Frank Denison, the founder of Broward Marine, started his yachting career by buying boats on spec, making the necessary repairs, and then reselling them. In fact, “Mr. D,” as he was known to everyone, is credited with installing the first diesel engines in a yacht in the mid 1930’s, in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
In 1948, while on his honeymoon with his wife, Gertrude, he bought the Fort Lauderdale shipyard, Dooley’s Dry Dock, and renamed the yard, Broward Marine.
This twenty acre facility started with service and repair work, then in 1953, Broward Marine built it’s first custom (wooden) motor yacht, Stormy III, designed by the renowned Naval architect, John Wells.
In 1954, and for the next four years, during the Korean War, Frank Denison landed a large United States Navy contract, with the first flight of four, 144′ wooden Minesweepers, for the Royal Dutch Navy under a NATO contract.
Broward Marine subsequently added seven more AMS-Class, 173′ Minesweepers, for the U.S. Navy. At the height of the Minesweeper program, Broward Marine became the largest private employer in Broward County, Florida.
The photograph above, taken around 1954, shows Broward Marine employees beveling the frames for a 173′ mine sweeper for the U.S. Navy.
After the demand for minesweepers dropped, thanks in large part to the conclusion of World War II, Broward Marine started to build custom yachts, including the 95′ Alisa V, which was acknowledged by Time Magazine as the largest private motor yacht built in the U.S. for three decades, photograph to the left.
It did not take Broward long to develop a national reputation for quality and value, building some of the finest yachts for the world’s premiere yachtsmen, such as the Jonathan III, photograph below, built for Harry Blum, the founder of Jim Beam Distilleries.
In those days, very few yacht builders in the U.S. were capable of consistently building quality boats over 50′. Frank Denison concentrated on building the organization and challenged his customers and associates to “Demand the Finest,” as Broward’s slogan announced, while Gertrude started “Yacht Interiors,” which became famous in its own right for outstanding interiors for Broward Marine.
Mr. D. and his design team developed hull designs that became known and respected for being sea kindly and seaworthy, as well as efficient and beautiful.
The Denison family was proud of the fact that no two Broward yachts were the same, and said: “If you build two boats the same, you haven’t learned anything.”
That reputation for quality endured for over 50 years.
In 1971, Denison’s oldest son, Christopher (“Kit”) Denison, joined Broward and immediately started to build boats, first wood, then, in 1973, Broward started building yachts in aluminum. The production started to increase from one or two boats per year to ten a year in 1983. During that time, Broward became known for modern styling, several new hulls were developed, and the workforce grew from 50 to over 250 employees, with annual revenues approaching $20 Million.
In 1977, Broward started a new plant in Saugatuck, Michigan, to take advantage of the experienced and talented workforce in that area. The Michigan facility became so efficient that it accounted for over 40% of all the Browards build after 1978.
In 1983, Kit left Broward to start Denison Marine, which became known for the largest number of high speed (30 knot plus) yachts over 100 feet, with the development of new, tank-tested hulls and modern designs by Joe Langlois with innovative drive systems, such as jet and surface drives, which changed the face of the yachting industry.
Equally innovative production techniques were developed by Carl Bischoff at the modern Dania facility with Ann Denison in charge of creative interior and space planning. Kit still works in the marine and marina industry, developing and selling marinas, and working with his second son, Bob, who now manages Denison Yacht Sales, which specializes in the sales of Browards and Denisons.
In 1975, Denison’s second son, and his namesake, Franklin A. (“Skip”) Denison, took the reins of the shipyard’s service and repair business and grew the revenues from under $1 Million to over $5 Million dollars in 1985, making a substantial profit for the company. In 1986 Skip left the family boat business to start his own company, Skipper’s Oil.
In 1983, Kenelm (“Ken”) Denison, the youngest Denison son, started working at Broward. Ken started to make his own contribution to the company’s legacy with some additional new designs and a series of well-known advertising programs, including “It Must Be a Broward!” Ken started the perennial Broward Rendezvous and built some of the best known yachts in Broward’s long history. In 1993, Ken started his own yacht brokerage business, Denison & Daves, which continues his legacy of selling fine megayachts all over the world.
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I sailed throughout my formative years, then, as many people do, drifted away from the water, called to career, family, etc. A few years ago, as I watched happy boaters heading out for a day on the water, I wondered why I wasn’t one of them, and decided to buy a boat. Easier said than done. Where to start? Who to talk to? How much to pay? What kind of boat was right for me? It quickly became apparent that going on Craigslist wasn’t the answer, so I sought out a professional yacht broker. Luckily, I met Denise George. Her expertise (and patience… [read more]
- Tim Lea // J32 Owner // Southern California