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By Andrea Lumsden

There’s a new cat in town: honouring a Caymanian legacy

metal catboat sculpture sits on blue wall of Cayman Catboat Club
Crafted by Artisan Metal Works, the installation is about half the size of an actual catboat.

An icon of Cayman Islands history is now permanently on display at Cayman Catboat Club in George Town. Thoughtfully crafted by Artisan Metal Works, the 400-lb sculpture is a magnificent work of art –an authentic catboat replica – and a much-revered symbol of Cayman’s maritime heritage. Installed in February of this year, the artwork honours two Caymanian seafarers – Captain Kemuel ‘Kem’ Jackson, who devoted his life to restoring old catboats and building new ones, and Austin Ebanks, an avid racer of the vessels who served as a director of the Catboat Club.

“We consider it a privilege to have been an integral part of preserving this cultural heritage,” says Ralph Armas, general manager at Artisan Metal Works – the Cayman-based company that donated over 600 hours of time to design and fabricate the installation. "It’s also a privilege to keep the tradition at the forefront, honouring the men who shaped Cayman into what it is today.”

The catboat sculpture in progress in the workshop
Work in progress at the Artisan Metal Works workshop.

Crafted from marine-grade stainless steel to withstand corrosion, the sculpture – which also doubles as a bench – was initially modelled using 3D software for precision. Individual parts were then meticulously shaped, molded and joined.

“The frame was waterjet-cut and welded together,” says Armas. “The panelling of the hull proved to be the most time-consuming aspect. Each strip needed precise bending and twisting to follow the complex shape, all while being handled delicately to avoid scratching the mirrored finish.”

Catboat sculpture frame in progress
The catboat’s frame was waterjet-cut and welded together

The idea for the installation was planted as a seed back in 2015 when Dart approached Artisan Metal Works proposing a collaboration. Armas says they envisioned a catboat that was also functional, hence the concept of a bench. The idea floated for a few years with both parties determined to make it a reality. In 2022, Dart approved the cost for donating all materials for the project and the Artisan Metal Works team began the lengthy-yet-worthwhile craftmanship process.

Catboat sculpture in progress
The final piece weighs approximately 400 pounds.

"Dart's longstanding support of the Catboat Club is a testament to our commitment to keeping Caymanian tradition and heritage alive,” says Dart Asset & Community Portfolio Manager Dominic Ross. “Through the commissioning of this installation, which is an amazing tribute to our seafaring past, and its dedication to two stalwarts of the trade, we aim to keep catboats at the forefront of people's minds, helping ensure that they are shared with future generations.”

Anyone can stop by the Cayman Catboat Club on North Church Street to admire the artisanship and take a seat on its lovingly crafted bench. To learn more about our support of Cayman Catboat Club and to see the sculpture in place, click here to watch our video.

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