off canal, and from this raw land, created the facility known today as Derecktor Dania Beach.

Although the shipyard built a boat or two in the 1960s and 70s, it rapidly became known primarily as a destination for service, refit, and repair. In those early years, the yard was a hub for cruising and, in particular, racing sailboats (which gathered in South Florida each winter for the legendary Southern Ocean Racing Conference). As both the facility and size of yachts grew steadily in recent decades, the yard earned a reputation for not only routine service but also extensive and complex refits on megayachts. Industry experts credit Derecktor with being a driving force in making the Fort Lauderdale area the yachting capital of the world, with a multi-billion dollar industry including marinas, hotels, restaurants, and a world-renowned boat show. What started in the 1960s as a small community of boatbuilders expanded over the next few decades, as boats grew from 60 or 70 feet to 300 feet or more, and construction materials evolved from wood to aluminum, steel, and composite. “Derecktor has been there pretty much every step of the way, delivering a really good customer experience, building boats up


The Dania Beach yard as it appeared in the 1970s.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

north, retrofitting boats here,” says Phil Purcell, President and CEO of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. “It has a skilled workforce there on the Dania Cut, and was one of the earlier yards there in terms of bringing boats from around the world to South Florida. Now, Derecktor is among a few significant shipyards in the area — along with Rybovich and Lauderdale Marine Center.” Phil, whose association organizes the annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the world’s largest in-water boat show, says the area has been a destination for famous yachts — and their sometimes more famous owners  — for many years, thanks in large part to yards like Derecktor and the skilled service they offer. Harry Macklowe, a longtime client who continues to have his yachts serviced in Dania Beach, says he relies on Derecktor because of its experience and commitment to quality. “It’s not simply a job with them. They have a knowledge and an intimacy with the boat and its systems,” Harry says. “So when you go to them, you don’t have to start all over again; you’re going to a doctor or a general practitioner who really understands the patient.” Larry Silverstein, who is currently on his fifth yacht — the 180-foot Silver Shalis — has been a Derecktor client for decades, frequenting both the Dania Beach and the Mamaroneck shipyards. “There’s always maintenance on a boat, always something that needs attention,” Larry says. “We’ve been boating now for well over 50 years. And Derecktor has been involved in each one of our boats in a very major way. It’s been a terrific relationship.”

From servicing his 43-foot Matthews to his 53-foot Hatteras to an earlier Silver Shalis, a 130-foot motor yacht built by Abeking & Rasmussen, Larry says he has continued to return to Derecktor in large part because each yard is uniquely qualified to handle complicated, out-of-the-ordinary jobs. Driven by three water jets, “the Abeking [was] not an ordinary boat,” Larry says. “The only people we could really trust that with were Bob and his yard.” As a family-owned business, Derecktor has maintained a continuity of service appealing to longtime clients who remember working with Bob, and eventually with Paul, as well as with a number of employees who have been with the company for decades. As Derecktor grew and expanded up and down the East Coast, Bob developed capable leaders to manage the various yards  — leaving Paul to manage Mamaroneck and the experienced duo of James Brewer and Ken Imondi to run Dania Beach. James joined Derecktor in 1979 and worked there for 30 years, on and off, most recently directing business development in the Dania Beach yard. One of his main priorities during the peak of the season, from September to May, has been to stick to a strict schedule, having found the shipyard’s client vessels have no time to waste. During these busy months, the shipyard can service as many as 15 boats at once. A former competitive sailor in the international circuit, James says he counts Bob among his professional role models.


The Dania Beach yard in the 2020s.

Bob Derecktor


“His sense of quality, his work ethic, the way he dealt with trades people were very much no-nonsense,” James says. “He had very high standards and expected a lot of people but he also expected a lot from himself.” Ken, who started managing the Dania Beach yard after Bob’s death in 2001, echoed this statement. Ken began working with Derecktor in Rhode Island in the early 1980s and maintained a friendship with Bob after leaving the company to work at another shipyard in Virginia, before eventually coming to Dania Beach. Ken says Bob often asked him to interview prospective employees, or to fly down to Dania Beach to discuss projects he was planning. Sometimes, Bob would visit Ken in Virginia for the weekend. In the 1990s, Bob built a dry dock he was planning to place in Port Everglades near the Dania Beach yard, once it became clear the yard’s original 500-ton lift would no longer accommodate the new breed of megayachts. The dry dock was built from the sister ship of

the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the ore carrier that sank in Lake Superior during a storm in 1975, drowning everyone on board and becoming immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot. “It was a large project,” Ken says. “Millions of dollars. And it was very, very involved. You had to take this ship and cut it up and turn it into a drydock; it was a big deal.” Ken says the fact Bob took on a project of this magnitude reflected the way he approached every problem — always seeking a creative solution. Although the converted dry dock did not make it to Port Everglades, it was eventually put to good use in the Connecticut shipyard, helping launch the biggest yacht of all: Cakewalk. Meanwhile, with the U.S. and world trending toward bigger and bigger boats, it was not long before Derecktor would move on to its next challenge — creating a new shipyard designed to carry the company through the twenty-first century.


