Catboat designers

The ideas for a new boat start to develop in the minds of the boat designers and boat builders. Their first and still  vague images start to develop further into more solid shapes with the help of drawings or half models. The result of this process is a building plan with fixed measures ready to be transformed by boatbuilders or shipyards to the real boat. Boatbuilders manufacture a large number of various boats. Thats the reason why the name of the shipyard/boatbuilder cannot or only rarely be identified with a certain boat design. On the other hand successful boat designs will in many cases be built from various boatbuilders or shipyards. A successful design will be identified with the designers name for its complete life. For enthusiasts of the american catboats the name of the designers are therefore of high significance and are being appreciated accordingly.  

The boat designers listed here had become famous through their designs. Anyhow the list is by far not complete, it had been limited on the significant ones with the intention to allow giving a quick insight and short survey to the reader. The names of the designers are sorted by America and Europe and secondly in alphabetical order of their surnames. The descriptions are also held short, they cannot be seen as biographys  and cannot appreciate their entire works. Again for the reason to allow a quick survey the given facts focus on few , for the issue of catboat design important facts. For further information I have, as far as available, enclosed some links into the text. At this point the hint to the page books about catboats
The source of fotos have been marked. In case of "Catboat Organization" the fotos are either from Bulletins of the Catboat Organization or from various books like "The Catboat Book", "Cape Cod Catboats".   

USA and Canada

Charles Anderson (1870 - 1953) ; USA


C. Anderson was a son of immigrants from Sweden. He finished going to school at the age of 14 and started a job at a foundry where he worked as a water carrier until he was 18. After that he started a job at the East Boston Shipyard. After two years he went home and began the building of sharpies and rowing boats. But it didn´t take a long time until he started the challenge of building also larger boats. By the end of world war 1 Anderson built boats of many kind such as sloops, motorsailors and even ferry boats up to a length of 80m. His numerous catboats with an average length of about 30 feet were unusually big catboats. A steep stem and a yacht style transom with underhung rudder were typical characteristics of his boats. His boats Beatrice and Sea Cat became well known.     

 Fotos: Grayson

Brothers William (1882-1962) and John Atkin (1918-1999); USA


 The Atkin design office had for a long time been the adress for simple sailing and easy-to-build wooden boats. Many designers who later become famous had either spend their years as an apprentice at Atkins office or had worked there for some time. In the catalogue of the Atkins more than 300 designs for boats of all kinds can be found. Among them are also a few catboats. The business is until today going and plans can be purchased from John Atkins widow Mrs. Pat Atkins   

For the owners of a Seezunge the shown Atkins design of the catboat "trim" may be of interest. Atkins avoided for the sail plan that the boom reaches longer than the boat dimensions in order to ease handling for reefing. This had also been the case at the Seezunge. Further similarities are the somewhat backwards positioned mast and the short spreader at the forestay. In difference to the Seezunge the mast of the Trim is a bit higher and the boat has a beam of 2.30m only instead of 2.50m at the Seezunge. This would cause a lower stability and had to be compensated by an additional ballast of 300kg lead.   

Carl N. Beetle (1896-1952); USA


designed and built the popular Beetle- Cat since 1921, which had been named by him. This half decked open catboat had been built by today in about 4000 units. At Beetle-Cat the boat is still being built in traditional wooden boat builders quality. There is also a version in GRP on the market, but that one is not from Beetle-Cat but from company Howard boats. But this boat cannot be named Beetle-Cat for copyright reasons but is therefore named Barnstable-Cat. Ironically the genuine Beetle-Cat will be built from wood! But Carl N. Beetle had been a pioneer in building boats out of GRP. In the workshop of his parents he had still built whaling boats from wood. But with the development of Owens Corning with glass fibres and the glass fibre reinforced plastic Beetle put all his efforts on this at the time very new material. After world war 2 he founded his first own company "Beetle Yard" where he built one of the first GRP boats with gelcoat, it was the BB Swan a   

12.5 ft open catboat. He also spend a lot of efforts in convincing customers to overcome the at this times big suspiciousness for this new material. But later Carl N. Beetle finished the production of GRP boats for good and forever. Supposedly he didnt´t want to or couldn´t stand the bad smell of the styrene during production any longer. Until then he always believed in the performance of this new material. But he was not fated to see the big boom in GRP boatbuilding during his lifetime. 

Jay Benford; USA


 belongs to those yacht designers who took his apprentice at John Atkins office. In 1969 he founded his own company the Benford Design Group. He created various catboat designs but instead of a centre board he designed them with a fixed keel. He designed the 18´ cat-ketch and the 20´catboat -Joy. The designe were meant to be built with various materials such as ferrocement or steel. 



Drawing: Benford Design

Philip Cunningham Bolger (1927-2009); USA


was not only very innovative, but surely he also was one of the most efficient and productive boat and yacht designers of the recent past. During his lifetime he designed the unbelievable number of about 650 different drawings and plans for boats of all kind. His issue were not the classic american catboat but rather he showed up numerous new ideas and innovations for the boatbuilder and pointed ever out to new and interesting possibilities. His cat-rigged boats, such as the shallow siling "Chebacco" -types and the edgy box-type "Square-boats", easy to built "Instant-boats" as welll as modern designs with side boards.  

