Meet Our Catamaran Guru Founders

Stephen and Estelle were married in 1990 and lived in Cape Town, South Africa, a small coastal town known for its stunning beaches and spectacular view of Table mountain. Estelle was a fashion designer and had a successful business manufacturing swimwear, while Stephen’s trucking brokerage company was thriving. They had good careers, a nice home, lots of friends, and were generally happy. They loved their carefree lives but their sense for adventure and Stephen’s dream to sail around the world kept nagging at them.

Catamaran Guru Crew Stephen and EstelleThey decided to do something about it and set the plan in motion. Stephen and Derek, Stephen’s best friend, went scouting around the South African seaboard for the perfect hull and deck (not many yachts available in SA) which they found in Durban. The hull was trucked to Cape Town and deposited in Derek’s backyard where it spent the next two years being built.

The boat was partially finished but like with most boats, the project was abandoned for lack of money and enthusiasm by the previous owner. The hull that would be our “Royal Salute” was no exception and because the finishing and layout were not up to standard, everything was ripped out and they started with a bare shell. They drew up new plans for the interior layout and redesigned the electrical and plumbing systems, deck layout and sail plan.

Derek, being an engineer, worked tirelessly to make every system in the boat perfect while Stephen was the driving force behind the project. They knew every inch of that boat. They even handmade the lead ingots for the keel. They found old car batteries, melted the lead, and poured it into castings and the finished product, one kilo ingots, were packed into the keel…five tons worth!

Together they built a masterpiece and the 45ft Bruce Roberts sloop was launched two years later amid a lot of fanfare. Few people (including Estelle) ever believed that the hulk in the Derek’s backyard would ever see the water. The traffic department gave the sloop a safe escort to the harbor on the day the boat was loaded by crane onto a truck to be driven about 20 km by truck to Cape Town where she was launched.

Everyone who was involved in this project during those two years, including friends and family, all gave a collective sigh of relief when “Royal Salute” was declared safe, dry, and floating to her lines in Cape Town Harbor. It was simply the most beautiful sight! Royal Salute was bobbing in the blue water of Cape Town Harbour on a clear day with Table Mountain in the background and a lifetime of incredible adventure ahead for the two sailors. “Royal Salute” was christened in proper sailing tradition and Royal Salute Whiskey was passed around to all the well-wishers for the celebration.

Royal salute sailing

A few months later, Stephen and Estelle left Cape Town and started the adventure of their lives! They sailed to Madagascar, East Africa, through the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea. They crossed the Atlantic at the end of 1995 and finally settled in Sint Maarten in the Caribbean.

They owned and operated a yacht charter company and did sailing schools for 3 years. During hurricane season every year they trekked down the island chain south to Trinidad and Venezuela. On one of these trips the volcano on Montserrat erupted showering them in ash. The fallout settled on Royal Salute like a grey blanket…not quite something one would expect at sea!

In 1999, they relocated to the USA to take the reins at a charter company’s head office in Virginia. With operations in the USA and all down the Caribbean Island chain, there was no time for extended sailing trips. They were limited to a few day sails in the Chesapeake or on charter boats in their Caribbean bases. They did manage to sail Royal Salute up as far New York and sailed by the statue of Liberty and to Long Island. It was a glorious trip!

When the opportunity arose for a stake in a factory building catamarans in South Africa, they grabbed it and established the Island Spirit Catamaran brand in the USA. That is when they finally sold Royal Salute in 2005 and acquired “Siyaya“, an Island Spirit 401, which they sailed from Cape Town to St Helena, then on to South America and to Trinidad, up the Caribbean island chain and finally landed in Miami.

You’ll find more about each of our boats below.

Estelle and Stephen’s partnership is born of the same passion for the sea and all it’s creatures, exotic cultures and the exploration of far away lands. They seldom follow the ‘pack’ and have no schedule…they both believe that their boat is their passport to freedom of the planet. 

Catamaran Guru's Sailing Boats

One of the most enduring traditions of the sea is the concept of naming a boat. Read “What is in a boat’s name?”

Royal Salute - Bruce Roberts 45 Sloop

Royal Salute

Royal Salute, a Bruce Roberts 45 sloop, was our first boat. We rebuilt her ourselves. Needless to say, we felt particularly attached to her and we wanted to give her a special name fit for a queen.

We decided to name her “Royal Salute” after a bottle of whiskey sitting on a shelf in our house in Cape Town. We really liked the name and when we found out about the naval connotation of the name as well as the English connection (since South Africa had been an English colony) it seemed rather fitting.

Enjoying the whiskey was an added bonus!


Unsurprisingly, we drank copious amounts of this ‘nectar’ at the launch of “Royal Salute“. We lived aboard her for about 13 years from her launch on October 15, 1992, through 2004 when we sold her to a wonderful young family we first met in the Mediterranean on their boat, “Mithril“.

