Catboat Club president Jerris Miller is ecstatic. After eight years of travails, the renovation and reopening of the club headquarters in Whitehall Bay in Grand Cayman is finally within sight.
Mr. Miller credits the Dart Foundation and other organisations for their support of the project. The Harbour Drive building, which is the headquarters for the Catboat Club and the Maritime Heritage Foundation, was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The government’s settlement with the insurance company left no money for the redevelopment of the building, which Mr. Miller estimated would have cost about $350,000 to repair.
“We’ve been on our own in terms of raising money to put it back together. That’s why it’s taken as long as it has,” he said.
Dart steps up
With all 12 of its catboats damaged by the storm, the club’s first focus was rebuilding its fleet, before it turned its attention to the headquarters about five years ago.
“You don’t have catboats, you don’t have a Catboat Club,” Mr. Miller said.
Last September, Dart came forward with a support package worth $175,000, including a $100,000 cash grant and a three-year events sponsorship deal worth $25,000 annually. The grant money was used for several initiatives, including allowing the club to put $75,000 toward its clubhouse project.
“We were able to double that with corporate donations from businesses on the Island, so we were able to get $150,000 of work done,” Mr. Miller said.
Earlier this week, Dart confirmed to the club that it had accepted its proposal to finish the headquarters, Mr. Miller said.
He said without support from Dart and Camana Bay, the club wouldn’t have been able to move the project along at all.
“While we found great support from the suppliers on the Island in terms of material and time, we needed money to pay for labour in order to pull it all together,” he said.
Without Dart’s involvement, “We would have a lot of materials promised and no clubhouse,” he said.
Old building renewed
The club building is more than 100 years old, and was originally a residence. It was a restaurant called the Cookroom, and then was vacant before the Catboat Club moved in upon its formation in 1998, Mr. Miller said.
Since Ivan hit in 2004, the club has been using the boardroom at Foster’s Food Fair IGA for its meetings, and has a workshop/boatyard set up in club vice president Kem Jackson’s property in West Bay.
After the renovation, the club headquarters will be a completely new building – constructed inside and around the remaining parts of the old building.
The building will be finished with the wattle-and-daub method. The original building was constructed in the traditional method, using load-bearing ironwood posts, cherry tree wood frame and “white lime” daub made from burning dead coral rocks.
When finished, the site will have educational materials explaining the details of wattle-and-daub construction.
Mr. Miller said the location of the building itself is famous. Called the “Careening Place”, the area was used to clean and fix the bottom of schooners, by bringing them into the shallow water and pulling them over on each side to expose the hull of the boats.
Mr. Miller said the club is planning to have a grand re-opening celebration when the building is finished in the coming months.
He said the building will be used for the club’s youth sailing and boatbuilding programmes, and also for a maritime heritage museum.
He said the building will have a large workshop, museum, clubhouse and restaurant area upstairs.
“We’ll be putting back in the caboose and doing traditional Caymanian meals,” he said.