On Board the Van Der Heijden 52

The Van der Heijden 52 has throwback look, but she's thoroughly modern inside and out.
Courtesy Van der Heijden

Motor Specifications

Her take-anything look is supported by a robust build consisting of 5083 marine-grade aluminum plate that’s about a quarter-inch thick in the hull bottom, three-eighths inch in the keel and three-sixteenths inch in her hull sides. Beefy transversal supports are set every 16 inches, adding backbone. She’s rock solid, and even at 52 feet length overall her displacement is just 31,000 pounds. This weight savings means the 52 doesn’t need massive iron to move her across the water. My test vessel featured relatively modest twin 575-horsepower Caterpillar C9 ACERT diesels housed in an engine space that is voluminous (you could fit a berth in the aft port corner). Access is via a centerline teak-covered cockpit hatch on a ram, a great setup for quick pre-trip checks. Two other hatches flank this one and flip up (aft to forward) if more extensive engine work is necessary. These hatches could also be hinged to flip up to outboard, if you prefer. All filters and regular service items are within arm’s reach. If you are into serious performance, Phillips said, the boat could accommodate a pair of 900-horsepower MAN common-rail diesels. Courtesy Van der Heijden

Quiet at the helm

On the water, I was quite happy with the 2,000 rpm, 21-knot cruise speed this commuter-style craft offered up on the calm waters outside Port Everglades Inlet. Her running attitude was flat sans trim tabs, sight lines were excellent on both straightaways and hard-over turns, and the motors’ total fuel burn was a mere 34 gph. This equates to 0.62 nmpg and a 440-plus-mile range based on the 52’s 800-gallon fuel capacity with a 10 percent reserve. (I could hear the Out Islands calling.) In addition, at cruise speed the Caterpillars were at only 53 percent load, which should make for a long, healthy engine life, if properly maintained. At her motors’ top end (2,500 rpm and 99 percent load), the 52 skated atop the sea at 27.7 knots propelled effortlessly by her 25-by-37-inch, five-blade Michigan wheels. (Phillips said there’s some room to tweak the props’ pitch to get more speed, if desired.) Even at wide-open throttle, the 52’s range is more than 300 miles. Whatever speed you travel, this yacht is pretty quiet, which is not such an easy achievement. As a general rule, metal boats are louder than their fiberglass counterparts. But thanks to generous insulation, spray foam filling every nook and cranny, and all machinery abaft the salon, the conversation in the salon and the helm area underway doesn’t require a raised voice or an uncomfortably bent ear. Quietude is part of the 52’s comfort equation, and there’s much more. Courtesy Van der Heijden

Boat-wide comfort

There are twin super-cozy, made-in-Texas, custom-designed Llebroc helm chairs, and L-shaped dinette seating is abaft the helm, with both featuring tough-as-nails yet eye-catching Patty Madden-produced vinyl upholstery. The material is listed as everything from ­bacterial-resistant to bleach-resistant, so this stuff seems designed for the long haul. The salon and helm’s tropical-feel, blue-tone upholstery complements the standard, warm-feeling, satin-finish cherry wood that abounds in this yacht’s interior. Of course, if you prefer all teak or some wildly exotic wood, the builder is happy to cater to an owner’s desires. Courtesy Van der Heijden

Fully featured galley

A few steps down from the salon and helm is the fully equipped galley-down sporting a Corian countertop and top-notch appliances including a full-size Bosch fridge, AEG convection oven, Fisher & Paykel dishwasher and HomeKing four-burner ceramic cooktop. If you like to cook at sea, this is the gear that can help you to do it well. Plenty of light emanates from the salon thanks to house-length side windows and the three-panel front window. (I inquired if those three front windows could be formed into one curved piece of glass to help reduce the ­number of ­mullions, and perhaps enhance the already great helm visibility even more. Phillips noted the beefy nature of the pilasters supporting the windows and said it’s possible.) Rounding out the belowdecks space is a two-stateroom arrangement with a step-up berth in the forepeak master and side-by-side berths for the kids in the guest space abaft and to starboard. Both cabins have a Samsung TV, and there are two heads, each equipped with a shower stall that could accommodate a basketball player. Courtesy Van der Heijden

Stylish and useful on-deck hardware

In addition to her hull’s streamlined, low profile that instills you with a sense of 1930s Long Island Sound commuter meets bad-boy rumrunner, the 52 has several flourishes that should help her stand apart: Stylish, glistening-in-the-sun logos are cut with water jets into the transom gates, and cleverly designed, custom-size fender-stowage slots fill the dead space in the transom. (These are also perfectly sized for dive tanks, and one owner used this space to add a barbecue grill.) Courtesy Van der Heijden

The 52’s curved lines

Python drives (see: thrust bearings) are mounted to the 52’s engine stringers, ensuring the engines’ shaft alignment at all times. And her hull is painted a dark blue that blends into a contrasting white as it reaches the cockpit, accenting the serious sweep of her double-curved stern section. It’s sexy. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the thousand (or so) here only begin to paint this boat’s portrait, but I think stout and sultry are a good place to start. Denison Yacht Sales, 561-346-1616; Courtesy Van der Heijden

Performance Chart

LOA: 52’0″
BEAM: 15’3″
DRAFT: 2’11”
DISPL.: 31,000 lb.
FUEL: 800 gal.
WATER: 238 gal.
DEADRISE: 15 degrees
ENGINES (tested): 2 x 575 hp Caterpillar C9 diesels
PRICE AS TESTED: $1,895,000 Test Conditions:
Speeds were measured by GPS off Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in calm seas and 5-knot winds with 33 percent fuel, full water and three persons aboard. Fuel consumption was measured with the Caterpillar electronic engine-monitoring system. Sound levels were measured at the helm with windows and doors closed.

Sleek with broad shoulders

She’s stout and sultry? How’d they make that happen?

These were my initial thoughts as the all-aluminum, Dutch-built Van der Heijden 52 caught my gaze quayside in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. If boat sections could speak, her plumb bow might say it’s ready to slice and dice sloppy seas, while her broad shoulders would be more likely to bellow, “It’s clobbering time!” She proposes quite an intriguing juxtaposition, one that the builder and the 52’s champion stateside, Dick Phillips, know how to do well.


Phillips, whose father, Herbert, founded Striker Yachts, has a lifetime of experience creating aluminum boat lines with companies like Heesen, Diaship and others. And over the last 20 years, Van der Heijden has built and sold more than 400 boats to a global market. In fact, my test 52 is Hull No. 2.