The Legacy of Kadey-Krogen Yachts
It's About Heart And Soul, And Homage To A Mentor
by Bill Parlatore
photos courtesy of Kadey-Krogen Yachts
Young Krogens in Key Biscayne
Jim in his design office.
It's boat show time again, and
we gladly wait in lines to see all the new boats. It seems more so
than ever before, trawlers and cruising motorboats command center
stage. One of these boat builders is Kadey-Krogen Yachts. The familiar
shape and style of the popular cruisers-known for comfortable cruising
and quiet, relaxed living aboard-have attracted a cult-like following.
With Kadey-Krogen's recent 25th anniversary, it seems
appropriate to look at the history of a company that has brought
capable trawlers to those interested in cruising under power. It is a
story of the devotion and honor of two men whose lives were as big as
they come. It is the story of Jim Krogen and Art Kadey, and the two
sons who took the company far beyond the horizon ever imagined by its
Roots In Great Lakes
James S. Krogen is the well-known designer
of the Krogen family, born in 1928. Young Krogen grew up in Manistee,
Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The son of a dentist, Jim
always wanted to spend his time designing boats, a pursuit no doubt
influenced by his mother's boat-building brother.
Krogen graduated with a degree in naval architecture and marine
engineering from the University of Michigan in 1952, where he met and
married his sweetheart, Jean VanderArk. Responding to his country's
call, the couple moved to Seattle, where Jim served as a lieutenant in
the Navy during the Korean War and until 1956. During that time, their
first child, daughter Kim, was born. With full-time Navy duties as
engineering officer, Jim still had time to design and build a
gaff-rigged catboat, and the young Seattle family began a lifelong
love of boating and cruising.
After the Navy, Jim moved the family to Florida in
response to a job offer, and while the position never materialized,
the Krogens fell in love with Key Biscayne. Over the next few years,
Jimmy and Kurt joined the growing family (in 1958 and 1960), and the
Krogen family enjoyed Florida life and its boating opportunities. In
the 1960s Jim opened his own design office, where he focused on yacht
design while continuing heavy involvement with commercial architecture
that remained a steady contract source. His commercial projects
included dry docks, tankers, fishing boats, landing craft, ferries and
There were always boats in the family, and the boys
especially loved a 30-foot sailboat named Mischief, and a
double-ender, Siva Siva, on which the family explored southern
Florida, the Keys and the Bahamas. Boats were such an integral part of
the family's life that Kurt's earliest memory (at 4 years old) is of
his 6-year-old brother walking around with a dog-eared copy of
Yachting. Jimmy drew boats all the time, and the two boys
routinely begged their father to draw them yet another new design.
In the '60s, Jim designed a
robust wooden motorsailer, known as the Krogen 42. American Marine of
Hong Kong built a handful of these cruising sailboats in teak. The
design, like all those coming from James S. Krogen and Company,
stressed rugged simplicity and conservative style. It was his
Young Kurt followed right in line
with the family passion for boating. When he was 10 years old, he was
the U.S. Optimist champion.
Jimmy was as avid a boater as his younger brother. In
fact, in the childhood years of the '60s, sister Kim interviewed her
family for a school report. When she asked Jimmy what he wanted to be
when he grew up, his response was, "I want to be a bald-headed naval
architect like my dad."
In his teens, Jimmy crewed on
large charter boats, making several transAtlantic crossings that gave
him valuable experience. He even served aboard Pinocchio, the
Art Kadey-built 60-foot schooner that later was renamed Cyrano
and immortalized by William F. Buckley in the book
tanker Centam, built for Esso Inter-America by the Barbour Boat
Co. of New Bern, N.C. (left). One of Jim Krogen's larger
At heart a sailor his
entire life, Jim Krogen loved to cruise his Krogen 38 cutter,
which he designed for shallow Florida waters.
A Bull In The
By all accounts, Art Kadey was a person larger than
life who had a big impact on the Krogen family. Art seemed like a
character from a movie script about a man who lived life to the max.
