about catboats


 The deck plan shows an extreme beam

depth can be varied with centreboards

high peaked gaff extends the mast length

typical : the "barndoor rudder" 

the home waters of american catboats along the north american east coast between 1850 and 1920.

typical dimensions of catboats

The length of catboats varies from 12 ft. and reach up to 40 ft. and even more. The range of the classic american catboat with cabin does vary in the range from 15 ft. to about 26 ft. Boats below 15 ft. can be either open or do have the front deck covered. The deck plan shows an unusual ratio between length and beam of almost 2:1. But on the larger version catboats this ratio is rather in the range of 2.6-3:1 .

 Centre boards

The typical catboat does have a centre board. The centre board carries part of the boats ballast and can be lowered with a halyard. At courses close to the wind the centreboard will be lowered to reduce the leeward drift. In shallow waters the depth of the boat can easily be reduced. As centreboards fold backwards they are uncritical once the boat should be grounding. Also they are being used to vary on the lateral area of the boat, for example to reduce the weather helm. Although centreboards are typical for catboats, they are not the only possible keel version. Also pure keel versions had been designed and built.  

High peaked gaff

The single gaff sail is rigged in the way of a high peaked gaff. This reduces the pressure vertical to the mast and thus enables the use of a lighter mast. In addition the steep angle offer the advantage that the profile of the sail in the area of the upper leek is not as much harmed as it is the case with regular gaff sails. Steep angled gaff sails allow the use of a shorter mast, as by the steep angle the gaff peak does lead to an extension of the usable mast length significantly over the mast top.

The sturdy mast typically is stabilized by only a forestay. In case the masts are designed as tabernacle mast additional shrouds may be necessary. 

Barndoor rudder

A further typical element of  a catboat is a rudder with a large area. Because of its round and door shaped design it is known as "barndoor rudder". Its length can reach up to 1/6th of the boats length. More modern designs often show the area above the waterline cut away to give the rudder a more lighter appearance. On recent designs also foldable rudders can be seen. 

Home waters of catboats

Originally they were home at Americas New England coast. Later they could be seen along the complete Intracoastal Waterway down to Florida and the Caribean. Nowadays they have spread all across to the regions of the great lakes at the border to Canada but also at the west coast and -not so often but definetely- also in Europe.


Other cat-rigged boats:

Also the two-mast versions belong to the category of catboats like cat-yawl, cat- ketch and cat-schooner. More about the various forms of the cat riggs ...