We talked with builder Tim Duncan of Celtic Yachts who tells how he acquired the Admiral catamaran molds in South Africa, and what the current build status is like. He covers what models they are building now, what modifications they have made to the molds, and hints at a new all electric Celtic 45 to come.
Please contact Tim via the Celtic Yachts website. Put in an order for his new electric 45!
Today we’re meeting with Tim Duncan from Celtic yachts. Tim, welcome. How are you doing?
I’m very well, thank you, and how are you?
Good, good. Thanks so much for joining us today. Can you just start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in Celtic Yachts?
I’ve been involved in sailing since I was a kid. About 20 years ago, I built an Admiral 38. For about 10 years, I used to manufacture the woodwork and when Admiral Yachts closed down, they offered the molds to use. That’s how it got started. That was about ten years ago. That’s how it morphed into Celtic Yachts. Then, we just continued manufacturing the Admirals at a slightly smaller scale than the original owners.
At this point in time how many catamarans per year are you building?
We’re only doing one a year because our place is much smaller and we have a smaller staff. The previous owners used to build many more.
How has COVID affected your business?
It’s affected us in the way everything is much slower: getting in supplies, reporting goods from overseas, especially. We’ve also shrunk our staff a little bit because we just haven’t been as busy as usual. So it has affected us, but we’re still operating and still building building boats.
Are you currently building any other models than the 40-footer?
No, we have the molds for the 38 and the 40. Although the 38 is getting a bit dated, so we probably aren’t going to build any of those. We do have plans and some drawings for a a newer 45-footer, which we’re considering starting tooling up in the next 12-to-18 months.
You’re still using the molds from Admiral for your current building today?
Yes, we’ve made quite a few changes to them. We’ve moved the helm around, we’ve moved some port lights and hatches, we’ve added new modules, we’ve improved the bathrooms and the showers quite a bit, and made it a little bit simpler in the interior. But basically, the same molds.
In your opinion what do you think is the ideal size of a catamaran for cruising?
I do believe 38 to 42 foot, and the reason why I say that is I’ve sailed extensively on the 38 and 40, and I find it’s really easy to handle. One of the issues with owning a catamaran is when they’re too big, you need a lot of crew to to help you sail. But on our boat, we sail single-handedly quite often, and do a lot of long crossings. It’s really easy to sail.
Plus with our boat, the visibility when you stand at the helm, you can see all the way around the boats. You’re not struggling to see any corner of the boat, and that’s great when you’re docking. When you’re coming into dock it can be quite stressful, so when you can see everything, it helps a lot.
I know you’ve done a lot of cruising yourself, what size boat were you on when you did your crossings transatlantic?
Well, I’ve only done it on the 40. Really, it was a great experience and the big plus of the boat is, it’s got very voluminous hulls, so when you’re in heavy seas, you don’t ever plow the bow into the ocean. It always stays above the water, so that’s a big plus with our boat.
What do you think is the most important element when you’re building the catamaran?
I would say safety of the crew. We build these boats, they’re not built ultra-lightweight, like some boats are. They’re built sort of medium-to-heavy, and when you’re out at sea, or even sailing around the Caribbean, and you crash into something, or something goes wrong, the boat must be able to withstand that, you know? Whatever happens, I would say safety, and then comforts and all those other things come along. But the most important thing is, you don’t want anyone getting hurt.
How do you factor that in when you’re building, making sure that safety is the utmost importance?
Our boats are built slowly by a few guys who are really dedicated. We use techniques which are well known, and they’ve been around for many years to ensure that the hull is strong, and the keels and the rudders and everything is over-designed, and built to basically withstand the the seas that we have out here.
I’ve interviewed a few different designers and builders from South Africa. Why in your opinion do you think South Africa is a location that has become known for building excellent catamarans?
Well, I think the South Africans have been building for a long time. The guys are dedicated, the artisans are well trained, and I just think it’s a great place to be testing boats because our conditions can be pretty rough. I think boats are going to be built extra strong if they come from this part of the world.
When you’re looking to increase your buyers, what’s been your biggest hurdle in getting people to buy the Celtic?
I suppose we’ve done a few boat shows in the States and in South Africa. There’s a lot of competition from the French and even from our very own manufacturers around the corner. We’re a very small company so we build boats to customers’ requirements. They might end up costing a little bit more, but they are built very well and the quality of our finish is excellent.
So to answer your question, it’s really all about taste I suppose. I find that the guys who sail the boat and enjoy a good sailing experience, like our boats. It’s not just a floating gin palace, they’re very good sailing boats, and I think that’s what people appreciate about us. But trying to explain that, and get that across to buyers is pretty difficult.
Do you feel what differentiates your brand from others is the sailing performance, or is it something else?
I think our boat is beautiful. It has a very nice shape, it has a very big bows for a 40-footer. Our boat’s pretty wide, it’s 24 feet wide so it’s a lot wider than a lot of the other boats. We pay a lot of attention to the woodwork and the cabinetry inside, so that’s one of the things that we do very well. It’s not built with maximizing accommodation space. We have a lot of open space so when you’re in the galley for instance, you can actually look down into the hull below. And if you’re down in the hull, you can look up into the galley area, because it’s all open. The boat’s very spacious and airy, I think that’s one of the main pluses.
From your perspective where do you see the future of Celtic going in the next three-to-five years?
We do have some drawings on-the-go at the moment for a 45 foot catamaran. We think there is probably a market in that range, as well as the 40, so we’re busy drawing.
We want to build a yacht which is electric, which has no diesel engines and maximizes solar power, and those aspects. I’m hoping to do that in the next couple of years.
You piqued my interest around the electric catamaran, so tell me a little bit more. I know there’s some recent trends and popularity around that right now, so tell me a little bit more about what you’re working on with that.
We’ve spoken to Oceanvolt, a company in Europe who specializes in this technology. I’m actually an electrical engineer by training, so it’s an interest of mine. I think the battery technology has almost arrived to allow us to do that. So we would design a boat which incorporates solar panels all over the show, to maximize the power from the sun. That’s something that I’m pretty keen to do, and obviously to design the boats which takes advantage of the of the electric.
How far away do you think you’re out from having a finished product of that?
Probably two to three years. It would help a lot if we had some interest from any potential buyers. One of the drawbacks is that it is expensive to develop new technologies. If we had a couple of orders that would help.
For those viewers watching today, Tim what’s the best way for them to learn more about Celtic and to get in touch with you?
Our website is CelticYachts.com and all our information is there. So they can just contact me on the contact page. You can call me on my mobile.
Thank you Tim for joining us today on CatamaranSite. It’s a pleasure meeting you, and look forward to seeing more of your builds in the future, and hopefully an electric boat to come as well.
Thanks very much.