Art was born in Michigan in 1925, and while not much is
known of his early years, he left school at 17 to become a U. S. Army
Air Force pilot during World War II. Damage to his hearing precluded a
later career in the aviation industry, so he got started building
small motorboats, first in Marine City, Michigan, where he started
Art's many adventures, which included boating in all
itís forms, a successful car-racing career at Sebring and an
appearance in TV ads for Camel cigarettes, spanned several decades,
eventually luring him to Florida. It was here that he met his wife
Maria, and together they developed a charter business in the Bahamas
In 1962 they built Pinocchio, a Ben Sawyer-designed
schooner with an 18-foot-long bowsprit (hence the name), which they
also ran in charter. But after eight years, they were ready for a
change, so the couple sold the boat to Buckley, and Art became
involved with a small freighter service between the Bahamas and
But good times did not last long after, as Maria was
soon fighting for her life against cancer. She lost the battle, dying
in her early 40s and leaving Art with medical bills far beyond his
means. It was a tough time for the bighearted man.
Now widowed, Art got into yacht brokerage, opening his
own office in the early 1970s in Coconut Grove. It was here that his
path crossed with Jim Krogen's. At first they knew each other
"He had great respect for my dad's design work," said
Kurt, and the relationship between the two men later developed in a
social level. Coconut Grove in those days was a tight-knit little
marine community. The local bar was a gathering hole for the nearby
marine guys, and a perfect backdrop for Jim and Art to become friends.
It was in the mid-1970s that Art showed Jim Krogen some
drawings for a new boat he wanted Jim to design. "Art understood the
advantages to a full-displacement boat," Kurt remembered of Art's
early meetings with his father. "I know he wanted to live aboard and
cruise on a trawler. That was his dream."
And Art knew Jim was the man to help make it happen.
Art had been to Taiwan and knew of one possible builder for the
project, Trans Pacific Marine. Those crude drawings eventually became
the now-classic Krogen 42, and Trans Pacific built the first five
boats. By all accounts, Art was the man behind the Krogen 42,
following up on his hunch that a full-displacement trawler yacht had a
place in the market. It also was precisely what he wanted for himself.
"The 42 was Art's baby," Kurt told me.
And the man showed a genuine intensity when it came to
building boats. He once told Kurt, "Your dad is the best architect in
the world. But he doesn't know anything about propellers. He doesn't
know s--- about propellers," Kurt laughed at an inside joke that
existed between Art and the Krogens. "I'll never forget," Kurt
recalled, "whenever we came into the port, he used to look at
propeller sizes and calculate pitch and diameter, and tell me, 'No way
this bucket could do more than 20 knots with the wind behind it!'"He
was really into propellers. It was the one side of engineering he
really loved," Kurt continued. "My dad's dream was more about sailing,
which is why the Krogen 38 was developed right after the Krogen 42,
because my dad wanted a cutter rig and shoal draft to sail Key
"Kadey was really the full-displacement guy, to cruise
and live aboard that trawler. My dad wanted to sail to Tahiti."
A lifeboat conversion undertaken
for Burl Ives in the 1960s.
50-foot Eden II was featured in Beebe's
original Voyaging Under Power.
The Manatee remains one of Krogen's most clever cruisers. It
still is quite popular.
26-foot lobster boat inspired the Manatee. Jim Krogen maximized
volume for liveaboard space, then Jimmy softened the curves and
named it the Manatee.
A Partnership Is Born
So it was decided
that Art would be the liaison in Taiwan, and it was a perfect
match of personality and style. He was well liked there, as he
appreciated the culture and the people.
"Art had a real love for Taiwan," Kurt recalled. "He
loved the people, the language, the food, all of it. He had a real
appreciation for Taiwan." Kadey was in Taiwan when Nixon
recognized China, and Art made the local newspapers by translating a song from Chinese to
Custom Krogen Buster, 52 feet LOA with 210hp diesel.
English and singing it at the piano
at the Imperial Bar. The newspaper stories called him a true and
loyal friend of Taiwan. At a time when most Americans were on the
China bandwagon, Kadey remained focused on Taiwanese assets.
The pair started Kadey-Krogen Yachts in 1976 to market
the first boats, built in Taiwan using primitive molds and
integral plywood fuel tanks. "They were pretty rough," Kurt
recalled, "but what do you expect for $68,000?"
Marketing the boats remained low-key at first, with
small black-and-white ads in the boating magazines. "There was no
understanding of the boat at the time," Kurt said. "In Taiwan or
the U.S. in those years, only knowledgeable yachtsmen could
appreciate and understand the Krogen. Before PassageMaker
magazine, people just didn't comprehend this kind of boat. It was
not until PassageMaker and the Nordhavn that people began to grasp
what this type of boat was all about."
