Where Our Sailboat Was Born (Catamaran Factory Tour)

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 nautique.tv 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.