That settled, we proceeded to look for a builder to help us out. Jim Gard, of Fusion Australia, had some suggestions, and as we wandered through the Miami Boat show this past February, we tackled every vendor we could during the three days we attended. We explained our endeavor, and asked them all if they knew of any sailboat builder they felt would be up to the task. Trying to limit our choices to somewhere in the South Florida area, we eventually came up with a short list of four builders.
The next step was to go visit each of them, and discuss our project. So we made contact appointments and, armed with a booklet of Fusion documentation we'd assembled, set off on a roadtrip down to the Keys, and up the west coast of Forida, to Sarasota and Tampa. Our crtieria were fairly straightforward: we wanted a builder who'd had previous experience with this type of project, a location where the build could take place, understood catamarans and the compromises between comfort and performance that we were seeking, could accomodate a schedule that might well stretch over several years, and above all seemed responsible and honest. A lot to ask, for sure!
During our search, we met a number of wonderful folks, and also got to visit the only two existing Fusion 40s that are on the east cost of the US. We connected with Don Walton on a rainy, cold day in March down in Marathon, and he spent several hours patiently showing off "Boomerang", demonstrating all of the cool, custom ideas he had built into her. Then later in the spring, we met up with a potential builder named Rian Mondrian in Sarasota, and he showed us Jim Noland's boat, "Restless". Along the way we also heard many horror stories of stalled projects, builders who absconded with their clients' money, yards that had gone out of business with the boats held for ransom! Many days later we returned to Miami, now convinced we wanted to have a Fusion built, but still unsure of who are build partner would be. Clearly whoever we partnered with could greatly affect the success of our dream.
Weighing the pros and cons of the builders we'd met, we whittled our choices down to just two, and they seemed very evenly matched. How would we choose?! The final decision would be made after we reviewed their responses to a "Request for Proposal" we sent to both companies (it works in the computer industry, so why not?). Our proposal request was two pages of indepth questions on the companies, their philosophies, and their build procedures. We wanted to make sure we could compare apples to apples on all of the important points. (If anyone reading this is interested in the specific proposal, email us and we will happily send you a copy.) We gave the two prospects a deadline of the end of May, a little over two months away.
In the end, we chose Rian and Larissa Mondrian, of Mondomarine, in Sarasota, Florida. They took our proposal request very seriously, and clearly put a lot of time and thought into their response. They have been enthusiastic supporters of the project from the start and we feel very confident in our choice. In addition to taking on our individual project, they are now in deep discussions with Fusion Australia about launching Fusions into the US market, an endeavor we look forward to spearheading with them. Thank you, Rian and Larissa, for helping our dream come alive!
"Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made, for somewhere deep in their oaken hearts the soul of a song is laid."
Robert N. Rose