The 180-foot Silver Shalis in for service at the Dania Beach yard.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

Cakewalk nears her launch date in Bridgeport, CT.

Chapter Six

The Next Seventy Five

More than 100 years ago, a dredge vessel sailed into a narrow inlet along Florida’s Treasure Coast and carved out a deep pathway to the Atlantic Ocean — securing the area’s economic future for decades to come. During World War II, the regularly dredged Fort Pierce Inlet served as a training ground for U.S. servicemen heading into combat, including the Navy’s underwater demolition teams known as “frogmen,” who landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, and went on to become the world famous Navy Seals. Decades later the inlet would become home to one of the most unique shipyards in the United States. Derecktor’s arrival in Fort Pierce had been a long time coming. Even as the Dania Beach yard was flourishing, Paul Derecktor anticipated the yacht industry — with boats growing larger each passing decade — would eventually outgrow the facility. The company needed room to expand and Derecktor looked 90 nautical miles north to the Port of Fort Pierce, but at the time no owner of suitable property was prepared to sell. It wasn’t until 2018, when St. Lucie County purchased the Port of Fort Pierce, that Derecktor’s idea could become reality. With the The Port of Fort Pierce, circa 1931.

The Next Seventy Five


intention of finding a company with the ability and experience needed to develop and operate a shipyard capable of servicing the global fleet of megayachts and large sailboats, St. Lucie County issued a Request For Proposals. In April 2019, following a spirited competition among bidders, Derecktor was awarded a 75-year lease, ushering in a new beginning for Fort Pierce — and Derecktor. “We knew there was an opening for a yard of this capability,” Paul relates. “We also knew the Port of Fort Pierce had the ideal attributes: direct, deep-water access from the Atlantic, no overhead obstructions, proximity to the tremendous South Florida labor and talent pool, not to mention a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere.” It would take years to develop the infrastructure necessary to support such an ambitious project. After a lengthy permitting process, Derecktor received final approval in December 2020 to begin redeveloping the Port from an aging cargo terminal to a state-of-theart shipyard. Phase one began with the construction of a 220-foot by 50-foot haul-out basin where Derecktor’s new 1,500-ton mobile boat hoist, the first of its kind in the world, could safely lift vessels up to 250 feet in length out of the water for service. At the same time, the worsening COVID-19 pandemic threated to delay delivery of the MBH 1500 lift from Cimolai Technology’s production facility in Northern Italy. With careful planning and a little bit of luck, the oversized structural beams, massive tires, and miles of hoses made their way across the Atlantic and into Port Miami by way of container ship, then were trucked to Fort Pierce in more than 40 separate loads. LEFT

Derecktor Ft. Pierce under development.

The Next Seventy Five


It took a dozen workers armed with specialized tools and a fleet of cranes working 10-hour days about four months to complete assembly of the enormous machine. With the haul-out basin and MBH 1500 completed in July 2021, Derecktor was finally able to haul its first boat. Naturally, the industry buzz behind the project was gaining momentum and the new yard immediately began fielding service inquiries from vessels all over the world. Standing nine stories tall, the towering lift has lived up to its hype, hauling everything from luxurious megayachts and sailing yachts to rugged commercial vessels.

Derecktor Ft. Pierce, 2022.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

Derecktor was active at the opposite end of the Eastern Seaboard as well. In 2016, Paul Derecktor and John Koenig teamed up again to purchase Robinhood Marine Center, a historic and well-known marina and boatyard on Georgetown Island in mid-coast Maine. Long a popular port of call for sailors cruising the Maine coast, Robinhood offered 110 protected, deep-water slips and 75 moorings along with a respected service yard and popular restaurant—as well as a fleet of unique ‘floating cottage’ style houseboats for rent. Renaming it Derecktor Robinhood, the partners set about upgrading the facility while preserving its authentic seaport village buildings and character. Sitting on pristine and tranquil Riggs Cove (yet only 45 minutes from the sophisticated city of Portland), Robinhood combines a welcoming and idyllic New England setting with the Derecktor tradition of expert service.


Derecktor Robinhood, Riggs Cove, Maine.

