On a Sunday afternoon in the late 1980s, yacht designer Steve Seaton climbed over a fence to break into a San Diego boatyard. A 66-foot wooden trawler was out of the water there, a boat that his icon, Art DeFever, had designed. Seaton walked beneath the port side, admiring the hull, failing to realize that somebody else was to starboard.
“We came around the corner, at the tail end of the keel, at the same moment,” Seaton recalls. “We looked at each other and he said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I didn’t know who it was. He said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I’m studying this Art DeFever boat. I’m a big fan of his.’ And he said, ‘What’s your name?’ And I said, ‘Steve Seaton.’ And he said, ‘I know you! I’m Art DeFever.’ Well I stood up straight — I’m ex-military, and I wanted to show him how much I respected him. And I hit my head on the boat.”
DeFever was beloved in offshore cruising circles. By some estimates, more than 3,800 boats were built to his designs before he died in 2013. Among them were the original Alaskan yachts in the 1960s.
The last Alaskan was finished in 2012, and the brand has been idle since. Now Peter Whiting, principal at Seattle Northwest Yachts, has bought Alaskan Yachts with the intent to resurrect it.
He hired Phil Friedman, former CEO of Palmer Johnson, as new-build manager, and he tapped Seaton to draw the Alaskan 66 Mark II, the first model in an updated line. Hull No. 1 of the 66 is on track to debut in late 2020 at a base price around $3.2 million, with an Alaskan 56 Mark II to follow.
“I personally believe that the Alaskan brand remains strong enough to garner significant attention,” Friedman says. “Once we’ve got the attention of the market, we believe that we have, in the new series, a winner.”