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BVI Boat Follow Up

Innovation in the BVI

Almost a year ago, Yacht Guide reported on a new power catamaran that was being built at the Tortola Yacht Services yard by CAT TECH, a team consisting of Bob Phillips and partners from Island Yacht Management and Golden Hind Chandlery, with a design by OH Rodgers. The boat is now finished, and she is sleek, comfortable and a pleasure to drive. In fact, I was having so much fun driving her around Road Harbour one morning that I almost passed by Road Reef Marina on my way back to the office, perhaps a subconscious attempt to skive off work and take project manager Miles Fossey, along with local apprentices Jerard Fornord and Jamal Bedford, for a day trip to one of the nearby islands. And that’s exactly what the boat is built for—day trips.

Many of the monohull day-trip boats in the BVI simply serve as transport to and from such popular spots as White Bay, Norman Island or Cooper. But I can imagine hanging out on the CAT TECH 29 Innovation at one of the secluded coves behind Ginger or snorkelling the Dogs instead of just hopping from one beach bar to another. Though it could serve that purpose as well. When I spoke with apprentice Jamal about what he liked about the boat, he said, “I like that we did it, and we get to take it out. We took it out a couple weeks ago, and it was quite good…we went to Cooper Island, VG, Pirates and then we came back to Tortola. We burned next to no gas, so we didn’t have to top back up the tank.”

Gas efficiency is one of the biggest advantages of the design. According to Miles, Innovation burns about five gallons of fuel per hour when cruising. “She’ll do 26 knots in reasonable conditions. Comfortable cruising speed is 22—even on a day like this.” The waters of Road Harbour were a little rolly that morning, but our ride was stable and smooth. To demonstrate her stability, Miles cut the engines amongst the waves, but we barely noticed—that’s the beauty of a catamaran. When I asked Miles how many people Innovation could hold comfortably, he told me that the team conducted a stability test using 55-gallon drums filled with water that they “stacked about the deck in various places,” and they got two tons on deck, the equivalent about 20 people. “Whether we get a stability test passed for that or not, we’ll wait and see,” he said. “If we did pass it at 20 people, we’d probably ticket it for 16. At 16, it would allow it to be used as a dive boat—16 people plus their gear.”
The dive boat model will be the second version of the CAT TECH 29 which is currently being built in the Tortola Yacht Services boatyard. “The whole deck becomes flush to the back of the boat with a boarding ladder right between the two hulls,” Miles said of the reconfigured design. An additional advantage for dive companies is the fuel efficiency. “We’re getting five gallons of gas per hour, which, if you’re running snorkel trips, is ideal.” Looking around at the pristine white deck and chairs, I observed that it was too pretty to be a dive boat. I told Miles that it needed to be a little more battered. “Oh, they’ll do that,” he said.

More than just the dive boat or day trip version, CAT TECH offers buyers options for their custom-ordered boat. “You order your base boat and you select from your tick list how you would like to use the boat—just like ordering a car,” Miles said. “It’s a versatile platform. It was always planned to be that way.”

Whichever version buyers decide on, I look forward to seeing CAT TECH 29s hanging out at White Bay, sneaking off to the back of Ginger or taking a group of snorkelers to Bronco Billy. And if the CAT TECH team ever wants someone to drive the boat around to show it off, I’ll happily volunteer though I can’t guarantee I’ll know where I’m going.

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