The Next Seventy Five


As the company moves ahead, it is expanding not only geographically but strategically, positioning itself to become a major contributor in green propulsion and renewable energy. In 2014, Derecktor New York built the nation’s first hybrid research vessel for the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut —  a 63-foot aluminum catamaran powered by lithium electric motors which funtions as a floating classroom for educational cruises on Long Island Sound. Two years later, Derecktor delivered a similar vessel to the marine research program at the City University of New York. In 2019, the yard completed the first hybrid catamaran designed for cargo — a 65-foot vessel named Captain Ben Moore, which ferries fresh produce and other goods across Long Island Sound for the Connecticut nonprofit Harbor Harvest, in the process helping cut down on traffic congestion in the New York metropolitan area. In 2022, Derecktor completed its fourth hybrid catamaran, another floating classroom, built for the University of Vermont and meant to help future scientists and engineers explore the cold and deep waters of Lake Champlain. These projects have given the New York yard a firsthand understanding of the benefits of hybrid and electric propulsion, for both the marine environment and the vessel owner. With this understanding and experience gained, Derecktor is actively developing sustainable propulsion solutions for both new build projects and the repowering

of existing vessels. Turning the waters of New York Harbor a bit greener promises to be not only a good thing, but good business. Also on the sustainability front as the 2020s progress, New York and other nearby states are pursuing plans to become carbon neutral before 2050, a goal to be largely achieved through the development of renewable energy. Derecktor, as the premier builder of work boats in the region, is poised to lead the way yet again this time supporting the emerging field of offshore wind. Ideally positioned to support projects in New York, New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic, Derecktor offers the ability to both build and service the vessels needed to keep today’s sophisticated ocean wind turbines up and running. As Derecktor marks seventy-five years of building, fixing and refitting a remarkable variety of vessels, we reflect back on all those years; on our many notable achievements and a few stinging defeats. But more than that, we remember what was behind it all from the beginning; the driving passion to create, to build, and to innovate — to do things in different and better ways. That, along with a genuine love of the ocean, boats and our craft was what Derecktor began with and what has sustained the company in the decades since. It is what has shaped our company and inspired our people. Most importantly, it is what will propel us into the future. It is after all, what has made Derecktor, Derecktor.

The fourth hybrid catamaran built at Derecktor New York, launched in 2022 for the University of Vermont.

The Next Seventy Five


Derecktor Shipyards

The Boats

Whether conceived as an owner’s dream or meant for demanding work on the water, Derecktor boats have all had missions — missions they were built to fulfill. More often than not, our boats have long outlived their first intended purpose and gone on to new careers. From keel laying ceremonies to ocean crossings, Derecktor boats have plenty of stories to tell. While it’s not possible to share them all, we have picked a few of the most noteworthy to highlight here.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1947 ~ Mar-Casado At the beginning, Bob Derecktor’s goal was to build the best sailboats possible. One of his first builds, Mar-Casado, was an affordable option for those seeking adventure aboard a small, yet spacious, “yacht.”

Beautifully finished with graceful lines, this Sparkman & Stephens design helped set Derecktor on a successful course for many years to come.

The Boats


1950 ~ Private Catalano Derecktor established itself early on as a preferred builder for New York City’s police and fire departments — proving it could deliver sturdiness and dependability as well as performance. Private Catalano, a patrol craft commissioned by the NYPD. The versatile 50-foot wooden boat was powered by two, six-cylinder 250-horsepower engines and was capable of speeds of up to 22 knots. Onboard features included a portable water pump for fighting fires, grappling hooks, portable loudspeaker, and other equipment needed during water emergencies.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1954 ~ Gulfstream Series The Gulfstream Series was the result of collaborative effort between what would become the legendary naval architecture firm of Sparkman and Stephens and the growing Derecktor yard. Moreover, the Gulfstream 30 was an early meeting of two of the great minds in yachting: Olin Stephens and Bob Derecktor. The men and their companies would go on to create some of the most influential and successful yachts of all time. In the case of Gulfstream 30s and 36s, they were fast, sea-kindly and affordable small cruisers, ideal for the young sailing families of the baby boom.

The Boats


1963 ~ Figaro IV A force to be contended with in yachting competitions, the 51-foot yawl Figaro IV was commissioned by New York yachtsman William Snaith, a man Sports Illustrated dubbed “the salty sailor of Park Avenue.” In the years after her launch in 1963, Figaro IV won the 1965 Southern Ocean Racing Conference series, and competed in the 1967 Admiral’s Cup in England. She’s held up exceptionally well over the years and is still sailing along the Eastern Seaboard today.

1963 ~ Stranger Back in the early 1960s, when New York art dealer Robert Graham wanted to build a stable fishing boat fit for shallow water, he looked to Bob Derecktor — known for pushing the envelope of innovation. Designed by Frank MacLear and Robert Harris, Stranger was a cruising catamaran equipped with comfortable chairs for the angler, a spacious deckhouse with a bar and television, and four heads. The largest aluminum catamaran built at the time of its launch, Stranger measured 52 feet in length. “Graham is not getting just one boat,” Bob told Sports Illustrated around the same time. “He’s getting three: two motorboats joined together by a sailboat.”

