When we realized that our boat was actually built in Largo, Fl.... right where we're staying while we wait for our yard work to be done... we decided that a trip to the Catalina Yachts manufacturing site was a good way to spend a day.
The plans for our actual boat were sadly, stored off-site, but we were able to take a look at some like it built around the same time.
We returned to the facility after a nice lunch and a quick trip to get some measurements from the boat, to take a factory tour. Luck would have it that this is the one day of the week when they are offered! The plant closes down and sends the workers home early so that curious boat owners can take a stroll through the grounds and see how their babies were made.
|A cutout of a Catalina Yacht for boat shows
|Bottom side of a hull mold (Photo Credit Tampa Bay Times)
They actually have only one mold for each hull type, not all of which are still in production. The molds look like huge bananas made of pipe, with a big swimming pool inside. The top of the swimming pool is prepared for gelcoat by being meticulously cleaned and taped off. They spray the non-skid first, then re-tape it and do the gelcoat in layers. They add a layer of barrier coat inside the gelcoat now, where as it was applied to the outside back when our boat was built. This layer helps keep down the blisters on your bottom.
|Balsa Core Being Installed Photo Credit
The next step is a grid liner. This is also made of fiberglass and is sort of a honeycomb structure that is joined to the hull for strength and support. After seeing this, I have a LOT more confidence in our boat. Some of the wiring conduits are installed inside this layer.
|Prepping the Deck mold (Photo Credit Tampa Bay Times)
The wiring and plumbing are all installed and then the interior is finished. We saw the woodworking rooms where they make the doors and trim, all from teak. They make the floors and wall coverings there as well. We didn't get to see it all, but Warren told us that they were making the door slats like on our boat inside that room. Can you believe that he KNEW our model had the door slats??? He knew our boat like it was his own... from 20 years ago! I was impressed!
|Deck Hardware going on (Photo Credit)
One mystery that remains about our own boat, is why we encountered a stainless steel plate when drilling a hole near the transom next to the dinghy davit. Warren told us that they don't install davit systems and there is no reason for a plate to be inside the deck in that position... Hmmmm...
We moved on to the keel phase where we saw a whole bunch of lead keels just waiting to be installed. The boats are held by curved cradles until their keels and rudders are installed, near the end. Then they are floated in a long pool where all of their systems are in-water-tested.
It was pretty cool to see how it all came together... I wondered if they ever were like "oops! I forgot to install the whatsis before we put the whoosit on...My bad!" It all seems like such a lot of stuff to remember!
We were both very impressed by the attention to detail and proud that our boat was made in such a solid way. Of course we are somewhat biased you understand. We feel like we know our boat a little better than before, even if there have been some modifications made... If you EVER find yourself in a position to take a tour of your boat's (or any other boat for that matter) birthplace.... DO IT! It takes some of the mystery out of it and inspires confidence like nothing else can.