Overview

The Palmer Johnson yard, located in Sturgeon Bay, WI, has a long a illustrious history of building mostly large custom yachts. Founded by Hans Johnson and Herman Gmack, it was originally known as Sturgeon Bay Boat Works when Hans Johnson’s son, Palmer, assumed ownership. During World War II, the company turned it’s efforts toward building boats for the military. It wasn’t until Palmer Johnson retired in 1959, when some local business men assumed ownership, that the firm acquired it’s present name. In 1961, long time Palmer Johnson customer and Texas Instruments CEO, Pat Haggarty, bought the company. An avid yacht racer, he did much to establish the builders reputation in the international racing circuit. It was in the establishment of a separate brokerage division, that the company sold a number of different production fiberglass sailboat models under the Palmer Johnson name. Palmer Johnson never really built fiberglass boats (though it did finish a great number), deciding that it’s future lay with custom aluminum yachts. For a time it contracted with a number of builders, mostly in Europe, that were sold under the Palmer Johnson name. Palmer Johnson production sailboats were only sold for a few years. Nautor of Finland, the builder of the larger PJ models, ultimately decided to sell it’s yachts exclusively under it’s own Swan brand. Today, Palmer Johnson continues as a world renowned builder of large, custom, power and sailing yachts.


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