Forgotten catboat gets renewal

What is believed to be the oldest boat in the Cayman Islands is being restored.

Members of the Cayman Catboat club are giving new life to the 79-year-old Bluenose II.

Mr. Fossie Arch built the boat in 1929 for seaman Elwood ‘Woodie’ Harrison Bodden. The Arch’s were famous boat builders.

The Cayman Catboat Club recently bought her for $3,000 from the Bodden family.

‘This is a boat no one knew about. I mean we didn’t even expect this was there until Kem found out about it,’ said President of the club, Jerris Miller. ‘These [catboats] are an intricate part of the islands history,’ said Mr. Miller.

The boat is the only square stern catboat in the possession of the club. Vice President Kem Jackson said the square stern was a design that may have made it easier to get turtles into the boat, or to allow for more space inside the boat.

‘In those days there were no cars and they [catboats] were used for transporting people and freight from one district to the other and for everything in Cayman as there were no roads,’ said Mr. Jackson. ‘When I was a little boy if you could get to go on a catboat, it was like going to Miami on a jet.’

He said when Bodden family member Mrs. Maria (Bodden) Glidden called him about the catboat he went to look at it and thought it was a very good deal, so he consulted with the rest of the club and they decided to buy it. ‘So, now I got to fix it up and bring her back to her glory, I hope,’ he said.

He said the boat is in such good shape it does not really need much work.

‘You could actually use it as it is,’ he said.

The boat is built of mahogany, which stands up well to rot, the members explained, but some of the timber on the boat does need replacing. The boat also needs to be spruced up with paint and have a sail put on.

This is the seventh catboat that the club is to restore, and they anticipate it will only take a couple of months to fully restore it. Club members restore old catboats in order to preserve what is a rich part of the island’s history and heritage. They also visit the schools, attend cultural events and give lectures on catboats.

Once restored, The Bluenose II will be used as a display piece and in regattas.

The boat has a colourful history, having passed through a few different hands throughout its life.

The gentleman the boat was originally built for passed away in 1935. The boat raced and won in many regattas, handled by Mr. Albert Farrington, his brother-in-law, many years ago.

She was then sold to Mr. Rennie Ebanks by the original owner’s father, Mr. Fleming Bodden. However, she was later bought back into the Bodden family by Mrs. Helen Bodden (Mr. Elwood’s wife) and repaired by Mr. John Ashton Henning, who caught many Queen Fish (wahoo) with her. She was given to John Elwood Henning by his grandmother, Helen Bodden, before being bought by the Cayman Catboat Club recently.

The Cayman Catboat Club raises funds from fundraising and membership fees. Anyone who wishes to offer any help or donation for this restoration project can contact Mr. Miller at 925-4676.

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