The Boats


1965 ~ Wild Goose Wild Goose, designed and built by Bob Derecktor as his own race boat, was also the boat the Derecktor kids learned to sail on during family cruises. Her distinctive round stern (and many racing victories) made her well known on Long Island Sound. Built in 1965, she is still in operation today and available for custom sailing charter trips through Wild Goose Sailing Adventures in New England.

1969 ~ Jim Hawkins A project conceived by Bob Derecktor and prominent yachtsman Avard Fuller (president of the Fuller Brush Company), the one-ofa-kind long and lean 61-foot light displacement cruiser Jim Hawkins serves as inspiration to yacht designers to this day. The innovative motor sailer included a horizontal spray rail and two methods of stabilization — a short sailing rig and a daggerboard. Launched in

1969, Jim Hawkins was described by Passagemaker Magazine as an “able and efficient” ocean cruiser capable of traveling long distances at a good pace while using less fuel than traditional cruisers. Not long after her launch, Jim Hawkins traveled from Morehead City, North Carolina to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands in 140 hours, using just over 4 gallons of fuel per hour.

The Boats


1969 ~ Salty Tiger In May 1969, the new 46-foot aluminum yawl Salty Tiger captured an extraordinary victory in the Southern Ocean Racing Conference, finishing with a series point total of 957.25 in her first competition. “A new tiger on southern seas” was how Motor Boating magazine described the yacht in its headline. Bob Derecktor designed and built


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

Salty Tiger for Wally Frank, who owned a chain of tobacco stores in New York, and Jack Powell, a Florida-based sailing enthusiast. Decades later, she is still stirring up conversation on sailing forums, with one yachting enthusiast calling her “a boat that personified Bob’s tough as nails approach to yacht design.”

1970 ~ Valiant Derecktor built a number of twelve meters over the years. Valiant, a 63-foot sloop commissioned by Robert McCullough, a former commodore of the New York Yacht Club, made her debut during the 1970 America’s cup trial series in Newport, Rhode Island. Designed by renowned yacht designer Olin Stephens, of Sparkman & Stephens, she was the last wooden 12-meter ever built. The yacht was an early favorite in 1970 and won some races in the trials, but in the end, Valiant and her crew were not to be the defenders of the Cup.

1971 ~ Equation The 68-foot Equation is one of the most celebrated boats designed by Britton Chance, a naval architect with America’s Cup victories to his name. She featured an aluminum ketch rig capable of handling 21 different sails, and a deck covered with winches and sail tracks. It took owner John Potter and his crew a year to learn how to harness the power of such a radical yacht. Truly one-of-a-kind, Equation stood out from her competition at the 1973 Annapolis-to-Newport race and was “as loaded with modern technology as an Apollo spacecraft,” wrote the New York Times in describing her recordbreaking performance. Called endearingly “a mean monster” by her crew, she routed her opposition and smashed the 8-year-old course record by 4 hours 19 minutes for the 473-mile race.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1971 ~ La Forza del Destino “‘Hey, wake up! We’ve won the race,’ shouted the crew of La Forza del Destino as she breezed into the harbor at 7:38 this morning.” That’s how the New York Times opened an article about the Storm Trysail Clubs’ 1972 Block Island Race. Named after an opera by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, the all-black, 50-foot aluminum sloop was designed by prolific naval architect Gary Mull. She went on to win many competitions, including a July 9, 1975, race from Marblehead, Massachusetts to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The prize for that? Three lobsters for each crew member. “We didn’t race for the glory of seamanship but for the lobsters,” Norman Raben, the skipper, told the New York Times that day.

The Boats


1973 ~ Salty Goose Bob Derecktor’s famous sloop is still sailing today as the Derecktor family’s cruising boat. Built with a long, narrow hull compared to conventional race-boats of her day, straight topsides and a lifting keel, the 54foot sailing yacht Salty Goose was what the New York Times called “an anomaly among sailboats”. The boat was a prime example of Bob’s habit of innovation and pushing the boundaries of yacht design. After she was launched in Mamaroneck, Salty Goose went straight to Florida where she made waves in the Southern Ocean Racing Conference. She won numerous honors in the Bermuda Race and Annapolis-Newport Race and was selected for U.S. Admirals Cup team.

