Interview with Petro Jonker (May 2012)
Du Toit Yacht Design designed the Scape 51 – a 15.62m / 51 foot day charter cat – for Petro Jonker, an experienced Caribbean charter operator based in St Maarten.Quality Time, as she was named, was launched in November 2010 and Petro has loved every minute of owning her. She was built in epoxy E-Glass composite materials and was designed for back-to-back day charters in the Caribbean. The substantial sail plan and electric motors follow Petro’s brief for a performance-orientated, yet eco-friendly boat. Seating in the covered and forward cockpits easily accommodates 60 passengers.
Petro’s charter company, [Quality Time Charters], is a family owned and operated sailing tour and charter company started in January 2002 on St. Maarten by Petro and his wife, Sophie. They sailed to St Maarten on their schooner from Cape Town in May 1999 and arrived in St Maarten a month prior to a hurricane called “Lenny”. Petro joined the Company called Outisland Charters. As Sophie is French and Petro is from a Dutch background, the transition to living on a French/Dutch island was an easy one. In 2001, Petro and Sophie took over Outisland Charters and formed their current charter business, [Quality Time Charters].
We asked Petro a few questions about the boat and his experiences with her, a year and a half or so after her launch:
What were your main objectives for the boat when you designed the Scape 51 with Anton du Toit?
The main objectives were to improve the efficiency of existing day charter vessels. This meant a design which could successfully charter with a large number of passengers, utilising mainly sail. To achieve this meant a big improvement on less weight, increased sail area and maximising comfortable seating areas. Secondly, it was also important to me to have interesting and modern lines by avoiding the often – “boxy” look associated with catamarans. Thirdly, we were seeking an eco-friendly design which could operate with a minimal use of fossil fuels. Fourthly, I enjoy racing so was looking for a vessel which we could use for work and play.
How long did the design process take and what were your experiences?
Anton had existing plans for a similar size vessel and was able to provide concept drawings in a relatively short space of time. Some modifications were requested to provide a soft, rounded transom and we found the deck layout with the central “Jacuzzi” seating very attractive. Further modifications were made to provide easy access and entry and exit points for moving large numbers of passengers on and off the vessel with minimum queuing.
Are there any unique design features and characteristics you can talk us through?
The initial design called for electric motors with Lithium batteries. As a day sailing vessel, the motor running time can be kept to two hours per tour. Given overnight charging and recharging via solar panels and propeller back-charge, this would be feasible for our type of operation.
At the 11th hour we converted back to diesel motor backup as the batteries and recharge systems required further time and testing. I am very pleased we followed this route as we are still looking to change over to electric as the newer advances take place. So a retro fit would be fairly straightforward.
The second important consideration was for the vessel to actually carry 28 plus passengers at full hull speed under sail in our average trade winds of 12 – 15 knots.
Finally, we operate in a hurricane area so we had large ballast tanks fitted in the forward compartments for flooding in extreme weather conditions.
Where is Quality Time based now?
The vessel is operating out of Phillipsburg, St Maarten, doing mainly full-day round the island sailing tours.
She is also in good demand for charters to neighbouring islands such as Anguilla and has pretty much captured the high-end market.
What sort of sailing are you doing with her?
Fun sailing as well as competitive regatta sailing! For the last regatta we entered, as we were completing the entry,Quality Time was returning from a full day sail around the island with 65 passengers on board! When questioned how many crew were on board, for the regatta, the regatta officer certainly did a double take as I pointed to the vessel!
It takes our crew about two hours to clear all the charter gear and set up for competitive racing. And competitive she is! In the past year we have chalked up a number of first places and had very close racing with the top boats. In the recent Heineken Regatta we were racing boat-for-boat with a 66 foot Gunboat and were within a whisker of beating her. Pretty cool going with Dacron working sails…maybe time to gear up!
In normal charter mode we find that Quality Time operates very easily to our mandate and the Captain Andre Swart calls in to confirm her reaching at 12 – 14 knots with a full passenger count under sail only!
When operating with our Eco Tour, which is restricted to 28 persons, Quality Time, under sail alone, outsails the other day sailing catamarans which are using sail and engine.
This has brought a quality element to the tours as there is no doubt the sailing experience is enhanced and we have seen a marked increase in demand for our tours.
Tell us a bit about Eagle Tours and the sort of charters you do.
Eagle Tours started operating in 2002 in St Maarten, operating two Gold Coast 63’s and a 75 foot St Kitts- built catamaran under contract to the cruise lines. The business expanded into island and resort tours. For these tours, a 39 foot Scape and the more recently, Du Toit Yacht Design’s 51 foot design, were brought into service.
Charters are high volume with cruise ship charters doing two tours a day and the island resorts full day tours. Standards and quality of service are maintained to excellent levels and safety of passengers is of prime concern.
In what sort of waters is Quality Time sailing?
We are fortunate to have generally good light trade winds in clear Caribbean waters. As we moor or anchor close to beaches and reefs a shallow draft is an asset.
Are you doing any racing with her? If so, what regattas have you taken part in and what was your experience of her as a racing yacht?
Our first race was the Multi-hull Regatta, sailing around the island of St Maarten.
We were entered in the cruising class but found ourselves mixing it up with the racing class boats. We won our class!
Next off was the Anguilla Regatta with light wind conditions. We were competitive but found our handicap would suit us better in stronger winds.
We sailed the first race of the Heineken Regatta and found we were competing with the 66’ Gunboats; they had a slight edge on us but then they are fast boats, designed for racing.
We sailed in a local Captain Oliver’s Regatta and won the multihull class.
Recently, we entered the racing class in the Multihull Regatta and picked up second spot.
We have set the time for the Three Island Race of Saba, Statia, completing the race in just over nine hours and currently hold the trophy.
This year’s Heineken Regatta was close racing but we found with our handicap it now means we give the Gunboat 66’s time! So, a bit of tough call but maybe comparative high tech sails will give the edge!
To your mind, what are her most positive features? What would make you recommend this design to other potential buyers?
This is an excellent day sailing vessel, great carrying capacity, (we are licensed for 71 passengers but operate 68). We have only had positive passenger feedback.
The vessel has very low maintenance, way below budget for this type of vessel, which is pleasing business-wise. She does require an experienced sailing captain; we can lift a hull in 25 knots hard on the wind in racing mode!
I can say without hesitation to potential buyers, this is an investment which will bring high returns in any tourist destination.
Anything else you would like to share?
The vessel has met every design criteria in terms of operation. Whether chartering with 65 passengers or racing in 25 knots upwind at 14 knots and, as we found recently, hitting high twenties under spinnaker (28.2 knots!) – she feels like a real race horse.
We are still learning after only a handful of races and get the feeling there is still a lot more in the tank. After 15 months of operation there is not one design feature that I would change, other than completing the electric drive feature.
“I think about 6000 passengers would agree!”