Funger’s boatyard - Perfection inland
A boatyard in the middle of the flat Lower Rhine landscape? The Rhine and the Niers rivers miles away? Setting up a boatyard here, that was the biggest mistake of his life, master shipbuilder Sebastian Funger says grinning from ear to ear. No, of course he is firmly committed to Kempen, he does not want to move to the coast or a reservoir somewhere. The Lower Rhine region is actually something of an Eldorado for boat building because the population is keen on sailing, rowing and canoeing, especially behind the Dutch border. This location may not seem that good at first sight, but his company needed only eleven years to become established. For a long time his company didn’t have a penny to spare, and was not able to build up any reserves. In the end it is irrelevant where boats are built, for with a boat trailer you can take them anywhere.
With his boatyard, Sebastian Funger has made his childhood dream come true – especially since it is located in the Lower Rhine region, his home. Funger comes from Hüls, or Krefeld-Hüls, as the people from Hüls are not so fond of hearing. As a child he often went to the North Sea in the holidays, to Husum. He could hunker down for hours at the pier and watch the ships coming and going. He was relatively late in getting on board himself. Then, at the age of 15, 16 he started sailing. From day one he loved the “small ones”, boats up to 8 meters long. And he still builds boats of this type today in his boatyard, which is based in an industrial park near Kempen, and which barely anyone in the city knows. His clients come especially to see him, often from far away. His location is secondary; what matters more are competence and prices.
But Funger doesn’t just build sailing boats in the hall; he also restores many older boats. Boats up to a length of 18 meters can fit in his hall. Funger and his staff build a boat in six to seven months. These are tried and tested constructions, replicas of a series of boats that was developed at the end of the 1960’s in Sweden. Västbris 20, 23 and 27 are the different models, but they are not boats off the rack. After all, every boat owner has different wishes, especially below deck. He came upon the boat from Sweden, which is not built there today any more, by chance. A friend “stumbled across” these boats and knew immediately that Sebastian Funger would like this traditional line. The hull is made of plastic, epoxy laminate, which is laminate in vacuum infusion. The wood structures are made of spruce, mahogany or teak depending on the purpose and client’s wishes.
The Swedish sailing boat is based on the seaworthiness of whaling boats. The raised bow is emulated on ancient Vikings models. That makes it easier to sail “dry” when there are strong waves. Funger himself learned to sail in the Eifel region. He has loved the Rur river dam and the landscape round the Eifel since his scout days. Sometimes it reminds him of a Fjord landscape. Now a 45-year-old family man, he left school before the Abitur (school-leaving certificate allowing university entrance in Germany) to take up a shipbuilding apprenticeship. And he didn’t even have to move to do so. He completed his apprenticeship in Krefeld, at Kother, a boatyard that builds dinghy cruisers. In 1997 the company closed down. As a shipbuilder you have to be an all-rounder: you have to know all about wood, plastic, electronics and engines. But Funger is not a carpenter, he emphasizes. There are too many right angles in carpentry, something that practically doesn’t exist on a ship. So Funger does not build furniture. Following his alternative civilian service and his years as a journeyman, he looked for work in North Germany and the Eifel, and at the same time he attended master school. In 1998 he founded his own boatyard. It was his dream to try his luck in his home region, in Krefeld. Otherwise he wouldn’t have come back. It was chance that it ended up at Kempen: he found an affordable hall in a backyard there. For the initial phase its dimensions were just right. In 2008 the boatyard then moved to its current location.
The repairs activities are the nuts and bolts of the business. They account for more than half of his turnover. And Funger is certainly not the only one working on these boats. There are two colleagues in the Nettetal area within just 25 kilometers. With his two journeymen and two apprentices, Funger manages one to one and a half new boats a year. His second generation models cost between 58,000 and 80,000 euros. Boat number 13 is under construction in Kempen at the moment. The current clients come from Jena and Switzerland. Generally customers find the inland boatyard at trade fairs or by surfing on the Internet. In autumn they will attend the Hamburg International Boat show. There is another important boat trade fair in Friedrichshafen at Lake Constance. There they will meet colleagues that produce in large series for sailors and water sports enthusiasts. Twelve boats are often built a day there. The association of shipbuilders said there was no future in small series boats. But Funger is one of the few boat building businesses that has survived and that is firmly committed to its individual concept. His wife also likes to sail and works in the company office. The children (18/20) do not share in their maritime passion quite as much.
The boats built in Kempen were once designed for Kattegat and Skagerrak, where the North Sea meets the Baltic Sea. This is a difficult sailing area. Funger’s sailboats are perfectly equipped for the waters there. Despite the strong tides, there are no problems, for the boat cannot run aground. Just listening to Sebastian Funger you can sense how much he loves the boats he builds. For the first time a “green boat” is currently taking shape in his hall, a boat with an electric engine. Funger strokes a wooden section that has already been varnished and beams: “I have one of the best jobs you can have.”
Industriering Ost 23
Tel.: 02152-55 99 40
Stand: Juni 2014