But in between receiving the containers and Andrew's arrival, we attended the Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, with Mondo Marine. Although the weather was just short of a gale, the booth attracted lots of attention, and some publicity as well. Because this was a local boat show, it will drum up some immediate business for Mondo Marine in the area of boat repair, but also start to spread the word about Fusions and their unique appeal. The typical purchaser of a Fusion Cat usually takes 2-3 years of shopping, looking, and consideration before settling on a Fusion build, so it is important to start luring potential customers early on. Boat shows are probably one of the very best ways to bring boat seekers together with what's new on the market, since it is one-stop shopping where one can compare many different models. Of course, we don't yet have an actual boat for folks to touch and feel, but it's never too early to start the ball rolling.
Just after the show closed, we held our unveiling party, to show interested people how the containers were packed, and share the story behind our choices. We had a light turnout, but several of our friends and family were able to come by, as well as some interested folks from the area. We do plan to hold additional gatherings at various stages of the build, to give folks a chance to see the progress and the process.
Once the weekend of the show and the unveiling had passed, work quickly began on two important pieces of equipment: the jig, and the gantry crane. The jig, the wooden structure shown below, is basically a level, contoured cradle/mold for the pieces of the boat as they are fused together, which holds everything together until it becomes a stable structure that can stand on its own.
The gantry crane surrounding the jig is a large aluminum structure which can roll to and from the jig, and helps to pick up and then gently lower individual pieces of the boat into place. The pieces themselves are (relatively) lightweight, and advertised to be able to be lifted and placed manually, but the mechanised gantry crane does this precisely with a minimum about of effort and a maximum amount of control. This crane is also made to be disassembled and stored, so it will be able to be used later for future projects.
In the meantime however, when it isn't busy rolling things into place, covering it with a tarp makes a perfect protection from the Florida sun and rain, under which to work. It had been our intention to purchase a temporary building for this phase of the project, but the local zoning laws made even a temporary structure impossible. So, the gantry crane will double as our shelter until the pieces come together to be the shell of the boat. That stage will probably take somewhere between 6 and 10 weeks to reach.
As Rian and his crew were busily preparing the jig, the gantry crane, and some initial pieces, Andrew Pounder of PrimeFusion, and his wife Cheryn travelled from Australia to Sarasota, arriving on Friday, April 29th. After a tiring 30+ hour travel by air to Miami, it was an additional 4-hour car trip across the state to the West Coast. But along the way we introduced them to such American staples as 7-Eleven and Denny's, as we escorted them across Alligator Alley. After an inspection of the preparation, we took the whole crew out for a celebratory dinner at Ocean's Harvest Restaurant, which we highly recommend as a terrific way to sample local seafood at its very freshest and creative!
The next day, work began in earnest, as the jig was first reinforced, and then carefully levelled, before the first pieces of the boat, the hulls, were lowered in. This step is critical to the final outcome of the boat, ensuring that it will be level and balanced, and that the rest of the pieces will fit into place properly. A small discrepancy at this point could lead to wide gaps (voids) in later pieces fitting together, so the patience and attention to detail of Rian and his crew now will pay off in spades when later stages are built on top of this perfect foundation.
In the coming weeks, we will be posting with more of the details and decisions as our two containers come together to become a BOAT. It is going to be an amazing adventure, undoubtedly with many twists and turns, but it is about the journey at least as much as the destination. Let the adventure begin!