I can honestly say that selling her was one of the saddest days of my life.

Origin of the name “Royal Salute”

This rich and complex whiskey from Chivas is a blend of single malts, youngest being aged for 21 years in oak casks before bottling in handcrafted red, blue, and green flagons. Royal Salute whiskey was launched on 2nd of June 1953 as a tribute to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation day. Her crown was set in rubies, sapphires, and emeralds which served as the inspiration for the colors of the flagons.

The name of this exceptional Scotch Whiskey comes from the 21 Gun Royal Salute, which is fired as a mark of respect for dignitaries. Gun salutes are the firing of cannons or arms as military or naval honor. The custom stems form naval tradition, where a warship would fire its cannons harmlessly out to sea until all ammunition was spent to show that it was disarmed, signifying the lack of hostile intent.

1975 Mithril - Seafarer 31


We inherited the name “Mithril” from the previous owners, Emily and Andrew, who were friends. When they purchased Royal Salute from us, Mithril, a 1975 Seafarer 31, was part of the deal. We decided not to test the gods so we kept the name, besides we liked it.

Mithril had completed a circumnavigation with Emily and Andrew on board where we had met up with them in various places in the world. Their family grew after adopting two beautiful children from Russia and they needed to upgrade just about the same time as we were selling Royal Salute. Sad as it was to sell Royal Salute, I was happy to see them on her.

We sailed Mithril from Charleston (her home port) to Miami in December 2004. It was freezing cold, the boat had no running water, and only a curtain provided privacy for the head. Living aboard on this tiny spartan boat for more than a month was an adventure in itself, but we loved it.

We sailed most of the trip down the ICW because of bad weather but we discovered some neat places, especially in the marshes of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Origin of the name “Mithril”

Mithril is a fictional metal from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth fantasy writings. It is described as silvery and stronger than steel but much lighter in weight. The malleability, lack of tarnishing, and use of the metal in jewelry could also indicate a reference to platinum.

Siyaya - 2004 Island Spirit 401


We had “Siyaya“, an Island Spirit 401, built in Cape Town, South Africa. We were partners in the factory at the time so we were intimately involved in the entire building process from initial design with Phil Southwell and Jannie Els to the launch as well as systems test and sailing.

We launched her in December 2005 and in 45 days sailed her across the Atlantic to South America then on to Miami where we arrived just in time for the Miami Boat Show. She was one of the stars of the show that year.

We moved Siyaya to the Bahamas for a season of seaschool and then up to the Chesapeake soon after where we spent a wonderful summer in and around Annapolis.

The snow started early that year and Siyaya was fully covered in that white stuff in early November. We left for the Bahamas on a delivery of a Fountaine Pajot 40 where we did another season of seaschools. Siyaya was sold to some of our former sea school graduates in Pennsylvania. Even though we were thrilled with our first catamaran, loving her for many reasons including her sporty look and exceptional sailing abilities, we never really had time to fully bond with her so it was less traumatic when we sold her.

Origin of the name “Siyaya”

Some say its origin is Shona, others believe it is a Xhosa word (both African languages) but whichever it is, everyone in South Africa knows that it means “moving on” or “marching on” …a very fitting name for our catamaran. Stephen and I are always itching to move on to the next adventure, the next place to explore, and never being tied down unless we choose to be, and Siyaya always seemed to want to take off!

Zuri - 2009 Prout 45


Our Prout catamaran, “Zuri” was named for an expression in Swahili (an East African language), “M’zuri Sana”, meaning “Beautiful to behold”. The word ‘Zuri‘ means good/beautiful in Swahili.

We had cruised in East Africa (Tanzania and Kenya) where we learned to speak some Swahili and ‘beautiful to behold’ was exactly how we felt about our Prout 45 when she was launched in August 2009.

We waited almost a year for her to be launched and we could not have been happier when we finally sailed her out of Fort Lauderdale.

Zuri” had beautiful lines and a ‘WOW’ factor that few other catamarans had. Her cabinetry was spectacular and her helm station, in my humble opinion, is one of the best on any catamaran.

She was built in Thailand and was shipped to Fort Lauderdale. We also assisted in the building and design of Zuri and die extensive repairs after her arrival stateside. The ship she was on was caught in a storm off the Californian coast and Zuri got the brunt of it. She is as good as new and we sailed north for the Annapolis Boat Show in October 2009 where she was the belle of the ball, before returning her to her home port of Miami Beach. We sailed to the Bahamas several times.

We sold Zuri in 2015 and launched a land yacht adventure in our RV.

