In our seven-part podcast series Feadship Uncovered, journalist and writer John Weich enters the world of pure custom creation after receiving an offer he can’t refuse: to design his very own Feadship from scratch. What follows is a peek behind the scenes of the most exclusive and elusive brand on the planet.
His journey starts with a blank piece of paper.
In the hierarchy of human wants, superyachts sit atop the luxury pyramid. In terms of size, cost, complexity and prestige, today’s superyachts are rivalled only by private spacecraft. Of the many superyacht builders out there, one stands above the rest: FEADSHIP. Since 1949 this Dutch collaboration between two ‘royal’ shipyards and a naval architecture firm has become the pinnacle of custom yachtbuilding. In the past 75 years, only 460 Feadships have been built
In the seven-part podcast series Feadship Uncovered, journalist and writer John Weich enters the world of pure custom creation after receiving an offer he can’t refuse: to design his very own FEADSHIP from scratch. What follows is a peek behind the scenes of the most exclusive and elusive brand on the planet. His journey starts with a blank piece of paper.
In this first episode of Feadship Uncovered, John gets his first taste of pure custom creation at Feadship’s ‘closed’ shipyard on the small Dutch island of Kaag. Strictly off-limits to anyone but billionaire buyers and master craftsmen, John has come to meet with Tanno Weeda, head of design, and Arjen van Elk, sales director. It’s their jobs to turn his ideas into reality and, more concretely, transform his yacht dreams into a blueprint of a real yacht. The Feadship journey begins for every owner the same exact way: with a blank sheet of paper
John has a vision for 1950s modernist-inspired floating bungalow that can carry him to the world’s best surf breaks. With a suitcase full of inspiration, he challenges Tanno and Arjen with impossible demands like a hydraulic ping-pong table and a bowling alley, a cryogenic chamber and on-board wave pool. No matter what he asks for, however, the answer is always: Yes. Everything is possible…at a price
In this episode John tries to get his head around the thousands of decisions that go into designing a superyacht from scratch. Overwhelmed, he gets help from Marsha van Buitenen, sales director, who promises to open every door in Feadship’s yachtbuilding ecosystem to ensure he gets the yacht of his dreams.
A typical superyacht has over a million components, all of which must be defined, calculated and engineered before the building even begins. And once the building starts, there’s little an owner can do to change it. So every detail, from the thickness of the glass to the type of propulsion, must be weighed against the owners’ intents and wishes in advance. That includes which innovations go on board. A lot can change in the three or four years it takes to build a Feadship, especially in the realm of technology, electronics, and materials
Responsible for futureproofing these yachts is Feadship’s Knowledge & Innovation department. It’s their job to research how to keep pool water from sloshing during storms, to rethink the configuration of the yacht using cutting-edge cameras and sensors and to explore the boundaries of propulsion through fossil-free alternatives like hydrogen
In this episode John tries to anticipate the future for his own yacht design, even paying a visit to a group of college students looking to prove to the maritime industry that hydrogen-propulsion is possible.
The shed – if there’s one place at Feadship that comes close to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, it’s the shed. The shed is the shipbuilding equivalent of the Silicon Valley garage. Closed off from prying eyes, it is a space purpose-built for innovation and imagination, a playground where mastercraftsmen and women come together to actually construct a superyacht. No more sketches, no more discussions – just meticulous hands-on carpentry drawn largely from 16th century shipbuilding techniques
Feadship has several sheds around The Netherlands, but none is as large or imposing as the one in Makkum, which towers over the medieval village that surrounds it. Its sheer size and the enormous windows that shine bright with activity have earned this shed the nickname The Cathedral. This is where the big-boy yachts are built
In this episode John enters The Cathedral with Sijbrand de Vries, director of the Makkum shipyard. He is blown away by the passion and detailing he finds inside. He also learns that master carpenters, like top chefs, are highly particular when it comes to their tools.