1974 ~ Mariner What could possibly go wrong when the best boat builder and the best skipper, along with a talented contingent of sailors and elite naval architects, set out to win the prestigious America’s Cup? Everything. Mariner, a 12-meter commissioned by Ted Turner, turned out to be a resounding (though beautifully built) dud and failed to qualify for the 1974 America’s Cup. Failure has a way of breaking down people and relationships, but not Bob Derecktor and Ted Turner. Ted would go on to claim the 1977 America’s Cup in dramatic fashion, while Derecktor Shipyards continued building Cup contenders, culminating with Stars & Stripes’ glorious victory in 1987. “The Grand Gesture: Ted Turner, Mariner and the America’s Cup,” tells the behind-the-scenes story of how an America’s Cup contender was built. “A classic — maybe the only true modern classic — in yacht racing literature,” is how Jeff Hammond of Yachting magazine described the book in 1975.

1974 ~ Ondine A hard-to-miss sailing yacht built in 1974, Ondine was designed for prominent yachtsman Huey Long. Shortly after her launch, She sprinted south at a record-setting clip during the 1974 Bermuda Race — its first of many major victories. The ultralight (for her day) Ondine was designed by renowned architect Britton Chance, who kept her weight as low as possible for maximum speed. “She’s probably the fastest boat of her kind in the world,” Bob Derecktor had told the New York Times in 1974.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1977 ~ Jamaica Since 1977, the Derecktor-built party fishing boat Jamaica, operating out of Bogan’s Basin in Brielle, New Jersey, has been regularly taking customers fishing off the New Jersey coast. During the fall and winter, groups of anglers drop lines and catch a variety of fish near sunken ships from World War II. “You go out, you anchor the boat over the top of the wreck and shift it around the wreck, and people drop their lines down and that’s where they catch the fish,” says company owner Howard Bogan Jr. Howard says his father researched shipbuilding companies and decided to go with Derecktor because of their reputation for building strong and durable boats. Prior to Jamaica, the company commissioned Derecktor to build Paramount, a 90-footer which is still going strong as well. “They knew that Derecktor built a heavier boat than most of the builders,” Howard, remembers. “They knew what they were doing — they were just an efficient builder.”

The Boats


1979 ~ Titania One of the most classically elegant power yachts built in the U.S., Titania was designed and built as a family boat for a New England client. Her distinctive Yankee sheer and workboat inspired pilothouse make her a standout in any harbor. A slender, easily driven hull form makes her efficient, fast, and a good sea boat to boot. Over 40 years after her launch, Titania is still going strong and doing what she does best — everything.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1980s ~ U.S. Coast Guard Cutters When Derecktor of Rhode Island won the contract to build nine 270-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutters in the early 1980s, Bob Derecktor — who had never built vessels of this size or scale — knew he had to rapidly ramp up the operation. To complete the ambitious mission, he quickly built out the necessary infrastructure at the company’s new Middletown shipyard and expanded the work force. “Not many people would attempt to undertake that and not many people could do it successfully,” said Archie Cox, one of Bob’s longtime friends and confidants. The cutters, designed for multi-mission tasks in law enforcement, search and rescue, marine environmental protection, and military preparedness, are now part of Derecktor’s legacy and remain fully operational.

The Boats


1983 ~ Boomerang The second of two Boomerangs built by Derecktor for influential yachtsman George Coumantaros, the 81-foot sloop had an illustrious racing career, winning many of yacht racing’s most prestigious events. Designed by the great German Frers, she set a new course record of 57 hours and 31 minutes in the 1996 Bermuda Race, while also winning on corrected time. She shattered the venerable Block Island Race record by over two hours in 2002, and was both first to finish and fleet champion in the 1987 Miami-Nassau race. After being sold, she continued to win races in such far-flung spots as Japan and New Zealand.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1986 ~ Staten Island Ferries The iconic Staten Island ferries Alice Austen and John A. Noble (named after a Staten Island photographer and a marine artist, respectively) have taken countless trips from Manhattan to Staten Island and back since Derecktor Shipyards delivered them to the New York City Department of Transportation in 1986. Built in Derecktor’s Rhode Island shipyard, the 207-foot passenger ferries feature a Voith-Schneider propulsion steering system, pilothouses and concession stands at each end of the vessel, and have the capacity to transport up to 1,107 people at one time. These workhorses remain active, helping the Staten Island Ferry provide 22 million people annually with nonstop safe passage through the busy waters of New York Harbor.

