A note about the yard manager at St. Francis Marine
I'm now sitting in Cape Town
, my month in St. Francis having come to a close, and I'm going through my pics and notes and videos regarding the build. I thought I'd share my thoughts on one of the most important people at the yard, because I think he's a large part of the success of these boats, and because anyone building a SF50 will be working closely with him for what I think will be many years.
The yard manager who oversees the build is named Jaco. He's been with the company for over 20 years, and has been involved in a ton of different departments. I was blown away by Jaco over the last month. I've never seen a guy so talented in so many arenas. One example, that I hope will also give you all an idea of how the yard operates:
Jaco has an office on the same floor as the build platforms, right off the innermost cat bay. He's 10 meters from the boat when he's in his office, but he's more often than not on the boat or in one of the many departments, checking out every little detail. But he's also physically building these boats. He can do pretty much anything.
One of the things I asked for on this boat, that I felt was missing from the previous hull
, was a fold-down footrest for the helm
. Sitting all the way back on the seat, my feet dangled, which is tiring for hours at a time. So you tend to prop them up on the dash. When Amber got on the boat at the shows, she wished there was a footrest so she could see the corners better.
To build this, Jaco first created renders on his computer. I've done a bit of 3D modeling in AutoCAD and SolidWorks, so I know what's involved, and was impressed to watch him churn out renders for several custom parts
. Fast and accurate. While he sheepishly admits that he's self-taught and just "fiddles around." Whatever. The guy can design anything from the original idea on a scrap piece of paper, to engineering drawings, to the manufacturing.
With a design for the step, he welds up some stainless, fits it to the bench supports, uses some delron bushings for the swivels, and then taps and inserts set screws behind the bushings so you can adjust the play with an allen wrench. For the footrest itself, he builds a model out of fiberglass
, adds the nonskid, then takes an impression to get a mold
, and casts a finished product, ready for paint
and mounting. All in less than a day. And while doing a ton of other oversight things.
I saw this with the shower
floor and fold-down bench as well. Elegant solutions, quick renders, and speedy prototyping. But what really stood out (and what you see in the final product) is that Jaco seems to enjoy doing the extra work, rather than look for the easy way. If I had a suggestion, but was worried about what would be involved, Jaco would point out an even better idea that would take MORE work but come out even nicer. Like how the wires to the laptop
will hide at the nav station. I suggested just drilling a hole in the counter, right at the rear joint for the desk hatch
, so you can thread the power cables
up and then shut the hatch
. Jaco suggests instead cutting a hole behind the hinges and creating a wood plug
to fill the hole flush when it's not in use. For the vise at the workshop counter, he suggested a similarly more useful and more laborious solution. And any question about modifying the hull or deck
to my liking is met with, "No problem. We can do that."
He reminds me a lot of Duncan. Both are genius boatbuilders, and both are not content to leave well enough alone. I don't know what the order of succession is at the yard, or how long Duncan plans on working there and building boats (I have the feeling that he'd go crazy if he tried to retire, so he is probably there for life). But I can say that any fear I had over needing to get a SF50 while Duncan was at the yard was allayed by my time with Jaco. He's a perfect yard manager. A joy to work with. Sees solutions far better than my own. And I think he's a big reason these boats have been turning heads for over 20 years.
This isn't me just heaping praise on a guy that I've come to greatly respect and like; I think this is the kind of thing that makes spending a lot of money
on a boat possible. Getting to know Duncan and George made buying
a SF50 much easier. Getting to know Jaco and his work crew (head carpenter
Anton is another vital piece of the SF puzzle) has made the build process an absolute blast. Knowing this ahead of time wouldn't have changed my choice of boat, but it would've made me feel even more giddy and excited about the decision.