Deceased , Historic

Robert E.



1921 - 2001

Obituary for Bob Derecktor, published by Sun-Sentinel on Oct. 20, 2001:

Robert E. “Bob” Derecktor, world-renowned yacht racer, innovative designer, and builder of America’s Cup 12-meters, mega-yachts and U.S. Coast Guard cutters, died on Oct. 10 in Boston. He was 80.

Mr. Derecktor stated his first boatyard in Mamaroneck, NY, in 1947, with a railway, a shop and 10 trusted men where they built hand crafted wooden boats. Later he pioneered the use of aluminum in yacht construction, building large custom yachts for such luminaries as Thomas Watson of IBM, Ted Turner, Huey Long, Dennis Connor and Archibald Cox, Jr.

He started two other yards, one in Dania, FL, in 1968, and a shipyard in Middletown, RI. in 1979. The Dania yard focuses on mega-yacht repair and employs over 150 people. The Middletown shipyard built, U.S. Coast Guard cutters, Staten Island ferries and U.S. Army tugs. At the shipyard’s peak, he employed over 1,000 people.

Mr. Derecktor designed, built and raced Flyway, a revolutionary 42-foot sloop, co-owned with Ted Turner. Together they competed in all major East Coast races from Halifax to Florida. They joined forces again when Mr. Derecktor built the America’s Cup contender Mariner which was skippered by Turner. He designed and built his own yachts, Grey Goose, Wild Goose, and Salty Goose, which consistently won or placed in the Admiral’s Cup, Bermuda Race, and SORC races, to name a few.

The breadth of his work included award-winning furniture and geodesic domes. He collaborated with Buckminster Fuller to build a prototype of an aluminum geodesic house for the Philippines.

Robert E. Derecktor was born in Meriden, Connecticut on September 12, 1921. He spent his early years building and launching boats on Long Island Sound. He was the son of Lina and Nathan Derecktor, a contractor and lawyer who built and owned several office buildings in Connecticut and White Plains, NY. Nathan wanted his son to join the family business, but the young Derecktor opted for the life of a boat builder.

Eschewing the social norms and traditional education of the day, Derecktor chose to train himself as a sailor and boat builder. He briefly attended Swarthmore College, but left early preferring the rough and tumble life as a journeyman boat builder at Minneford’s Boat Yard in City Island, N.Y. There he honed his skills as a shipwright.

From there, he built a fearsome reputation as a racer and builder of indestructible yachts. He designed and built his first boat at the age of 14 in White Plains, N.Y. It was a 24-foot sloop that he sailed to Nova Scotia at 16. At age 18 he built a 38-foot schooner, which he sailed into a Baltimore shipyard and became foreman of the yard’s hull shop. This was the beginning of a long career, designing, building and racing sailboats, competing in the America’s Cup and Admiral’s Cup races.

Mr. Derecktor had a unique philosophy, which extolled the virtues of the traditional craftsman. Such craftsmen, he believed, were being ignored and unappreciated in the modern world. He considered them to be the foundation of society. He devoted his career to enabling and training them to reach their highest potential, using yacht building as the vehicle for this effort. At 5 foot-10 and 205 pounds, the barrel-chested former wrestler at the NYAC and football player at Swarthmore was known throughout the industry as an innovative and uncompromising master boat builder. He was an imposing figure with remarkable insight and scathing candor. He was unique in every way: from his signature cap and suspenders to his mode of transportation; he rowed to work in a wooden dory year-round. He met you with intense blue eyes, an extra firm handshake, and unquenchable curiosity. For his family and friends, he is a shining example of someone who lived his dreams by his own rules and created his unique reality. He was a wonderful storyteller, a philosopher, a rule breaker, a tough guy, a tender heart, a lady’s man, a leader of men, the hardest worker and the most loyal friend – one of the last wooden boat builders of a great generation.

  • Notable sailboats built by Derecktor:
    • Gulfstream 30 (S&S) 1955
    • Gulfstream 36 (S&S) 1953
    • Gulfstream 42 (S&S) 1960
    • Pt-40 (Plas trend 40) 1967
  • Notable ships built by Derecktor:
    • USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913) for United States Coast Guard     1,829 t             1989
    • MV Fairweather for Alaska Marine Highway System 748t    2004
  • MV Chenega for Alaska Marine Highway System 748t    2005
  • Cakewalk for Charles Gallagher Yacht  2,998t              2010

Full displacement superyacht designed by Tim Heywood, naval architecture by Azure, interior design by Liz Dalton. At 281’ and 2998 GRT, it is the largest private yacht ever built in the USA when measured by volume.

  • Spirit of the Sound for Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

Research vessel                       2014


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