The Boats


1987 ~ Encore Encore was launched for Chuck and Jimmy Dolan of Cablevision and Madison Square Garden fame. The impressive sailboat exemplifies Derecktor’s demanding standards as a pioneer in aluminum boat building. Built as an IMS racer from a Sparkman & Stephens design, the 72-foot sloop went on to win multiple iconic races in 1989 and 1990 — including the Annapolis-Newport race, the Marblehead-Halifax race, and the Newport-Bermuda race. Decades later Encore was still winning capturing a remarkable victory during 2002 Antigua Race Week. One of her most ingenious features is an elegant cruising interior that can be removed for racing.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1987 ~ Stars & Stripes There was a lot riding on the 1987 America’s Cup. It was the first competition after the 1983 disaster in which the U.S. lost the prestigious trophy to Australia — the first time in the 132-year history of the race that the U.S. had not emerged victorious, thus ending the longest winning streak in sporting history and U.S. domination of the series. But the appropriately named Stars & Stripes, built by Derecktor NY and with Dennis Conner at the helm emerged victorious on the waters off Perth, Australia, cementing the company’s name in yacht racing history. Built and optimized for speed using the latest design technologies — and tested using state of the art computer simulations — the 12-meter aluminum yacht was a feat of design, engineering, and construction. As Scientific American wrote after the race, “no boat could win in 1987 without being on the leading edge of technology…but even such a boat could lose without a highly skillful crew.” It is safe to say, Stars & Stripes winning the ’87 America’s Cup is one of the greatest sporting victories in American history.

The Boats


1993 ~ MITseaAH The 114-foot MITseaAH demonstrated Derecktor’s ability to build the new breed of large motor (soon to be known as “mega”) yachts. MITseaAH had a top speed of 29 knots and included four staterooms capable of accommodating as many as 10 guests. She featured some of the earliest computer technology ever installed on a yacht and continues to draw accolades from design enthusiasts who praise her attractive styling and interior. Shortly after her launch, Boat International proclaimed “she simply does everything right.”


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1991 ~ Transition Ranking as one of the most avant-garde boats ever built at the New York yard, Transition was designed by Tom Fexas, known for his stylish work that departed from traditional notions of what a yacht ought to look like. Powered by twin high speed diesels turning Arneson Surface Drives, Transition’s artful exterior was matched by an ingeniously engineered power plant. The fast cruiser also boasted a contemporary and plush interior outfit. Sadly, the 74 foot standout was a near total loss in a wreck some years after her launch.

The Boats


1996 ~ Finest Finest and sistership Bravest started carrying commuters in New York Harbor in 1997 and set the standard for the future of ferry travel in the City. The 124-foot, 350 passenger catamarans were the first high-speed waterjet powered ferries in the harbor, and with a 35-knot service speed offered a faster, smoother and quieter ride than anything that had come before. The boats brought riders from Sandy Hook NJ to the foot of Wall St. in Manhattan in under 40 minutes — half the time of competing land-based commutes. Notably, they played a critical role in helping to evacuate lower Manhattan on 9/11, bringing over 1,500 people safely to New Jersey. The boats were light, but so well-built they were still in service some 25 years after launch.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

1996 ~ Sleighride Built as the first collaboration between Derecktor and Goetz Custom Boats, Sleighride is an ultralight yacht designed by Sparkman & Stephens to achieve high speeds in windy conditions. She was, “One of the fastest, most extreme sailing yachts of the decade,” according to Megayacht News. Sleighride featured an adventurous design that eliminated excess weight wherever possible. The yacht was considered so radical at the time she was initially denied insurance. But the boat proved her mettle on Narragansett Bay during sea trials, sailing at speeds of over 23 knots. In 2011, she underwent refit by Adam Voorhees Design, stretching her from 77 feet to 82 feet.

The Boats


1997 ~ Shaman An exceptional yacht built by Derecktor Shipyards and Greene Marine, the 88-foot Shaman, designed by Bill Tripp, has been reaping accolades since her launch. “I wanted a boat with Grand Prix performance coupled with the requisite comfort and safety to take my wife and children around the world. ‘Shaman’ exceeded my expectations,” said the yacht’s first owner, Robert Johnson. Shaman was built as a go-anywhere performance yacht, with specially engineered composite construction to maximize safety and speed. Her low center of gravity offers high stability for greater sailing comfort, while a retractable sprit and a hydraulic lifting keel allow for cruising access without sacrificing sailing characteristics. In the last 20+ years, Shaman has circled the globe, from South America to the Arctic, to New Zealand, and to South Georgia Island. “As a designer I am aware just how rare the opportunity is to create anything this close to perfection,” naval architect Chuck Paine enthused about Shaman in Yachting magazine.

1998 ~ Patricia Olivia In 1998, Derecktor introduced the world’s fastest catamaran ferry — Patricia Olivia. Measuring 45 meters (147 feet), the gas-turbine powered vessel carries up to 300 passengers and can travel in excess of 50 knots. Derecktor built the ferry for the Argentinian company

Buquebus to operate on a route across the river Plate between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The ferry is still running in South American waters all these years later — a testament to Derecktor’s exacting standards of structural integrity.

