The voyage of a successful hull builder

Andries Folmer – Jachtbouw Folmer

RIJS – Andries Folmer, 64, has grown in bare hull building as that industry segment evolved from a largely manual trade to a computer-driven discipline. Folmer’s voyage has not gone unnoticed. Over the past 40 years, designers and builders from everywhere have trekked to Jachtbouw Folmer in this uneventful hamlet in the lush farmlands of northern Holland.

Folmer has built the hulls and superstructures of some 250 ships, from from 6.7 to 24m, for such clients as Dick Koopmans, Van der Stadt, Arend Lambrechtsen, Visser Yacht Design, Berckemeyer Yachts, Dixon Yacht Design and Robert H. Perry Yacht Designers Inc. and others. He has shipped his hulls to North America, Asia and across Europe.

Steeler 48

A trained metalworker, Folmer started his career working for different Dutch yards, including superyacht builder Amels. In 1980, he went solo and developed expertise in aluminum hull building. In the former smithy that is his production facility, Folmer can build to 20m – a tad longer, if need be.

A recent project was a Cor D. Rover design for which Van Oossanen did the naval architecture. “It was a complex 19.7m motor yacht with 2 engines,” says Folmer. “We water-cut aluminum thicker than 12 mm. That’s pricier than plasma-cutting but it requires no reworking because the welds are very clean. We laser-cut aluminum of under 12 mm.”

He prefers to talk to a designer early on to anticipate challenging constructions early on. Such as? “Take a T-joint weld,” says Folmer. “That requires laying 2 welds and then grind them back. If you create a 2mm overhang you’ll have a cleaner weld. That saves time and welding wire. And it gives a much better result. But building like that is something that needs to be included in the design drawings.”

A building kit may sound like the instructions IKEA provides its clients. But what Folmer works with is endlessly more complicated. “You need to know that a 64ft boat has 12 tons of aluminum,” he tells DutchYachtBuilding. “The numbers of all parts must be checked. It’s still a complex job though computer technology has made things easier. 3D views provide more insight than those flat drawings we used to work with.”

19m Neptune

In 2018, Folmer built the hull of a 42ft. Berckemeyer sailing yacht with lift keel, a Steeler NG43 and a 19m Vripack-designed tender. This year, his order book included another Berckemeyer 42, a 64ft motor yacht and, for a commercial Russian client, an 11m fishing boat. Recently, Folmer also delivered 3 pilot tenders.

What worries him these days is the difficulty to reel in qualified labor. He applauds recently unveiled training schemes in the Netherlands. “But these will not deliver anything for years to come.”