We regret having to report the passing on Monday of well-loved Bay Area sailor and businessman Svend Svendsen, founder of Svendsen’s Boat Works in Alameda.
Born in Denmark in 1932, Svend was descended from a family of fishermen, whose bond with the sea went back generations. According to his son Sean, one of his happy early-childhood memories was delivering fresh-baked bread on his bicycle. During the Nazi occupation of Denmark, he continued his rounds, sometimes delivering messages for the Danish underground, hidden within the loaves.
After the war, Svend learned his craft at a boat-building technical college, and eventually migrated to the U.S. in 1956 to pursue his career. After a stint in New York, he migrated to the Bay Area, where he worked for several well-known yacht builders in Sausalito and Oakland, and traveled the country with the world’s fastest unlimited hydroplane boat, which he helped build and maintain.
During a Tahoe ski trip, he met his lifelong partner, Suzanne. They were married for 52 years. The couple founded Svendsen’s Boat Works at the Pacific Marina in Alameda (now Marina Village) in 1963, and moved the business to its current location on Clement Street three years later. Until the end, Svend worked alongside his employees, building the business from a one-man shop to one of the largest boating supply and repair facilities in the country.
Within the Bay Area sailing community, Svend may be best known for his association with the various one design boats he built and raced. Affectionately called the Godfather of Folkboats, Svend is credited with preserving the Folkboat class, by ushering in the transition from wood to fiberglass construction. A longtime member of the St. Francis YC, he was heralded as the club’s Yachtsman of the Year in 2004 for his substantial contributions to the sport of sailing. Svend was an avid racer and, with his son Sean as crew, won numerous regattas.
In an obituary, his son Sean wrote, "Svend was best known for his good nature, charisma and charm, and for the friendship he bestowed upon all who crossed his path. . . Svend had verve and panache, and was a lover of life. He will also be missed by his employees, whom he treated with the utmost respect and loyalty. Svend will be remembered by all for the positive influence he had on his community and the world around him."
We extend our sincere condolences to the family, as we bid farewell to a Bay Area legend. A public memorial will be announced soon.