After 3 episodes of exploring the boundaries of Feadship’s never-say-no culture, John finally gathers the courage to the most contentious topic in superyachting: sustainability. If there’s one industry under fire for the size of its ecological footprint, it’s the superyacht industry. Without a radical shift towards more responsible material sourcing and non-fossil fuel propulsion, superyachts run of the risk of becoming Noah’s Arks. With owners willing to spend nine figures on a boat, a few more zeroes for sustainability shouldn’t be a problem, right
Inspired by the hydrogen-powered yacht the TU Delft students showed him in the previous episode, John wants to design the most sustainable superyacht on the planet. What fuel-reducing technologies are available to him? Are there viable alternatives to teak? And is it true that biofuels like ‘Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil’ (HVO) can already reduce a yacht’s carbon footprint by 95%? And if so, why aren’t owners doing it
In this episode John sits down with Giedo Loeff, head of Feadship’s Research & Development team, and lays all his concerns on the table. Then he checks back in with Tanno to explore the trade-offs his sustainable choices will have on the design of his own superyacht.
Finally, John gets permission to board his first completely finished Feadship, an enormous 90+ metre superyacht that is longer than the Statue of Liberty is tall. Even though it is moored at Feadship’s Amsterdam yard for service, there’s a full crew on board and a Chief Officer, Mies, to give him a tour. The tour is for inspiration, but he’s here today to meet with Captain Alex in search of some valuable insights into the Feadship experience from someone who has been living it for years
After marvelling the yacht’s luxury crew quarters, high-tech waste management system, pop-out balconies, a beach club and the state-of-the-art hybrid propulsion system, he sits down with Captain Alex, a former German Olympian windsurfer, for a very candid conversation about modern-day exploration, secret surf breaks, how to manage billionaire owners’ expectations while also keeping his crew happy in a demanding environment
In this episode, John sets aside all the cliches he’s seen on The Love Boat, Below Deck and even Triangle of Sadness to learn more about what life onboard a luxury superyacht is really like. He walks away with valuable lessons for his own yacht and an invaluable list of do’s and don’ts.
You think buying a superyacht costs a pretty penny? It turns out building a superyacht is only the start. Keeping it beautiful is a whole different story. Now that John has made all the most important decisions for his yacht – an expedition-type, a creative workshop, a beach club, a Command Centre, an endless pool and a submarine – he turns his attention to safety and upkeep. The seemingly trivial things like software updates, insurance and a reliable real-time sat-navigation system. Thinking about his life at sea, he asks questions like: What if he can’t return to Feadship’s Dutch yards for service? How does he keep his yacht cutting-edge and relevant with the newest technologies and sustainable propulsion systems? What if he needs a spare part while sailing in the middle of the ocean
In this episode, John sits down with Pier Posthuma de Boer, Feadship’s Director of Refit & Services, to learn about the ABCs of protecting and maintaining superyachts after they’ve been built. He also returns to Makkum to visit Mira and its incredible story of being lost and then found.
Today is D-day, aka Design Day, and John is finally going to see the design of his yacht. For the big reveal, Tanno invites him for a cruise on a small yacht from the Feadship Heritage Fleet: the Ammerland. As they glide through the beautiful lake district, Tanno reveals the process he and his team went through to translate John’s mid-century desert bungalow dreams into the blueprint of a yacht. He shares his visual explorations of geometric structures, interesting rooflines, ornamental sunscreens and shady breezeways.
Then comes the big reveal: an A0-sized blueprint with detailed renderings of four decks, each space carefully crafted to John’s hobbies and wishes. It is a minimalist yacht whose most distinctive feature is an extended roof that resembles Eero Saarinen’s iconic 1962 TWA Flight Centre at JFK airport. It is a yacht that works with nature, not against it. Underscoring this is Giedo, who reassures John his yacht is indeed the most sustainable on the planet.
In this episode, John shares a moment only the richest 1% of the richest 1% get to enjoy: the reveal of a superyacht entirely customized around his lifestyle. After the champagne pops he wonders aloud: can he possibly crowdfund his vision?
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