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PALMER JOHNSON Yachts – Operating Since 1918

Palmer Johnson is one of the iconic yacht builders to emerge from the Americas. The company is located in the Great Lakes region in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

The company constructs high-end performance yachts up to 81.4m, with showrooms in Fort Lauderdale and Monaco.

Once highly regarded, they built famous vessels, such as the Fortuna for the King of Spain, and the Turmoil, an explorer vessel that sailed the globe three times. 

Yacht Builder:Palmer Johnson
Founder:Hans Johnson and Herman Gmack
Founded: 1918
Headquarters: Monaco
CEO: Timur Mohamed

PALMER yachts history

In 1918, Hans Johnson and Herman Gmack founded Palmer Johnson under the original name Sturgeon Bay Boat Works.

The boatyard specialized in repairing rowing boats and commercial fishing vessels in the 1920s.

In 1928, they launched their first wooden yacht and became known for building high-end wooden sailing yachts. Hans’ son, Palmer Johnson, takes over the company in the same year.

As with many companies with a 100-year history, Palmer Johnson went through hard times and prosperous times.

The WWII period was a particularly good time for business for Palmer Johnson as they built over forty 45-foot air-sea rescue boats and four “T” class freighters.

In 1956, the shipbuilding company was sold and renamed after the founder’s son, Palmer Johnson.

Throughout the 1960s and into the next four decades, Palmer Johnson was at the forefront of innovative yacht construction using aluminum. 

The company delivered FIREBIRD just a few short years after this shift to aluminum yacht construction. FIREBIRD was the world’s largest aluminum sailing yacht at the time of her launch, a 25.6m ketch.

FORTUNA soon surpassed this record in 1979. FORTUNA was King Juan Carlos of Spain’s 30.5m yacht.

FORTUNA held the title of the fastest yacht globally for over a decade as she could reach the incredible top speed of 46 knots, which was unheard of at the time.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary, Palmer Johnson launched LA BARONESSA, a 59.5m all-aluminum yacht, the largest in the USA, in 1998.

In 2003, Timur Mohamed bought the stagnant Palmer Johnson Yachts after purchasing his 120-foot yacht, the Cover Drive, from the shipbuilders.

The English businessman purchased it as the company had experienced several unproductive years.

In 2004, the company burst back onto the shipbuilding scene when it introduced its popular SportYacht series under its new owner’s direction.

The series featured exterior and interior designs from Nuvolari Lenard, the major yacht design company renowned worldwide.

In 2012, Palmer Johnson introduced the new carbon-fiber SuperSport performance. The SuperSport was a new carbon fiber performance model.

Unfortunately, this series was launched in a different economic climate and didn’t reach the success of their SportYacht series. 

Notable launches

Palmer Johnson has several other notable launches besides its most iconic launches like the FORTUNA and LA BARONESSA.

In 2007, the 41.5m PJ 135 SportYacht Dragon was launched. The superyacht rose to international acclaim with a maximum speed of 30 knots. 

Although Palmer Johnson struggled to keep traction in the yacht market after 2012, an ongoing project in partnership with Bugatti is a point of interest for yacht fans.

A contract for thirty of the new PJ 48 Niniette and PJ 63 Niniette Open Sport series yachts has been signed, which amounts to EUR 40M for the yacht building company.

Palmer Johnson has a rich history in yacht building, with over 100 years of innovative yacht building that will hopefully continue with the new Niniette model.


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