nikki wynn with catamaran factory workers building sailboats

WHERE OUR SAILBOAT WAS BORN (Catamaran Factory Tour)

We live and travel about the world on a South African built catamaran.  So, we couldn’t come to South Africa and not see where our boat was born!

We think of our boat Curiosity as an old friend.  She (because I can’t stand to say something as insignificant as “it”) isn’t alive by scientific standards and yet we treat her with almost human regard.

Which seems absurd…but when have we humans ever been a sensical species?

It makes sense that we’re drawn to other living things but where does this attachment to the inanimate come from?

We give our vessels (rolling or floating) names and personalities.  They become prominent characters in the story of our lives and for the unsedentary few, it’s also the place we call home.

We’ve lived aboard Curiosity for four years now and she’s taken us almost halfway around the world.  In that time, we’ve gotten to know each other intimately.  Ohhh, if these hulls could talk…the expletives she could spew!

And, like any hard-earned relationship, we love her more with each passing nautical mile.  But we know her as the sailboat she is now…our fifteen-year-old catamaran with more than a few nicks in her fiberglass (that we still need to patch up, sorry about that ol’ girl).

So naturally, when we had the opportunity to see where she was born, we didn’t even blink!

Not only do we stand in the exact spot Curiosity was made, we get a “hands-on” look at how Robertson and Caine builds Leopard catamarans today.

After our road trip with Tom and our visits to Vision Yachts and St. Francis Marine, we thought we had an idea of what to expect…but wow…it was soooo different.

Our respect for boat building, in general, has gone up tenfold but the differences in semi-custom boutique builders vs production catamaran builders are stark.

You simply can’t compare the two worlds.  The same as you wouldn’t compare Cape Town to Knysna.  One is a bustling metropolis and the other is a quaint resort town.

We walked away with so much new information swirling around in our heads that we still haven’t processed. But, there were a few things that really stuck with us.

Major Takeaways

The relationship between employer and employee.  We certainly noticed this at the other factories too, so this is a continuing theme.  But Johan said something to me during our tour. I can still hear his voice in my head and feel the compassion in his eyes, “Having a job in South Africa is a privilege”.  He said it as both an employer and an employee.

Life in Africa is no cakewalk and their history speaks for itself.  But the people are some of the most vivacious we’ve ever encountered.  The woman singing at the end is a perfect example.  People weren’t grumpy they had to work; they were happy to be working.

Or, perhaps the line manager summed it up best, “you have to have a connection with your people….if you love what you are doing, you never work a day in your life”.

On-Site Health Clinics

Robertson & Caine understands the work the employees are doing is physical and comes with health risks. They also employ over 1,800 people!  So making sure everyone is safe and healthy was an ongoing theme.   Plus, healthy workers equal steady production.

They have on-site health clinics with mandatory physical and respiratory checkups.  If someone isn’t adhering to proper safety (like wearing a respirator when working with resin) then their health checkup will show it.

Steady Production

Robertson & Caine pumps out about 200 boats a year and they increase production almost every year.  What started out as one small factory has grown to six locations in Cape Town.  From 1997-2019 they delivered 2,065 catamarans.

They are constantly improving their workflow and were implementing new modular stations into their production lines, even during our tour.

Boats move on the line every four days and it takes approximately 60 days from layup to splash to build a Leopard 45 catamaran. Then the cats get loaded on a freighter and shipped around the world…but a few are commissioned and picked up by the owners in Cape Town! Now that would be an exciting first sail: Crossing the Atlantic.


Because I know it can get confusing: Robertson & Caine is the boat builder and Leopard is the brand of our sailboat. One more little confusing bit: R & C also builds Moorings catamarans, which is the charter version of the Leopard cats. Confused yet?!?



We had a blast seeing where CURIOSITY was built, but we couldn’t have done it without a little help. Thanks to Marcel and the Robertson & Caine crew for spending soo many hours with us at the factories. Thanks to Leopard for hosting us and Rob at for letting us borrow the factory time-lapse of the Leopard 40 flipping. And a special shout out to all the factory workers that graced us with a smile, a wave or a song…you give the factory and the boats life!

And of course: YOU! Thank you!  Each week you show up and make this all possible.  Thanks for reading, watching, commenting, and sharing.  If you like what you see, there are lots of FREE ways you can show your support.




Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (26)

  • Sheri

    Loved the tours, but especially the singing! Special people, as you are as well! Thank you!

  • JR Thornton

    My question to the design team would have been; do you own a cat? I’ve owned boats and RV’s and every so often wonder if the designer ever spent a night in the vessel. Why would they put a door here or why would they put a ? there. Even Mary was complaining about something that seemed pretty “useless” on her van as i recall from your travel video with her. Have you ever wondered about some physical aspect on Curiosity that you would change if you could?

    • Curious Minion

      It’s a good question, and one that many boat and RV owners ask themselves on a daily basis. Why is there no shoe storage built in by the door? Why is there no place for dirty clothes? Things you don’t think about until you live in a tiny space. But it’s a battle between what’s required, what’s practical, & what’s desired. Nikki and Jason had some thoughts on this when Fleetwood gave them the opportunity to help design their Bounder. Check these vids out for insight into the battle: and
      Curious Minion

  • Michael K

    Just a thought about spelling and grammar.. the very best way to master it is to simply READ. Read as much as you can, as often as you can. You don’t have to do anything else and it will build your skills like crazy. Of course, it hasn’t hindered you at all, you are doing just fine, so feel free to ignore my advice. =)

    • We’d love to have extra time to sit and read, but that’s just not in the cards at this point in our lives…unless it’s a user manual on how to repair boat parts 🤣

      • Mike

        Well I have seen you pull off some stuff that, from the curb, I would have never thought you could

  • Darrell

    How cool was that. Getting to see the birth mama up close and personal and the sweet song at the end simply made this the best. Now I’d love to own a Leopard just because I know the heart and soul that is put into the craft. It really is the best sales video made for their boats. Can’t wait to get you back on the water. Cheers

  • Jeanette Brennan

    Tremendous video – as always. So interesting to see how and where Curiosity was ‘conceived’. Stay safe and well and I’m really looking forward to your next video. Thx for sharing this adventure with us all. 💖⛵️🙏

  • YDion

    Love the fact that you also spoke with, interviewed and heard from those craft people building the boats. And the voice of the lady in the end (agreed with John Schretlen) – Wow. Best ending ever.

  • Colleen

    Thank you so much for your content! You are my binge-watching choice during this lockdown. I just became a patron because I value what you do!
    Hope you get back to your boat soon!

  • Aaron Hoffman

    are you building a new boat soon or thinking about buying a new one soon

    • Curious Minion

      There are no plans for a new Curiosity. Unless you’re buying haha!
      Curious Minion

  • Jack Schmidt

    Two comments:
    I wonder what the difference is between the Mooring Cats and the regular production boats?

    Secondly, it is quite remarkable that Robertson & Caine have been able to weather the storm of political discourse in South Africa and retain their large factory. The happy employee’s are a credit to their management style and commentment to a quality product.

  • John Schmidt

    Two comments:
    I wonder what the difference is between the Mooring Cats and the regular production boats?

    Secondly, it is quite remarkable that Robertson & Caine have been able to weather the storm of political discourse in South Africa and retain their large factory. The happy employee’s are a credit to their management style and commentment to a quality product.

  • aboyandhisdog

    How are the boats delivered all around the globe? Do they have to hire people to sail them to the retailers or does every owner have to fly to South Africa to pick up or what?

  • Mary

    Wow! What an incredible day for you! I was thinking a few tears may spew! Did this make you want a new boat? New is nice even when you have had so many great times together!

    Loved the ladies singing! ❤️

  • Nicola

    Love watching you guys! I’m a South African, currently living in London and supposed to be visiting my family in Durban but alas couldn’t get home in time so it’s been great watching your videos and seeing a bit of home…. you guys are my favourite couple to watch out of all the sailing videos out there. Looking forward to seeing Cape Town soon in your next video. Hope all okay in Tonga 🙂

  • Jo

    Very interesting. Nice to see the process from the design concept to the finished product. A lot of great craftsmanship. Stay safe Nikki and Jason, I hope you’re reunited with your own home, Curiosity, sooner rather than later.

  • Steve Tannenbaum

    Did you ask the builders about the problems you’ve had with the windows on Curiosity?


    The last 50 seconds of this video was the best ending of any video you have ever done. It really closed out the factory tour with the best feeling of South Africa; you could not have done any better.


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