The Boats


2000 ~ Sandy Hook Pilots Bringing ships safely into one of the world’s greatest and busiest harbors year-round in weather both fair and foul is no easy job, but the Sandy Hook Pilots and their vessels do it with gusto. Over the years Derecktor has been called on to build many pilot boats and these tough, no-nonsense vessels suit the company’s ethos well. Strongly built, powerful and prepared to complete their mission under any conditions, they are just the kind of craft you would expect from Derecktor.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

2000 ~ Zingaro At an impressive 112 feet, Zingaro is the largest, longest and most opulent sailboat ever built by one of America’s greatest builders of sailboats. Her luxurious and well-appointed interior is replete with three guest staterooms and a spacious owners suite. But she’s also fast. This Sparkman & Stephens designed sloop has a long waterline for a high hull speed and a towering carbon-fiber rig to generate tremendous power. Her trademark light-but-strong Derecktor hull adds to the rapid package. Proving her mettle on racecourses the world over, Zingaro (now named Kawil) has competed in events as far-flung as the St. Bart’s Bucket and New Zealand’s Millennial Cup, the latter sailed in the lovely Bay of Islands and which she won in 2020. Fitting for a boat that ushered in the new millennium for Derecktor.

The Boats


2003 ~ Fairweather Built to run in severe weather, high winds, and dense fog, the 210-passenger and 31 vehicle catamaran ferries Fairweather and sistership Chenega began service during the early 2000s as part of the Alaska Highway System’s new fast ferry fleet. At the time of launching, the pair were the fastest vehicle carrying ferries in the world, capable of reaching 43 knots. During long Arctic winter nights, captains used night-vision cameras to help avoid potential hazards like logs, small bergs, or whales. As is typical of the quality and versatility of Derecktor-built vessels, the ferries have withstood the test of time and climate — and a move halfway across the world. Recently purchased by Spanish ferry company Trasmapi, Fairweather and Chenega now serve passengers traveling among the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

2005 ~ Vendetta Derecktor earned its reputation as a start-to-finish builder, but in recent decades it has also become the shipyard of choice for many high-profile clients looking to refit their boats or finish building a complicated design. When Billy Joel commissioned naval architect Doug Zurn to design the 57-foot Vendetta — modeled on the luxurious Long Island commuter yachts of the 1920s and 30s — he was looking for comfort, style, and speed. Derecktor delivered all three, finishing Vendetta after the yacht’s structure was completed at Coecles Harbor Marine in Shelter Island, New York. “What we’re trying to do with this thing is basically combine a PT boat’s speed and durability, with the look and feel of a 30s-era commuter, with a low profile like a rum runner,” Joel told at the time. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 50 knots, Vendetta ensures passengers arrive at their destination quickly and with panache.

The Boats


2009 ~ Independence Constructed by Derecktor to assist LNG (liquefied natural gas) tankers coming into Boston Harbor during often-harsh weather conditions, the 128-foot tugboat Independence is as tough and versatile as they come. This fully equipped workhorse boasts two 16v4000 M-61 MTU Detroit Diesel engines, two 99kW John Deere generator sets, radiantly heated decks, controllable pitch propellers with Rolls Royce CCP-255 Z Drives, two Fi-Fi water cannons, and a 10-ton deck crane. It was the larger of two tugboats designed by naval architect Robert Allan for Boston Towing to provide support for utility company Suez Energy’s offshore LNG terminal near Gloucester, MA. “Our mission with these tugs will be to provide ship-assist service, towing, firefighting, man-overboard assistance and provide general service for a vessel on standby,” Bill Skinner, marine superintendent with Boston Towing, told Professional Mariner magazine before taking delivery of Independence.


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

2010 ~ Cakewalk Cakewalk (now named Aquila) was, and still is, the largest yacht (by volume and displacement) ever built in the United States. Designed by Tim Heywood and Azure Architects of Holland, the 281-foot megayacht included a spa, theater, gym, and game room. Her interior was meticulously decorated with washed-oak paneling, cherry and cypress accents, rosewood bookshelves, a marble fireplace, elegant spiral staircase, and octopus-shaped faucet in the sundeck bathroom. At one time, nearly 400 employees worked on the massive yacht at Derecktor’s shipyard in Bridgeport, CT, bringing to fruition a significant milestone not only for Derecktor but for American shipbuilding as a whole.

