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Amusing Clients

Some years back a Camm Amm race driver ordered a boat, which he christened and named "Catofun". Wanting to see more of South Africa the arrangement was that while I sailed his boat to Cape Town, which usually takes 2 days, he would drive down the scenic Garden Route. Around 3 days later at the appointed time, about 3pm we arrived at the Royal Cape Yacht Club to be greeted by Paul and his wife and my wife Catherine, who had driven down to spend a few days shopping. Paul anxiously asked about our trip and performance of "Catofun". I assured him that everything was fine "Catofun" performed extremely well with three minor problems.


1 The starboard bedroom door was sticking, which is quite usual as the boat with the mast newly stepped settles into its natural position.

2 The anchor light comes on instead of the tricolour and vice versa.

3 We have a small leak in the hot water geyser outlet, but not to worry we will have everything fixed the next morning.

After breakfast I arrived at the quay side to find Paul pacing the decks anxious to get inside, as I had the keys. I immediately started work on the sticking cabin door. Just a little bit of sanding over the top and a touch-up with varnish. Paul asked when the plumber would arrive. I said "I would attend to that next". A few moments later Paul said "I assume that you are the electrician as well".


The sticking door took the most time. The water leak was just tightening the compression fitting and the electrical a matter of swopping over the wires in the junction box just below the mast.


While returning on one of his early sails he asked to take the helm, as he had to learn about docking. At the time the Royal Cape Yacht Club was particularly full and docking amongst all the other boats required concentration. Standing next to him with his white knuckles tightly holding the helm he said "you know Duncan, I drive race cars at 150 MPH and feel calm now at 5 MPH I am petrified"


Cathy's shopping time up we said our goodbyes and departed home. Later that day I get a call from Paul, he said "Duncan this boat is extremely noisy. It is impossible sleep with all this noise" I answered "please tell me what are you doing" He replied "we are sailing along in Table Bay doing about 22 knots with a good wind of about 30 knots" "who is at the helm" I asked. His reply "we are on auto pilot"


Here I had this gung ho American race car driver sailing across Table Bay at 22 knots in a near gale wondering around inside his boat saying it's noisy. I pulled off the road and as calmly as possible told him that this is not the way to sail, particularly around a busy port and that his boat could turn over in 43 knots of wind, assuming the main and genoa are tightly sheeted in.


A month or two later, safely back in the States he phoned to say thank you for a terrific boat, but added "Do you know that sailing is hard work". A couple of years later he phoned to say that he would be selling his boat. Shortly thereafter another client made an appointment to meet me at the factory and related this story.


He answered an advert on a St Francis for sale, met the racing driver and liked the boat and agreed to buy, but was told the fishing & diving gear was not included, undeterred he wanted to proceed, only to be told that the nav instruments are not included and the tender was not included. He said "you don't want to sell do you?" "No" came the answer.


This is why at such short notice he has arrived here. We gladly signed him up. Shaking hands, he confirmed that this was less than he was prepared to pay for a second hand St Francis.

We had a client who was a rocket scientist with NASA. He was absolutely thrilled with his boat, thanked our leading staff with gifts of a gold Kruger Rand. He came up to me and said "I love you guys" and kissed me. I would have much preferred a Kruger Rand.

One buyer when asked what colours he would like for his gennaker said "I don't mind, anything colourful". I used these exact words when ordering his sails from Quantum Sails. During sea trials with the sail maker and riggers onboard we hoisted his colourful genaker. This drew gasps of admiration from the team onboard and our client was well pleased until some rigger mentioned that it was the South African flag. He was very quiet and later confided in me that he was an Australian and not a patriotic person, but to fly the South African flag was a bit beyond him. I related this to Craig Middleton of the then Quantum Sails, now known as Ullman Sails. "Don't worry he said, we will swop it for him". I never did see the new sail, but believe it was still very colourful.


Another buyer, a regular visitor to our part of the planet with whom we became very friendly loved our boats, but could not afford one. The only asset he had was a vacant commercial property worth the price of a hull, deck & bulkheads. Somehow we negotiated a swop. He would now commission me to complete his boat over the next couple of years at a pace he could afford. As it turned out the boat yard got very busy with a backlog of about 3 years.

One particular client upset about the 3 year wait asked about the empty hull that nobody was working on. Being told the story he mentioned that he would like to buy the hull and have it fitted out himself. The hulls' owner agreed to sell for the price of a new hull, deck & bulkheads, which had escalated and take a profit of a few thousand. The original owner them immediately re-ordered the latest hull, deck & bulkheads and was lucky to repeat the sale of the hull, deck & bulkheads another two times before we started work on his. Unfortunately the property prices dropped, while the boat prices escalated. On launch date his wife mentioned that I was sent to them by God, who must look after them, as before they departed I was asked if he needed spare spark plugs for his boat.


Doing a routine service on one of our new boats I was cleverly left alone with his wife, who the moment I had finished with a tool, being a wrench or screw driver would immediately pick it up and put it back in the tool box and would not allow anything out of its place, even for the few minutes it took to do the service.

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