Originally Posted by Heath68
Hi Hugh, a couple of times you have mentioned being aboard different St Francis cats during delivery or some other production stage.. you also seem to have a lot of "inside" information about the production of your cat. All well and good but I understood you were a writer and being American had assumed that was where you lived. Is it just that you are lucky enough to spend extended periods of time in SA or have you agreed with St Francis some sort of arrangement regarding writing about it?
The reason I ask is because your closeness to the makers sounds great.. but not something I thought was possible (ie your input into larger windows, squared off seats, redesign of other parts
of the boat)... bearing in mind I hope to be where you are in a couple of years.
I've only been on completed St. Francis cats thus far. I haven't been to the yard yet. I head
there in a few weeks.
The info I'm getting from the yard on my build is what I assumed was normal. I used to work as a fleet captain
for a sportfish builder
, and I was a delivery and charter captain
for years, so I practically lived in boat yards, but I've never gone through the process of a new build for myself before. This is my first new boat. Not sure what's normal, but St. Francis has been tossing photos in a Dropbox folder that I have access to, so I can see how the build is progressing. We email
back and forth a lot as well, going over details and options, making sure everything is going according to plan. So that's where I'm getting my info.
(Incidentally, I saw your post while coming here to share a link to my latest build report, which I'll do in a separate comment after this reply).
No matter who I went with for my new boat, my plan was to document the build, the process of moving aboard, and my travels. Not to monetize the process as a professional writer, but because I just enjoy writing. So I was always going to set up a blog. Before I shared the link with my fiction readers, I checked to make sure it was okay with the yard that I was doing this, and they gave me their blessing.
This thread resulted from my derailing another thread here on CF.
I've spent some time on FPs, and was interested in an Antares
at one time, so when I saw a thread comparing the two, I chimed in on what I liked about both boats. Someone asked why I went with a St. Francis (either I mentioned the boat, or they saw it on my profile), which derailed that thread. But it turned out that a few people were keen on the St. Francis 50, and they asked for me to keep them abreast.
I thought this would be no trouble. I'd just duplicate what I'm posting
on my blog over at the-wayfinder.com. Except it's not so easy! My audience over there largely knows nothing about boats (they know me as a science fiction author). And the audience over here knows more about boats than I ever will. So I get to geek out over here and dive into my passion for yachts, and I get to help explain what in the world I'm doing with this boat nonsense to an audience over there that never knew me during my yachting years.
As for time spent on the St. Francis in particular, I wasn't going to spend this kind of money
just by walking through boats at boat shows. I worked with quite a few brokers, some of whom have written bibles on catamarans and own companies building some of the latest designs. I went to the Gunboat yard and crawled through the new 55s. I jumped aboard every cat I could that needed to be somewhere, and volunteered my services in exchange for crawling through bilges. At boat shows, I made a point of spending time with owners (not just of St. Francis yachts, but every boat owner I could find), where hours melted away as we delved into all the pros and cons. I hung out with the delivery crews that brought the boats in and queried them. I pulled more panels
open than cupboards, checking wiring
, chainplates, access to systems.
As I narrowed down on the St. Francis at last year's Annapolis
show, I asked if I could jump on a delivery. For me, this was better than a sea trial, where you get one set of conditions in a harbor or near-shore. I had a week on the boat, living on it and working on it. Cooking
on it. Using it. And I wasn't sitting around. I was drilling the delivery skipper
on the crossing. He owns a SF 50 hull
that he's fitting out, so I drilled him on that, and on the yard, and the builders.
While underway, I crawled around with a flashlight and a tape measure. I made a list of 100+ tweaks I would make if it were my boat. At the show, I became friends with the gentleman who would go on to own hull
#18. When he asked if I wanted to come spend a week on the boat in the Bahamas
, going through the systems together, I booked a flight right then and there. Another week of living on and using the boat, fixing little things here and there, going through the boat and the owner's manual with one of the builders and his son. In the same anchorage, there were three other St. Francis cats, and I got to check them out as well.
Despite all this, I've only scratched the surface. If it sounds like I know a ton about these boats, I don't. Not like someone who has owned one for years and done thousands of miles on them. I bring into this what little I've learned as a professional yacht captain of 10 years, someone who lived on a small monohull
for 5 years, and someone who has been looking for my next boat for the last 5 years, with a lot of boat shows, deliveries, sea trials, yard visits, etc.
So I'm stumbling through this. A few CF members asked me to start a thread. Here I am.
Edited to add: Forgot to touch on your question about modifications. I'll tell you what has really made me happy with my decision, beyond the build quality of these boats, it's the fact that they LOVE to customize them. Duncan, the builder
and founder of these boats, is a tinkerer. He started the company by accident
, first building a boat for himself, which a friend insisted on buying
, and then building another, and another, all of them snatched up by friends. He doesn't have to build these boats -- he loves building them. And honestly, what he does is my dream job. I'd love to design and build iterations of cats like this.
So when we walked around hull 18 at the show, and he saw that I was serious about 19, we really geeked out. I told him things I would love to see (the extra porthole, the paddleboard compartments), and he would critically analyze the ideas, really skeptical at first, which I loved. He had a reason for doing things the existing way. But then he would mull over anything I pointed out, and if it was a decent idea, he'd come back and say he really liked that idea, and he'd probably incorporate it into future boats. If he saw a critical flaw with the idea, he'd let me know that as well. It's a very cool balance of just enough ego to be confident, but not too much ego to be closed off to new ideas.
A few examples: The Harken
split track for lowering the stack pack. He saw the benefit of this after we discussed it. We looked at the Gunboat, which had the system. I wouldn't be surprised to see this become standard on future SF50s. Or the second fixed porthole, which he wasn't a fan of at first, because it loses some storage
, but he considered it, and now I think you'll see it become part of the mold
. He spends a lot of time going through other builders' boats, adopting any idea that works. So I don't think the tinkering is unusual. I think that's how they like to do things at St. Francis. Every boat is their best boat yet. In fact, I think hull #20 might have a vaccum infused deck
, as well as hull, so it'll be stronger and lighter than my boat. But you can't keep waiting because each boat is getting better. You have to go when you can go. (sorry for the long post)