July 3, 2022

DART Realty commissions “Captain Kem” to restore Blew Bayou for Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa

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Captain Kem Jackson hard at work restoring the Blew BayouOn February 25th the Cayman National Cultural Foundation (CNCF) hosted its 22nd annual National Arts and Culture awards to celebrate and recognise those who have made a significant contribution to the arts, culture and heritage of the Cayman Islands.
This year, the CNCF chose to recognise Kem Jackson, Vice President and Master Builder of the Cayman Catboat Club for his dedication to the preservation of Cayman’s cultural heritage by awarding him with the Gold Heritage Cross, the highest award in its category.
Captain Kem, as he is affectionately known, has dedicated his life to bringing awareness to the lost art of catboat building through his work with the Cayman Catboat Club.
Once as ubiquitous in the islands as pick-up trucks are now; catboats were multi-purpose vessels used for travel between districts, for transporting goods on and off-shore and of course for turtling.
Unfortunately, with the decline of turtling, and the easy availability of cars, the need for catboats diminished and the skills needed to build them faced extinction.
There are few examples of traditional catboats left on island, but one of note is Blew Bayou. Built in the early 1990s by one of the last surviving original catboat builders in Cayman Brac, Elford Dilbert, this boat has had many lives. Starting out as a fishing vessel, she was left forgotten for several years until she was rescued and restored in 2009 by Mr. Rommell Ebanks. Mr. Ebanks raced her in the annual Cayman Islands Catboat Regatta until 2014 when she claimed a second place finish, after which she was retired from competition.
Purchased by Dart Realty in early 2015, the catboat will be reincarnated as the design focal point of the lobby of the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, opening in November 2016. Suspended from the ceiling of the lobby, the boat will float above the guests─ skimming the air as if floating on water.
When it came time to choose someone to restore the boat to its former glory Captain Kem was the obvious choice for the endeavor. He estimates it will take about 400 hours of labour to transform the boat into a permanent piece of art.
“Kimpton is renowned for its inspired design that imbues each hotel location with a whimsical sense of place,” said Dart Realty’s Chief Operating Officer Jackie Doak. “The Kimpton Seafire design team appreciated the streamlined shape and cultural resonance that make a catboat an ideal sculptural installation. Dart has a longstanding relationship with the Cayman Catboat Club and can think of no one more deserving of the CNCF National Arts and Culture award or more qualified to showcase Cayman’s unique cultural heritage in Kimpton Seafire than Captain Kem.”

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