It's almost hard to believe, given the respect of the
product line today, that it started on such a shoestring.
After the first five boats, Krogen and Kadey moved
construction to Chien Hwa Boat Builders on the Tam-Sui River in
Taipei. By February 1981, they had built 20 Krogen 42s and three
Krogen 38 sailboats. Momentum was starting to gather for the small
But the Krogen 42 never really took off; it slowly
attracted growing attention in the marketplace. "There was never a
mad rush for the boat," Kurt said. "It wasn't until the mid-'80s
that there was sufficient demand to build two or three a month."
"Then the mid-'80s happened. A severe exchange rate,
the luxury tax and the stock market crash conspired to kill off
many boatbuilders. It really put a damper on things, but we
continued to build boats."
A Loss In So Many Ways
But in February 1981, this
economic roller coaster was sill in the future. Things looked
bright for the friends who'd started with a drawing of a simple
cruising trawler. The company was on the verge of its first
profit, and life was looking good for Kadey-Krogen Yachts.
Then the world turned upside
down, a nosedive from the clouds that affected everyone,
especially two young men who by now had part-time jobs working for
their father and their mentoring friend.
The Krogen 42 in sea trials off Taiwan. It
was something quite new for the American market.
Art Kadey was leaving the Coral Reef Yacht Club
after dinner one evening, when in the parking lot he came upon a
couple being robbed. He went over and told the hooligans to get
lost. One of the thugs pulled out a gun and shot Kadey in the
heart. He died instantly, the bull in the china closet coming to
the aid of others as he'd done all his life.
It was a monumental, mind-numbing event for Kurt. ''I'
d been commissioning boats that morning on the Miami River," Kurt
remembered, "when I learned from my dad that Art had been shot."
"I asked my dad, 'What are we going to do?' And he
said, 'Go to work. ' "
For Kurt and Jimmy, the death signified a fork in the
road that forever changed their lives. Both were in school,
working on boats between classes. Art Kadey was a strong mentoring
influence to them, giving advice and life direction, and doing
much to steer the men toward college and careers in the marine
industry. Art Kadey was the family's dear friend. Jim Krogen was a
man who did not force his will on his children, or push them to
follow in his footsteps, but Art absolutely did his best to steer
the boys in a positive and marine-oriented direction.
Kurt volunteered to replace Art Kadey as the Taiwan
connection, pledging to help do whatever it took to make it
succeed. He literally put the rest of his life on hold; his dream
of becoming a land-based architect would just have to wait.
Despite getting great grades and wanting a profession outside the
marine industry, he knew it would have to wait.
"My dad had a real love for Biscayne Bay, sailing his
Krogen 38 cutter, and his design firm," Kurt explained. "He had
his world. He was not ready to go to Taiwan, or even attempt to do
what Art had done for the company. So Jimmy and I volunteered."
Seemingly overnight, Kurt moved to Taiwan, where he
spent most of the next seven years. He learned the language and
culture, as well as boat building. Kurt was instrumental in
refining the Krogen product.
By family consensus, Jimmy stayed in school to become a
naval architect, although both sons worked together in Taiwan for
a time in the early '80s, where they influenced each other's
projects. Kurt oversaw the production of the Krogen 42 and
Manatee, while Jimmy looked after the 38-foot Krogen sailboat.
(Jimmy actually came up with the Manatee name, doing much of the
design work to round off the edges of this father's initial
design, which is based on a working lobster boat hull.)
In subsequent years, the company expanded its line of
models beyond the venerable Krogen 42, adding the 36-foot Manatee,
the 48-foot Whaleback, the Krogen 48, the Krogen 39, Krogen 58,
Krogen 49 Express, and for a time, a high-speed cruiser known as
the Silhouette 42 SeaDeck. All told, some 400 boats have been
built under the Kadey-Krogen moniker.
Art Kadey's original sketches. This boat
became the Krogen 42.
Super Good And Getting
It is the quality of materials and construction detail
of Kadey-Krogen that continue to improve even to this day, as
the company finds better products to use in boatbuilding and
related construction. Go aboard a new Krogen and you'll see a
huge difference from early models. The Krogen 39, for example,
has a passing resemblance to the classic 42, but it is a much
better boat in every respect.
Art Kadey's love of Taiwan and its
culture made him popular among its people. He saw great
promise in a land under constant threat from China.