Origin of the name “Zuri”

The word ‘Zuri‘ means good/beautiful in Swahili, an East African language. There are many ways to say “beautiful” depending on the context and the thing(s) you’re describing. The most fundamental is through the base word “-zuri,” the prefix for which must match the thing(s) you’re talking about: kizuri, mazuri, mizuri, mzuri, nzuri. Zuri is the Swahili name for “beautiful”.  Other definitions: good, nice, pretty, lovely, cute and attractive.

Zuri - 2016 Lagoon 450 SporTop

Zuri Lagoon 450s will be at the annapolis sailboat show

We took possession of Zuri at the end of 2015. We had her delivered from La Rochelle, France to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean onboard a ship. We picked her up with some friends and sailed her back to Miami via Sint Maarten, the Caicos Islands, Exumas, and Abacos. It was a great trip! We sailed thousands of nautical miles aboard her. We loved this boat!

We chose the Lagoon over several other similar models because we thought it to be a good compromise between live-ability and performance.

We noticed that the Lagoon range has performed really well in rallies worldwide, consistently placing in the first four boats at the finish line. We plan to live aboard ourselves and do extended cruising, as we have on all our previous boats. But we also will do educational live-aboard charters. The Lagoon will deliver on all those requirements comfortably. The Lagoon 450 SporTop’s overall quality, fit and finishes, performance and price in this size range of cats, is great for live-aboards. Read our review of our Lagoon 450S here.

We chose to keep the name ‘Zuri‘ because we really liked the name, so we will be known as the “Zuris” for a while longer!

Everybody knows that we loved this Lagoon 450 Sportop. It is one of the best live aboard sailing catamarans in our opinion. It ticked a lot of the boxes for us and for three years we lived and worked aboard Zuri, sailed 6000 NM, visited exotic locations like Cuba, raced in several regattas, and hosted two catamaran rendezvous events in the Bahamas from her. We had a great time and loved traveling while working on Zuri. BUT in 2019, it was time for another chapter and a new adventure! Next boat? A Bali 5.4.

Z3 - 2019 Bali 5.4 Sailing Catamaran

catamaran guru z3 bali 5 4 catamaran

We chose the name, ‘Z3‘, to differentiate her from our previous boats named Zuri, Her name is really “Zuri III” because we still love the name, Zuri. So the shorter version seemed the way to give her a unique moniker that pays homage to our other beloved boats.

Our friend, Donald Thierry, a sign-writer from Michigan, came up with the graphics – the Z3 inside a big square.

Another friend, Deon Rae, an engineer by trade, saw the periodic table in this graphic. Lo and behold, the element “Z” is indeed on the periodic table. We learned that Element-Z is probably the most famous substance in the galaxy and is extremely rare. However, very little is known about this element. Its atomic number and weight are unknown, so on the periodic table of elements, it is represented as a simple black Z. The strangest thing about Element-Z is that although it makes obvious attempts to repel those who try to control it, it is the most desired substance in all the galaxy!

Wow! We instantly loved the idea of this mysterious element and we locked on this name and graphic.

Read about our adventure to take possession of our Bali 4.5 at the factory in France then sail her across the Atlantic as part of the ARC Rally.

Akani - 2021 Bali 4.2

We purchased Akani, a 2021 Bali 4.2, to start our Catamaran Guru Sailing Academy in 2022.

We still lived aboard our Bali 5.4 and knew how well this vessel could work for not only general ASA and RYA sailing courses, but also liveaboard experiences for those wanting to learn the lifestyle while dreaming of a future living on their boat.


Origin of the name “Akani”

We named her Akani from a Xitsonga word of the southern African tribe Tsonga that means “build together”. It has the connotation of creating or developing lofty ideals, hopes, theories, etc.

The name perfectly fits us at Catamaran Guru and hope that she will help seaschool students solidify their hopes of the sailing life they dream of. 


Mithril - 2021 Catana OC 50 Performance Catmaran

2021 catana oc 50 named mithril purchased for performance catamaran courses in the catamaran guru sailing academy

To add performance catamaran courses to our Catamaran Guru Sailing Academy begun in 2022, we purchased a Catana OC 50. We had liked the inherited name of our Seafarer 31 we previously owned we named this sleek boat Mithril.

We named her that because her hull is a soft grey / silver and we know that she strong and light like the fictional metal in Tolkien stories.

Origin of the name “Mithril”

The name Mithril comes from two words in Tolkien’s Sindarin language – mith, meaning “grey”, and ril, meaning “glitter”. Mithril is a fictional silvery metal of great strength and value found in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth writings. It is described as resembling silver but being stronger and lighter than steel and virtually indestructible.

If you sail our Mithril, we think you will agree! When we compared 50-foot performance catamarans, we fell in love with this Catana offering. See videos and our review of our Catana OC 50.


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