We first stepped aboard an Africat 420 at the Miami Boat Show in 2004. We were greeted by an extended family, Lief ,“Pappy” the warmest soft-spoken gentleman, his son Richard Ford, Jeff Niemann and his wife Katie; collectively the primary builders owners and marketers of the Africat. They encouraged us to look around and answered our many questions over the next several days. At that first meeting Richard said “it isn’t about building boats, it is about building relationships” and in the ensuing 3 years those words have become truth.
Our goal was to find a boat the two of us could easily handle in all situations. She needed to be shoal draft with the Bahamas in mine, comfortable accommodations for family and friends with a twenty knot cruise speed and a range to do serious exploring. Our desire was to be relatively self-sufficient, with a Watermaker, generous freezer, and washer dryer for we would be spending up to six months a year aboard. Or past boat was a S&S design, Paul Luke built aluminum 52’ sloop, with a nine foot draft so any multi-hull be it power or sail was a drastic departure. We felt the Africat had the best lines of the many multi-hulls we looked at and maintenance looked reasonable (no bright work)
We were immediately intrigued with the Africat as it incorporated most of the features we were looking for; including: a spacious fly bridge, a covered aft deck area for eating and enjoying tropical days and nights,, a 22 foot wide fishing platform behind the covered aft deck, and 2 great swim platforms. We also wanted to store the dinghy forward and located a perfect solution on the fore deck for chalks and a crane.
Inside the main salon was spacious and light with great visibility in all directions including a fully appointed galley. There were two options for cabin arrangements, a four cabin or the three cabin layout.
We felt this boat encompassed more features that we were looking for than all the other boats we had looked at up to 55 feet, and we started to seriously consider the Africat 420. We watched these boats carefully for over a year and a half. Specifically hulls 2 thru 6 and we noted that each boat improved by incorporating new design features, better systems, and the good ideas from new Africat owners. We sea trialed hull 6 and In April of 2006 we signed a contract to purchase hull 10 due to be launched in Durban in October.
Our friends ask, “Why build a boat in South Africa?” Our answer was both South Africa and New Zealand were the leaders in design and building of multi-hulls, and we were impressed with the quality of the boats built by Africat Marine, and their ability to customize the boat to suit our needs. We were in constant communication with the yard in Durban via e-mail and j-pegs and our excitement grew with every contact. We decided on the three cabin layout. This version normally comes with two heads on the port side, but we wanted one large head to incorporate a washer dryer and large stand up shower. The builders in Durban were most amenable to accommodate these rather radical changes and came up with a very inventive design. We made two trips to Africa, the first when the boat was three quarters completed which allowed us to make many custom additions and small changes. Knowing we were going to be living aboard we wanted to add book cases and a chart case and they willingly and with pleasure made several outstanding cabinets. Our second trip was to accept the boat, and with great anticipation we followed the boat being transported to the port of Durban in the early morning hours. The pride the crew displayed was absolutely wonderful for they had truly done their finest work. We named her “Jabulani”, a Zulu name which translated means a state of joy and happiness and from the moment we entered this relationship, it has been just that. We sea trialed Jabulani in and around Durban Harbor and saw the freighter that would deliver her to Houston in 45 days time.
On the day after Thanksgiving we flew to Houston and were met by Richard Ford and his associate Stuart who would help us deliver Jabulani the 1000 miles to Ft. Lauderdale where Africat does their final commissioning. The trip from Houston was invaluable as we learned so much about our new boat its systems and performance. We left the boat with Richard in Florida while cushions and isinglass, mattresses were fitted, The engines were serviced and checked by Yanmar the manufacturer and an extensive punch list was checked off one by one. We returned to Ft Lauderdale a week later and headed to Nassau and the greater Bahamas where we are currently writing this testimonial.
To say we haven’t had issues with our new boat would be lying, but the issues we have had have been relatively minor in nature and were promptly fix by Africat Marine. For example we were having some vibration in the flex coupling on the starboard engine. Africat Marine sent someone to George Town to help us fix the problem. The best solution meant changing to solid couplings, new shafts and hauling the boat, all of which was accomplished expeditiously by the company. We are convinced the Africat team wants to build each boat better than the last and as Richard said on first meeting build lasting and meaningful relationships with their clients. It is surly the case with us.
Libby and Frank Simon