Industry mourns longtime Rhode Island yacht broker

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Bruce Brakenhoff Sr., co-founder of the Bartram & Brakenhoff Yacht Brokerage, died at the age of 80 after a heart attack June 15 at his home in Jamestown, R.I.

Brakenhoff started his career more than 50 years ago with Orienta Marine, was a vice president at Northrop & Johnson and co-founded Newport, R.I.-based Bartram & Brakenhoff in 1967 with partner and friend Joe Bartram, according to an obituary published in the online sailing newsletter Scuttlebutt.

Brakenhoff grew up in Larchmont, N.Y., and moved to Jamestown in 1985. He was a past commodore of the Conanicut Yacht Club in Jamestown, a member of the Storm Trysail Club and a former member of the Larchmont Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club, as well as ethics committee chairman for the Yacht Brokers Association of America for more than 20 years and treasurer of the American Yacht Charter Association.

Brakenhoff was a mainstay in the industry and he wrote and created some of the original charter contracts, regulations and practices that still exist today.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Noel H. Brakenhoff; his son, Bruce R. Brakenhoff Jr.; his daughter, Betsy Brakenhoff Hickey; and seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Northrop & Johnson president Kevin Merrigan said Brakenhoff was an “honest Yankee.”

“His reputation for honesty and hard work is legendary in the industry. Working on the YABA ethics and contract committees, he could strike fear into a young broker’s heart,” Merrigan said. “As a junior broker you quickly learned to know your facts and have your ducks in a row before you spoke with Bruce.”

Alex Clarke of Denison Yacht Sales, a former Bartram & Brakenhoff employee, grew up around yachts as the nephew of Joe Bartram.

“Some of my best memories as a child were growing up around yachts in Marion, Mass., and the Newport, R.I. areas,” Clarke said. “Bruce was my uncle’s left hand. He was a pioneer in the industry and loved by everyone who met him.”

Jeff Partin at Fraser Yachts remembers Brakenhoff as “old-school, lovably gruff and had a great laugh.”

“The first thing Bruce ever said to me was with some degree of skepticism, ‘So you want to be a yacht broker?’ ” Partin recalled. “I replied yes, and he responded, ‘We’ll see’. He guided me through my very first deal and remained a mentor during my 4.5 years at Bartram & Brakenhoff.”

“As a gentleman broker for over 50 years, I’d sometimes introduce Bruce as one of the founding fathers of our industry,” said Jonathan Chapman, another Bartram & Brakenhoff alumnus. “He’d smile and downplay it all, but he really was. I will miss him.”

David C. Lacz, principal of Bartram & Brakenhoff, said “Bruce has been like a guiding light since I purchased B&B in 1998, and although he will be dearly missed, the light will always stay there.”

A memorial service will be held in July. For information, contact David C. Lacz at dclacz@bartbrak.com.

Click here for an obituary and guestbook in the Providence (R.I.) Journal.

Click here for the full Scuttlebutt obit.

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