The list of standard
features on the current models reads like an expensive options
list from other manufacturers: welded aluminum doors, Kelvar-reinforced
hulls, U.S.- made gelcoat, one-piece molds for all major
fiberglass components, Corian counters, lead-lined foam
insulation, aluminum fuel tanks, Northern Lights gensets,
CruiseAir air conditioners...the list goes on and on.
When Jim Krogen died unexpectedly in December 1994 at
the age of 66, it was yet another family shock, although by
this time both brothers were solidly involved in critical
operation of the company. As a result, Kurt became president
of Kadey-Krogen Yachts and Jimmy took over the Krogen design
Today, Kadey-Krogen Yachts has an impressive product
line that spans 25 years. Its move in 1999 to a new facility
in Stuart, Florida, marks the introduction of a full-service
brokerage office and expanded staff and sales network. The
company hopes the Stuart base will become a magnet for Krogen
owners, as it's well positioned geographically to serve boats
headed north or south.
There were other key players at Kadey-Krogen Yachts
during the growing years, including M.F. "Buzz" Labee, who was
a financial partner in the yacht business. Jim Billings, who
sold many of the boats during the 1980s, also contributed much
to the company's tenure and growth. More recently, there's
Miguel Rios, a close family friend and boat builder who
remains a strong influence on the construction side of the
Kurt Krogen has a vision for the future and plans to
continue improving the full-displacement cruisers. Toward that
end, he sold the Krogen Express business last year to give it
its own team and support, as it is a different boat with a
different philosophy from the displacement trawler yachts. A
new Krogen 52 Express will splash next year through Krogen
Krogen 48' Whaleback, which many
believe is the ultimate liveaboard.
The Krogen 54' passagemaker was ahead of
its time and now is somewhat rare.
The large Krogen 58' is the best finished yacht
to date, and showcases what the yard is capable of.
The Krogen Express 49 proved that a faster cruising boat
did not need enormous horsepower and huge wakes. A
new version will be introduced next year.
Words Of Encouragement
I asked Jimmy and Kurt what Jim
Krogen and Art Kadey would think of their efforts if they
were alive today.
"Art would be shocked at the quality we have achieved,"
Kurt said. "We've brought it so much farther than when he
left us." Then Kurt laughed. "But he'd still comment that
our propellers need some attention."
Jimmy, of his father: "He would be proud of us and what
we've done. I'm sure of that."
They say the road to salvation is like a razor's edge.
For Jimmy and Kurt Krogen, the loss of their mentor, and
later their father, forced them to dig inside and find
destiny among heartache. It is an inspiring story that
goes way beyond the simple task of building boats.
If you go aboard a new Kadey-Krogen trawler at the boat
shows, really look at the details. Art Kadey's inspiration
and Jim Krogen's design philosophy are apparent
everywhere, with strong added influence by both Jimmy and
Kurt. Today's boats reflect a healthy blending of modern
materials, quality hardware and systems, with
conservative design and seaworthy
simplicity. There's a good reason for that brand loyalty.
For Jimmy and Kurt Krogen, Kadey-Krogen Yachts proves
their accomplishment-even with the impact of circumstance.
Jimmy did indeed become a naval architect like his dad,
although he won't be bald anytime soon. And while Kurt
didn't become the architect or photographer he told his
sister Kim he wanted to be in that childhood interview,
he's brought the company beyond what his father and mentor
might have imagined.
The company will soon unveil its new
dreamboat, the long-awaited replacement for the Krogen 42.
A new boat for the keel up, the Krogen 44 encompasses
everything learned from all the boats so far, and with a
fresh set of design parameters. For those who want the
Kadey-Krogen philosophy in contemporary form, the Krogen
44 will rule.
Kurt dreams of spending more time cruising and living
aboard one of his boats. He hopes to one day live the life
that first inspired Art Kadey to dream up the concept for
the classic trawler.
Perhaps we'll share an anchorage one day. It's the
dream of us all.
Jimmy Krogen with his wife Angelia and
their daughter Joanna at launch of the
Krogen 58', Billy the Eagle.
The popular Krogen 48 has it all.
It quietly cruises the world.
The Krogen 39' is a wonderful boat for one
couple, for living aboard or extended cruising.
The speedy Silhouette 42 SeaDeck was a departure
for the displacement Kadey-Krogen company, although
its features showed creativity and promise.