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Falcon Catamaran Refit Stretches to Fit its Next Life

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They say a cat has nine lives. Boats can oftentimes boast nearly as many reincarnations. Take, for the example, the story of Falcon. This little catamaran was born a swift sailing racer, did yeoman’s work as a day charter, survived the wrath of a couple of hurricanes, and has now re-emerged after a boatyard facelift like new, improved and seven feet longer.

Falcon started life on St. Kitts in 1985 when an Australian flight attendant, who had a love for the sea and sailing, commissioned her build as a lightweight semi racer. Unfortunately, the flight attendant disappeared after a down payment of $10,000 – just enough for builder, Doug Brookes, of then Brookes Boatyard, to set up and buy plywood and glue. Luckily, a friend of Brookes’ sister-in-law heard about the boat and put up the money to finisher her.

Falcon, a 53-foot sailing catamaran, was indeed designed for speed. Brookes explains, “She was only glassed below the waterline so saving a lot of weight. Her hull and decks were only 10mm and her spar, though only six feet shorter than a similar catamaran, was one-fourth the weight. Her bottom shape was pretty close to round through to her transom providing as much a drag resistance as possible.”

Though Falcon’s assets and advantages as a racer were obvious, her new owner Dennis Berridge sailed her north to St. Maarten where she became a workhorse in a day charter trade, plying the waters between Phillipsburg and St. Barths. However, being based in St. Maarten did give Falcon a chance to strut her stuff on the racecourse at the annual St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

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“In the many races we did,” says Brookes, “with myself sailing Eagle and Dennis sailing Falcon, she (Falcon) was always nipping at our heels and it only took one blown tack for her to pass us.”

Hurricanes Luis and Lenny ground Falcon to a total halt. In Luis, in 1995, she was driven a few hundred yards ashore over rocky ground so her hull was holed in multiple places, rudders torn up and daggerboard ends ripped up. There was no structural damage so Falcon was fully repaired. Then, Lenny in 1999 put her ashore again. This time it was on the golf course at Mullet Bay where the surface was a lot kinder and damage to her bottom was minimal.

In 2000, Tropical Adventures of Antigua bought Falcon and ran her, under the name Tiami, in a day tour excursion business for hotel guests and cruise ship passengers. She sailed regularly to Bird Island and Cades Reef.

“The cabin was extended with a solid roof,” says Patrick Ryan, who was then part owner of the Antigua-based day charter company. “But, this was hard work, day in and day out for a boat that was built for fun and not a solid work boat. However, she stood the test of time.”

Eight years later, Tropical Adventures decided to expand to a new 65-foot sailing catamaran and put Falcon up for sale. At the same time, Phil Matthews of Blue Water Safaris in St. Kitts, inquired about Falcon, a vessel that originally got him started in the day sail business many years before. One thing led to another and Falcon was back in St. Kitts for a major facelift – this time, to become a full-fledged day charter boat.

The goal for Matthews, says Brookes, who now co-owns Fortress Marine on St. Kitts, “was to expand the cabin and make some additional room for comfort.” Brookes came up with a plan to cut the boat in half and put in a seven-foot plug. “Cutting most things in two is usually considered ‘radical’ especially when you have to put the two pieces back together again,” says Brookes. “And, they have to line up perfectly or you have just ruined a $300,000 yacht.”

The concept worked. Falcon kept its balance, added two inches to the original waterline and actually improved its lines. This winter, the new Falcon will make her debut as part of Matthew’s day tour excursion fleet, sailing along the coast of St. Kitts and as far as Nevis.

“I guess,” says Brookes, “You can say Falcon has finally come home to roost.”

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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