West Bay SonShip’s Kataluma — By Diane M. Byrne
— May 2005
Keen on Kataluma
These owners couldn’t wait for their custom 87-footer to be ready. So was it insight or insanity that convinced them to redesign her?
Mike and Nancy Domaille are not like most of us.
Sure, they grew up around water and boats, and they enjoy the lifestyle so much that they’ve owned craft ranging from a 34-foot sailboat to a 36-foot, triple-cockpit Hacker Craft built in 1929. And sure, they’d always dreamed about owning a big yacht, a true second home, with spacious staterooms and other comfortable amenities for guests to join them on long cruises. But when the Domailles took delivery of their custom 87-foot Kataluma from British Columbia-based West Bay SonShip Yachts early last year, they didn’t take her back home to Minnesota.
Instead, after several months of cruising, which included trips to San Diego and even Glacier Bay, Alaska, they took her right back to the yard and left her there, eagerly awaiting the sights and sounds of routers carving, drills whining, sanders smoothing, and marble tiles clattering. And then there was the happy vision of their precious new baby swarming with craftsmen clad in protective jumpsuits, nail guns and spackle trowels in hand. West Bay’s in-house design team was just as eager to get its hands on her.
Wait a minute; what were these first-time big-yacht owners thinking? Were they even thinking? After all, the Domailles readily admit that Kataluma was “beautiful,” built to all of their specifications: mahogany paneling, an office/library on the lower deck, a fiberglass hardtop with a semirigid glass enclosure, and elbowroom aplenty. And what was West Bay thinking? As much as the craftsmen enjoyed working with the Domailles, wouldn’t the yard have preferred to focus on the next project on the line, one that truly did need completion?
Oh, everyone was thinking all right—thinking about how to “step it up a notch,” to quote Mike. Like many owners, the Domailles considered a number of changes during the build process—but unlike many fellow yachtsmen, the couple decided to weigh the consequences first. “We were cautious about making expensive interior design decisions without first living in the environment,” Nancy explains.
So instead of following the typical route of requesting change order after change order during construction, and instead of taking the other common path of commissioning a new, grander yacht, the Domailles decided to upgrade their recently delivered one. And what an upgrade—to the tune of five to six months from initial discussions to redelivery, a good month of which was work in the yard. West Bay gladly joined the madness—for the principals and craftsmen were as crazy about the owners as the Domailles were crazy in love with Kataluma.
One of the main things that made the Domailles’ decision easier was the fact that West Bay is a true custom builder. Over the past decade, most yards offering yachts to about 100 feet LOA have changed tactics, from building on a custom basis to a production-only basis. Even the yards that went semicustom typically limit customers’ choices to the types of furnishings and whether the wood paneling will have a high-gloss or satin finish. West Bay lets owners choose everything from the engine package to the layout on its offerings to 110 feet LOA (with the exception of its 50-footer, which is built on more of a production basis).
This article originally appeared in the April 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.