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100 Percent Made in Antigua

For Gunter Doering
and his family, Christmas came early this year. After nearly a year of
construction, their pleasure craft MV 256 was launched with much pomp
and circumstance from the Jolly Harbour
boatyard on December
21st.

The journey of the 256 began
when Doering and his wife spotted a local fishing vessel. Already owners of a
catamaran, they were not wholly satisfied and longed for something else…a
connection to nature…a wooden craft. Doering put the word out that he was
looking to build a vessel and was introduced to Alford Cochrane, a third
generation boat builder and Antiguan national. Cochrane and Doering formed an
instant relationship and within minutes the boat was commissioned.

Cochrane went to the drawing board
and created the original plans, influenced by the traditional lines of the
Troller Yacht and local fishing boats. Once the design was set and approved,
Cochrane cut local mahogany and started from scratch in the
Jolly Harbour yard.

MV 256 would be a 43-foot
vessel with a 14-foot beam and a 4.5-foot draft. She would be powered by both
motor and sail and below deck; she would be modified to provide amenities
befitting popular fiberglass yachts (galley, head and staterooms). Her most
unique attribute, however, would be her bow thruster. A common feature in
aforementioned fiberglass yachts, bow thrusters were unheard of in wooden
boats. “A lot of people criticized [the plan for the bow thruster] and
said it could not work.” Cochrane said and crediting “a strong
working partnership” Cochrane and Doering decided to proceed. Over the
next eleven months, 256 was built, framed and drafted using a team of
five and to make sure they got the bow thruster perfect, engineer Carl Mitchell
was brought in to assist.

Her journey nearly complete, the
launch of MV 256 was as unique as her design. In front of a crowd that
included locals, yachting community members and government officials, she hung
proudly in the travel lift as on-lookers inspected the bow thruster.
With champagne flowing and a steel band playing. Ute and
Gunter were ecstatic. “This was a once in a lifetime experience,”
said Ute as she thanked the team “[and that she is] handmade makes it all
the more special.” Cochrane
was beaming and understandably proud as he started his speech. He told the
crowd that “boat building was his life” and he was looking forward
to more opportunities rivaling this one. Finally, the Honorable Minister
Baptiste stepped to the microphone to thank the owners for
their faith in Cochrane. MV 256 was then lowered into the sea and after
the traditional champagne bottle hit to the bow, the Antiguan flag was raised
to cheers and applause. After a ten-day period moored off the yard to fine
tune, she would make her maiden voyage to St. Maartin.

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