When I first heard about SV Catching Up’s construction, it was a mixture of anxiety and excitement. Who are these builders? Are they going to do a good job? Will we end up bankrupting ourselves by taking on this venture? All these questions were running through my head. One can only do so much research when preparing to have a boat built. You can read reviews and watch YouTube videos of the same boat you are soon going to be sailing, however, to stand and stare at your vessel is a whole new experience. You get a rush as you put your hand on her port hull, caking your hand in the fibreglass dust, it’s an exhilarating experience! This is going to be the first article of many highlighting my experiences when visiting and viewing our “still under construction” yacht…
… a Knysna 500 SE called “Catching Up”.
Having handled countless tasks from arranging insurance to sourcing and purchasing electrical components on the vessel, it was a welcome surprise when I was asked if I wanted to travel down to Knysna to view the boat and meet with the construction team. Touching down in Port Elizabeth, the three-hour car ride along the Southern Cape Garden Route towards Knysna gave me time to prepare myself mentally with the questions I wanted to ask. The long moving background of deep canyons, ocean views and lush green bushland provided an excellent view to daydream to while I tried to prepare for what was to come.
As we approached the large corrugated iron factory, it dawned on me that the factory exterior had a mild resemblance to the Knysna Yacht Company sail logo. Perhaps this was merely the onset of early insanity following the 3-hour car ride mixed in with a little jet lag. As we waited for the slow mechanical gate to open, our vessel was greeting us through the opening of the factory doors. As we walked up to her, the only thought going through my head was “Holy Crap! She is a bloody big boat!” Sitting with a length of 50ft and a beam of 27ft it is easy to understand the initial reaction I had. Walking along her portside bow, I immediately noticed the excellent craftsmanship and care that has gone into our yacht. The movement of the factory staff felt like that of worker bees buzzing the hive, each tasked with an important role all culminating in a beautiful piece of art. I don’t use this word lightly, the Knysna 500SE is a floating piece of art! The endless customisation options allow for your wildest dreams, from hydraulically lowered swim platforms to custom made eco-friendly solar systems the Knysna Yacht Company takes customers desires and converts them from an idea to reality.
As we walked around the workshop, slowly gathering an extra layer of dust on our clothes and filling our lungs with the fumes of glues and primer paints, I really had to take a step back and admire the whole operation. The whole yacht construction process appeared to be broken down into three groups. The first team included the primary build team focused on fitting out our boat (the next hull to be launched). Second was the laminating team, spending all their time preparing the coach roof to attach to the next hull in the production line. A third team appeared to be a sanding team. I was informed that their role was to prepare and sand the mould for the new Knysna 550 that was announced. These hard-working people looked so dedicated and focused on their task yet were happy to take a few moments to answer any questions we had.
After gawking at our beautiful vessel long enough, we were guided into the office where I had the pleasure of meeting the build management team. Attending the meeting was; Kevin and Rika Fouche, their business partner Grant Boshard, head electrician Peter Abbot and head construction manager Jeremy O’Connor. Each member of this build team has a unique strength that has a direct impact on the stunning result in each Knysna Yacht. Kevin’s strong sense of leadership and management skill really put me at ease knowing there is a strong management team with a solid business structure behind every yacht they build. Rika (Kevin’s wife) has an immaculate sense of style and taste, taking the lead point as interior decorator. Her goal to study the client’s interior desires and then apply them to the boat from custom leather seating options all the way to the colour of your carpets (should you want them on your custom floor design) really blows you away. Grant Boshard brings a whole new aspect to the business, having moved to the company recently. Grant has the unique position to applying modern business practices to the leadership team further enhancing client satisfaction. The work Grant has done was the reason I had already obtained footage of our boat’s construction stages before seeing it in person thanks to his integration of social media marketing at the company. Jeremy and Peter are both some of the most talented and accommodating people within the company. Their goal to take a customer’s vision and convert it into reality stuns me. These two people know our boat better than we ever will and I made sure to question every detail, to which they answered easily. The interaction from the build team truly extinguished any worries or fears I had before seeing the yacht. The build team outlined both the benefits and consequences of each idea we brought to the table while efficiently providing a quote for the desired item that we requested they add. I can honestly say that there is no other group of people I trust more to complete our vessel than the Knysna Yacht company build team.
Although our vessel still has a long way to go (approximately 14 weeks at the time of writing) I have no doubt that the Knysna yacht company will efficiently create the floating masterpiece that they are known for. The atmosphere around that workshop just felt good. Workers at every level of the build process felt proud of the work they were doing regardless of the capacity of work they were in. If they were sanding moulds, attaching handrails or even managing the workshop store room, they were proud of it and willing to show you’re their achievements. I truly believe there is no better team that can be tasked to construct a custom made 50ft catamaran for a decent price. I feel that the ethos of the Knysna Yacht Company can be summarised to this excerpt of a dusty Staff Notice I found taped to a support beam.
We have been given an opportunity to not just earn a salary every day but to be a part of something bigger. We are all an important part of building one of the finest cruising catamarans in the world. Remember that the quality and speed at which each boat is built is highly dependent on the hard work and commitment of each person who works at this company.
I believe that everyone at Knysna Yacht Company has taken their best skills and placed them onto our boat. The quality of the finish even though covered in fine white powdery dust is immaculate. Walking through our boat, you really notice the small details such as the already polished handrails and custom cut cupboards in our chosen wood finish. The other thing I found walking through our boat that truly left me with a smile was the workers sense of pride as we viewed their work. To see a man, stand with pride and explain what his role in the build was, left me feeling thankful we that we decided to build with Knysna Yacht Company. I am so excited to see the finished product and look forward to sharing a more comprehensive review of the strengths and weaknesses of the vessel once she is launched. After this experience though, I truly believe there will be very few negatives after the care that each person has given to our boat while she is being built.
SV CATCHING UP.
4 May 2018