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Obviously, Caitlin is a rather special boat, as several of you commented in response to Parts I & II. I put this to Bryan, and he laughed that they hadn’t necessarily intended it to be that way, rather as something that simply got out of hand. His view is that as they knew that the build process was going to take several years, they had the chance to test their own opinions of how all things – engine, installation, rig, etc. – should be done, against those of experienced friends and the best boatbuilders in the yard that he ran. And having asked for those opinions, well, ‘ you’d better follow their advice!’, even if it makes a rod for your own back.
Bryan and Dorothy both point out that they were in their thirties when they started to conceive the basic ideas for the boat, with the vision that they were looking for a boat that would suit them until they were well into their sixties. And as there were few designs around at that time for a two person passagemaker in GRP, steel and a one-off it had to be – there was little option. But as Dorothy remarks, there have been times when they’ve been very glad to be in a solid steel boat, mainly when the weather is at its worst.
Practical is good
They both are firm that there is nothing prissy about the boat – she is a practical and capable offshore cruiser that has had plenty of use. She has many custom features, but they had the time to incorporate these over a long build process. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the interior of the boat. She features a multitude of clever ideas, simple yet effective, that many of us (myself included) could have incorporated into our own boats to great benefit. The interior trim is all in white laminate faced ply, capped with varnished teak trim, which is light, strong, easy to keep clean and will never look dated. Apart from the forecabin (which is given over to stowage and a workshop), there are no solid doors, instead zipped canvas is used, as it is light and never bangs shut! Unlike so many steel boats, she is not overbuilt internally (and so overweight) where ultimate strength isn’t necessary.
Both agree that a modern boat of the same length might have more space inside, but that’s a minor detail when compared to all of the sterling features she has. Both agree that she has turned out better than they could ever have hoped, that she is irreplaceable and they are looking forward to many more adventures in her.
Steel can make a good choice
In my view, there are three things that I have taken away from Caitlin:
- It’s perfectly possible to build a good, strong, rust free steel boat, as long as you are prepared to do things by the book from the planning stage onwards.
- The time spent in modifying the boat to remove or improve the many features that cause or encourage rust to form is critical, and will prove to be time well spent at the build stage, rather than an endless game of catch-up later.
- It may be almost unaffordable to go to many of the lengths that Bryan and Dorothy have gone to if you buy a new boat off the shelf, but if you have the time and the skills, anything is possible.
Many of the same arguments apply equally to aluminium, where preparation and protection are also everything. Many of the ideas encapsulated here would be equally effective in that material. Caitlin certainly has changed my view of steel as a practical material to build a long distance boat in. Personally, my choice would still be aluminium, but I accept that it’s not without its faults either.
A wealth of good ideas
Most of us are magpies, wandering around boatyards and marinas, talking to owners and scrutinizing promising looking boats for good ideas, for further use on our own boats down the line. Caitlin has more good ideas per square foot than almost any other boat I’ve ever seen, and I’d like to offer my thanks to Bryan and Dorothy for their kindness and willingness to share their ideas with us here – and do let us know what you think of them. Please leave a comment.
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