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Yachting - February 2008 - The American Way

Written by Dudley Lawson

In London, a young woman with failing lungs was given a complete heart / lung transplant, but her years of breathing problems had enlarged and deformed her heart, making it generally unsuitable for use in other patients. That same deformity, however, made it a perfect match for DeVos' special requirements, and his transplant operation, followed by an extensive recovery, went so well that yachting again found a spot on his life's agenda.

In the intervening years, Hatteras had discontinued production of yachts over 100 feet, so on the advice of friends, DeVos looked into Westport Yachts and found what he was looking for in their 112-foot model. Seaquest was delivered to the DeVos family in 2003 and provided such enjoyment that the soon were looking at Westport's 130-foot model. DeVos took delivery of the larger Seaquest in 2005, and the yacht was featured on Yachting's November cover that year. The model is still in production, with a new arrangement plan available this year. DeVos keeps Seaquest on the East Coast, using her in Florida and the islands during the winter, and cruising Maine, Nantucket and Newport in the summer.

When I asked if he would be moving up to Westport's new 164-foot model anytime soon, DeVos laughed and said, "No, I don't have any plans, but they're working on me." Whether DeVos' fleet, spanning nearly 60 years, will top out at 130 feet is subject to speculation, but there's no doubt where he'll go for a bigger yacht should the family grow beyond the capabilities of the 130-footer.

"The Westport was the only boat I've ever taken out of the barn where I didn't have to go back or chase warranty problems over and over. That boat was just perfect from the day I took it. We did have a failure of a bow thruster when we got down to San Diego [from Westport's yard in Washington], but they were there the next day with one and fixed it." After assuring me that he had no financial interest in Westport Yachts Company, DeVos continued, "Service and follow-up have just been fabulous. But the main things is, the boats just don't have any problems to speak of." DeVos told of three Michigan friends, one of whom had bought a 112-footer and two who had 130-footers, one of them mobbing up from a 112-foot boat as had DeVos. "They all had the same experience [as me]," he said, and praised the company's personnel as well. "The Westport guys are terrific. Individually they've all been very fun to work with."

Rich DeVos is a man of many facets. It must be acknowledged that both he and Amway have garnered their share of criticism over the years, but the controversies are old stories best left to the financial press. The person I interviewed was a cordial gentleman whose unwavering faith is sprinkled without pretense throughout his conversation. "Praise the Lord for all his blessings," he said as we were discussing how much joy boating brings to life. "That's how you can have a boat in the first place." In the final analysis, it seems Rich DeVos is just another guy who appreciates his boats-whether small or large-not only for what they are, but more so for what they allow him to do, which is to spend happy times aboard with his family and friends. "What good is a boat," he said to me, "if you don't have friends to go out on it?" Whatever your faith, you've got to add an "Amen" to that.

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