The Boats


2014 ~ Spirit of the Sound The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk commissioned the build of Spirit of the Sound, the first hybrid diesel-electric research vessel built in the U.S. At 63 feet, the aluminum catamaran was designed to be as carbon neutral as possible, with its biodegradable insulation, solar powered VHF radio, and twin hybrid drive trains. The pioneering catamaran is a floating classroom capable of accommodating up


Derecktor: The Story Of An American Shipyard

to 60 students as they observe marine life and waterfowl during educational excursions. “By running on clean quiet power without emissions, The Maritime Aquarium will be practicing what we teach,” Marine Aquarium President Jennifer Herring told Maritime Executive magazine during the boat’s launch.

2019 ~ Captain Ben Moore Captain Ben Moore is the third in a series of 65-foot aluminum catamarans built by Derecktor and powered by BAE Systems hybrid technology. She’s operated by Harbor Harvest, a Norwalk CT based company dedicated to changing how fresh produce and foods are transported around metro areas. With a top speed of 15 knots and 12,000 pounds of cargo carrying ability (equivalent of five delivery

trucks), she hauls goods from family farms and small producers in the Long Island and Connecticut region across Long Island Sound, relieving traffic congestion and reducing emissions. Recognized as a Significant Vessel of 2019 by WorkBoat magazine, Captain Ben Moore helped establish Derecktor as the U.S. leader in commercial hybrid vessel building.

The Boats


The history presented here was developed from a variety of sources, but chief among them are the personal recollections of family, friends, employees, and colleagues. Without these, the result would have been a dry and dusty compilation of facts and dates. We thank all who contributed their memories and stories to making what we hope is a living and vivid recounting of the events, people, and boats that shaped this story. Any inaccuracies or errors are solely the responsibility of the authors.

This list of Derecktor employees of 20 years or more is a work in progress, and, we hope, always will be. We will add people as they hit the 20-year mark, along with anyone left off by mistake — to whom we apologize. Congratulations and deep thanks to all who have worked at the yards.

Brad Ainsley

Ed Crinion

Braulio Gonzalez

Manuel Martins

Jose L Silva

George Albuerne

Angel Cruz

Guadalupe Gonzalez

Trinidad Masson

Lawrence Smith

Jorge Albuerne

Tom Derecktor

Mateo S Gonzalez

As Maximo

Joaquim Sousa

Israel Albuerne

Jack Desousa

Mauricio Gonzalez

Paul Mecca

Afonso Tavares

Cristobal Alvarez

Mark Donahue

Abilio F Guimaraes, Sr.

Gilbert Melo

Rafael Tejeiro

Luis Andrade

Richard Doolin

Skip Gunnell

Luis Mendes

Claude Antunes

Steve Drago

Gary M Hays

Domingos Monteiro

Manuel Terceiro

Van Banh

Mike Fehn

Gavin Higgins

Susan Mortgu

George Thomas

Nicholas Barreto

Domingos Fernandes

Quang Chi Huang

Jose Nogueira

Dung P To

Manuel Bastos

Victor M Fernandes

Kenneth Imondi

Arturo Nunes

Jose Tormenta

Steven A Bennett

Aureliano Ferreira

Eduardo Ingles

Marcos A Nunez

Lenine Tormenta

Bob Berglund

Antonio Ferreira

Manuel Janeiro

Antonio Paroleiro

Filippo Toscano

Robert Bimonte

Jaime M Ferreira

Earl Joiner

Alex Patricio, Sr.

Raymond J Tremper

Jessica Blacketter

Anibal Fidalgo

Eduardo R Joiner

Valda Pereira

Duc T Trinh

James Brewer

Duarte Fontes

Laslo Kish

Jose L Perez

Fernando Vagueiro

Mamede M Brito

Jose Freire

Daniel Lamothe

Jose Pinho

Joaquim Valente

Gail Brown

Franklin Frota

Julio D Lopes

Marcos Pinto

Francisco Verissimo

Lazaro J Cabezas

Marcella Furness

Jose M Lopes

Vitor Quintino

James P Walling

Alvaro D Caetano

Abel Gameiro

Antonio Lopes

George Runco

Elizabeth Weatherborn

Artur Cardante

Artur Gameiro

Manuel Lopes

Norman Russell

Lawrence B Welky

Carl Christensen

Fernando Gameiro

Augustin Lopez

Mario F Santos

Cecil B Williams

Rosanne Cicchiello

Fernando S Garcia

Albino Martins

Jose Dos Santos


Idalio Coimbra

Dimitri Giordano

Fernando Martins

Galloway Selby


Basil Contes

Jose Goncalves

Jose Martins

Ubaldo Sierra

Copyright notice © 2022 Derecktor Shipyards Written by Alice Popovici Contributing Writers John Koenig and Justin Beard Book design by Tara Biek Robison Edited by John Koenig, Melissa Foster, and Justin Beard Produced by Justin Beard Published by Weeva, Inc. Printed in the USA Visit All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by reviewers, who may quote brief passages in a review.

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