Caliber factory tour
Since I posted a reply to another thread and said I had toured the Caliber Factory, a few have asked what I thought. So here are my thoughts after spending 6 hours with George McCreary (the boat builder) at his factory Jan 26th. I have to tell you, I was so grateful the builder himself took that much time with me to show me his operation and answer my 1000 questions. I had, no kidding, 4 pages front and back of questions.
I showed up at 10am at the Clearwater, FL factory. First impressions was Wow is this is a small operation, 2 larger building on about 3 acres. For such a quality boat I guess I expect it took a bigger operation. One building housed the hull and deck molds where they are laid up The other building is where they join the two molds and finish the boat. They build about 3-4 boats at a time in various stages of development. When I was there a new Caliber 40 had just left the factory, 2 Caliber 40's and 1 Caliber 47 where being built. The Caliber 47 just had the deck and hull joined together and everyone but 3 people where there helping out in that operation. It is a huge deal at the factory when they do this. It is tripled seamed. I so impressed by this type seam and how they do it. The teamwork by the staff was impressive to say the least.
OK on with the tour. Lay up building. As George said to me, it is a "Meat and Potatoes" operation. Nothing fancy. Just good old fashion fiberglass lay-up. 24 oz hand rolled fiberglass built up to various thickness depending on where the stresses are in the hull and deck. The hull and keel outer-shell are one piece. They pour steel shot impregnated in resin into the keel than seal it. If the keel ever gets holed water cannot get to the steel shot because of the resin impregnation. Below the waterline the hull is very thick and gets thinner as one moves up to the deck joint. My thoughts. I used to work many moons ago, in composite research at DuPont. So I know a little bit about fiberglass. George and I discuss at length sear forces and bending moments on the laminates he uses vs the newer technology that is out there. My concern here is laminate delamination during hull flexing. He told not one of his boats has ever delaminated and he showed why. We crawled all over the newly laid hull. Where the hull flexes they either build up the fiberglass or put stingers and bulkheads glasses into the hull. I know of 3 Calibers that have survived beaching during a hurricane and survived with just cosmetic scratches while other manufactures have sunk or totaled. Conclusion, a very solid hull. Heavy and very old fashion proven technology.
Deck. Once again hand laid, 24 oz glass with, I believe, 4x1/4" marine plywood squares laid side by side. This is a heavy deck, the only negative. The positives, solid deck, water intrusion protection and hardware mounting. If a leak occurs on deck, say around some hardware not sealed properly, the water intrusion can only go those plywood squares that are affected, thus an easy fix. The resin between the squares prevents water from affecting the other plywood squares. Hardware mounting, especially those items we as owners like to add, like hanging items from the cabin top, we can just screw them in. Nice feature. All bends in the deck form are given a extra layer or two of fiberglass reinforcement.
Fit and Finish Building. I will start at the bow and work my way back.
Anchor locker, split into two areas. Holding tank is also located here next to the collision sealed bulkhead (great safety feature). I love the idea of the holding tank forward. No smell in the cabin. Also it is above the waterline, so when you can dump overboard, no need for pumps. Also the plumbing from the aft head to the holding tank is solid PVC pipe. The anchor attachment point at the bottom of the bow is impressive. Solid stainless steel, which also reinforces the bow during collisions. During rough wx anchoring I see this a a must.
Two fuel and two water tanks: laid over the keel. Massive fuel and water storage for this size boat. The tanks storage are laid so one fuel and water tank can be used for coastal cruising (smaller quantities) and the other tanks for serious cruising. Great attention to deal. They are also integrated into the hull structure. Creates a double hull. The tanks take up what is traditionally the bilge. I was really worried about water intrusions on the cabin sole; from the companionway, left open hatches, etc and how it would get to the deep bilge where the keel step mast joins. Also any leaks from tru-hulls and engine compartment. This is where the tour really shines as you see the guts of a boat open up. Clever little George has built in passageways from the stern to the bow over/under and around the tanks for the water to find its way to the bilge. Normal water on the cabin sole will require mopping up when at anchor. While not my ideal way of dealing with water, it works. The one and only bilge has two pumps. One small one at the bottom with a check valve and the big 2000 GPM pump higher up. Also the whale hand pump inlet is there as well.
Rudder stock - Massive massive is all I can say. Huge stainless rudder post triple supported with a water dam built in. What I like about the the design of the stock is the separate steering controls attachment points for the helm and autopilot. Since I had a autopilot that was attached to the helm steering, fall off one day from its attachment point on a nameless french boat it rendered the steering useless. I also had an autopilot lock up me as well, so this was a concern of mine.
Electrical system. Well thought out. George builds into the boat home runs for future upgrades throughout the boat. Things like fans, stereo speakers, air conditioning, entertainment systems, etc. I don't think most owners, especially second hand owners know this.
Optional SSB ground-plate - Massive. Sits on top of the entire fuel and water tanks and than glassed in. Has to be done at the factory. Runs from the plate to the back and sides of the boat are glassed in as well.
Air conditioners - Boat is 90% ducted out of the factory. Again attention to detail. For real hot weather the aft cabin technically needs it own A/C.
Interior. I have a problem with the layout of the galley. It is a mans galley not a women's. George and I discussed this a great length. I asked about making some changes to the locker in the aft cabin to a full length pantry and the storage behind the salon bulkhead table. I was surprised he said he would change them for me. I have heard from the past the factory didn't semi custom their boats at owners request but I guess they have changed their way of thinking of late.
The rest of the interior is hand built and placed inside the boat one piece at a time. No pans or drop ins. Bulkheads are totally glassed in. Some pieces of the furniture are glassed in to the hull and sub-floor. Impressive.
Sailing hardware - Mostly top quality stuff. George will work with you if you want something different. Has three different mast options from Sheldon to choose from. The boat is pre-wired for most common instruments, radios, autopilots and will pre-wire the radar if desire.
Stern rail - In the last year or so, it has changed for the better. Because cruisers are adding more and more gear back there the Calibers now have the option of what George calls the Smart Stern rail. Basically, it has 4 oversize posts, attached to the transom. They are capped if not in use. They can be used so one can drop in dingy davits, hoist, radar/wind generator posts, and Bimini attachment points. The neat trick about it all is no need to add additional attachment points on the transom. Nice clean design.
Overall impressions - Solid built boat, with lots of attention to detail that one won't notice unless you see the boat in various stages of build. I must have said that statement a hundred times during the tour. I didn't see any short cuts taken or substandard materials being used. George introduced me to most of the staff and they seems to like working there.
One of the surprises in the tour was the boat is stern heavy as far as CG moment arm is concerned. The bow is very light and there is additional hidden ballast, in the forward starboard midsection of the boat. The boat is purposely designed to have 300 of feet of chain rode for the weight to balance it out. I wonder how many boat builder figure this in. Also, while I am talking about CG moment arms, all the heavy equipment on the boat is centerline and deep below the waterline; batteries, engine, fuel and water tanks, waste tank(above waterline), generator (option). When loaded up with supplies, with the way storage bins are located I suspect the boat is port heavy.
Negatives, getting into the stern lazzerate, the interior layout of the galley and nav station. I believe most boats suffer getting down into the storage/equipment area under the cockpit sole easily. The galley can be doable with the suggestions I made to George. The nav station is another story. George will never redesign it I am convinced. But I am a small person; it will fit me well enough. All boats have it's compromises. Sorry for the length.
Looking for a boat that will love me
Last edited by Melrna; 02-02-2008 at 02:54 PM.
Reason: add more material.