Building An Electric Boat In South Africa?

Building An Electric Boat In South Africa?

Unexpected adventure, and saying yes to strangers, are ongoing themes for us.  There is rarely a plan or any grand contemplation.  We’ve done things we never dreamt of, in places we have never been to…all because we said ‘Yes’ to a stranger.

Today’s tale is another one of those YES stories.

This is all about that time we said yes to an enthusiastic British guy who offered to fly over to South Africa and show us where the best Catamarans are made.

We knew our sailboat Curiosity was made in South Africa, but we had no idea just how steeped in boat building the country is.

Crazy right!  In four years, we’ve gone from not knowing a lick about sailing to over 13,000 nautical miles under our keels and now we’re deep in the catamaran building mecca.  Fumbling along the entire way of course…but here we are, learning more about this salty world every day.

Big Takeaways on Learning How Sailboats Are Made

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, nor what to expect.  This was our first boatbuilding factory tour experience and it was overwhelming.

Both James and Rob were eager to show off every step of the process.  Bobbing and weaving through each area of the factory beaming with pride.  Nothing off limits, no cut corners to hide.

I never assumed building a solid bluewater boat was an easy task but my respect for my own vessel, and the ones being built today, multiplied by factors of ten.

The sheer amount of handcrafting (manual labor) that goes into each vessel is astonishing.  So much fairing, sanding, polishing…days and weeks and months of it. The next time I run my hand along the hull I will imagine all the hundreds of hours someone else’s hands were there.  And that is just the hull!

The excitement and pride…which should come as no surprise considering the amount of work that goes into each vessel.  From the workers infusing resin to the person drilling holes where one day a bolt will go.  They had a beaming look in their eyes that reminded me of a kid presenting at a science fair, “Look at this awesome thing I made”.  Not exactly the vibe I was expecting from factory workers, but it was a pleasant surprise.  I bet that as any of those workers see one of the boats sailing along the coast, or moored in a harbor, stops to say, “that’s one of my boats, I helped make that”.

Both Vision Yachts and St. Francis are semi-custom boutique builders.  They only build a handful of catamarans a year and customer satisfaction and quality was the name of the game.  Want a pantry here, a desk there, a wheelchair accessible boat?  No problem, they’ll design it.

Each design request comes at a price however in the form of time.  Production boats are pumped out because each one is the same.  The more you change, the more time it takes to build the boat.  So choose your customizations wisely if you want to be out on the water sooner rather than later.

Because of course, the real gem here…the South African coast!  One day we’ll be here looking at these views from the bow of Curiosity.

sailing through the knysna heads south africa
fog rolling over the knsyna heads south africa
fog rolling over the knsyna heads south africa
nikki wynn capturing a photo while sailing along the coast of st. francis in south africa
sailing along the coast of st. francis in south africa
fishing boat in st. francis south africa

Catamaran Building Friends:

Stay Tuned!

Next up is Cape Town.  We get a locals guide to being a tourist as we let Kate lead us through her old stomping grounds.  Plus we have one more factory tour and this is the big one.  As in the biggest in South Africa.  It’s the Robertson and Caine factory and is still in the same exact spot Curiosity was born.


Thanks to both James and Rob for taking the time to show us around, not just the factories but their home turf too.

Tom, you are a character I hope to showcase again someday out on the high seas.  Maybe you’ll need someone to help sail that electric Vision 44 up to Europe 😁

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