Repeatedly he designed boats with cat-rig and also numerous cat-yawls. He is also author of a couple of books on small cruisers and boatbuilding (see books about catboats). In 1990 he founded together with his wife Susanne Altenburger the "Phil Bolger& Friends Inc.". Since his death in 2009 his widow is proceeding with the business until today. A memorial stone in Gloucester, Massachusetts reminds and appreciates the outstanding works he has done during his lifetime.
A survey of his designs can be found > here


( Fotos: Phil Bolger & Friends Inc.)


Edward S. (Ted) Brewer (* 1933); Canada

The native Canadian began his career as an officer in the canadian army. But from his early days his passion belongs to boats. And so he gathered through his life experience at many places, as yacht-rroker for C&C Yachts, as boatbuilder and boatdesigner. All this experience had been valuable for his boat-designs. Until today his designs and boatplans counted up to 270. With that anmount he belongs to one of the most productive boat designers. His book "Understanding Boat Design" is a standard for boatbuilders and do-it-youself boat builders. On catboats he designed the successful type of the Cape Cod Catboat of Ted Herman as a simple and easy to built 22´chine-catboat. A smaller version of this is the

18´Cape Cod Bay. And with the 25´Chappaquiddick he designed one of the largest catboats for do-it-yourself builders. Until today he is writing articles on boatbuilding for the magazine "Good Old Boats" and is also member of the american Catboat Organization.

(Fotos: Ted Brewer)

Frank G. Carter (1867-1961); USA


was a successful boat builder from Long Island East Quogue USA. He had spent the unbelievably time-span of 65 years with building catboats! The quality of his catboats, that he had built since 1896 had an outstanding reputation. All of his boats had been built entirely by himself even including the rigging. Before handing out a boat it was his understanding to always testsail the boat himself first. He never felt the need to retire at some day and so he had been building catboats even as he reached the age of 90 years. In his entire life he had built some 150 catboats.                                                                                  (Foto: Catboat Organization)

Crosby ´s of Osterville; USA

were a famous boatbuilder family if not to say boatbuilders -dynasty. Crosby is one of the most important names among the historic catboat designers and builders.
The Crosby family had been building boats for a long time, since ca. 1798. In 1850 the first so named "catboat" had been built, it was the "Little Eva" built by Horace S. Crosby and his younger brother  Charles Worthington Crosby.
Because of the solid built, which nade the boat quite seaworthy, at the same the easy and safe handling of the cat-rig, its wide beam allowed the boat for numerous uses, this type of boat became quickly a success. as a result of this success the company had specialized on building catboats and "Crosby Cats of Osterville" gained at that time their good reputation. Temporarily there had been several companies which carried the name Crosby and they had even been competing each other. Crosby Cats had been used at the end of the 19. century all along the coasts of New England, and they belonged for a period of about 100 years to the best known boats. Today they make highly appreciated Oldtimers. Among the famous catboat builders are Horace S. Crosby (1826 - 1894) ) and his younger brother Charles Worthington Crosby (1823-1898). they were followed by their sons H. Manley (1871-1959),  Joseph (1860-1922),  and Wilton Crosby (1898-1980). A survey can be seen in the section of the Crosby´s family tree.

 The last Crosby catboat Had been built by Wilton B. Crosby (so of Manley 1898-1980) 1968 gebaut. The american catboat association had honoured the  Crosby family with the initiation to build a replica of a genuine Crosby catboat that had been  built at a museums workshop. This replica is the "Frances" and can be seen today in the museum of Mystic seaport, MA,USA. The company Crosby Yachts is by the way still existing until today. They are building motor yachts and the small 14´Harbour Cat. For anyone who is more interested in the history of the Crosby´s a  visit to the Osterville Historic Museum at Osterville is definetively a must.

in the books of John E. Conway "Catboat Summers" the author tells the storys, which he enjoyed with his 100 year old Crosby - catboat the "Buckrammer". 

Mark Ellis; USA

is the designer of the Nonsuch Yachts, that are not the classic catboats but modern cat-rigged yachts of the canadian Hinterhoeller Yachts. He designed four types of the sizes 22, 26, 30 and 33 feet. In the beginning people were suspicious but at the end about 1000 units of this yacht had been sold. The Nonsuch yachts are modern cruising yachts with a cat-rig. But Mark Ellis had kept some of the design characterstics of the classic catboats: such as the steep cabin with portholes and round front which at the stem seemlessly forms to the combing of the cockpit. A further characteristic is the straight stem at the bow, which provides this modern yacht a classic look. In difference to classic catboats the Nonsuch yachts had been rigged with a wishbone rig. This is a tribute to the increased expectations of the customers on a good tacking behaviour of the yachts. 

William Garden (1918-2011); Canada/USA


The native Canadian William Garden moved to Seattle/USA at the age of 10 where he learned sailing and gathered his interest in boat designs. throughout his lifetime he designed numerous boats and yachts and today there are about 2000 yachts cruising worldwide which are built according to Garden designs. The catboat that he designed was a further evolution of an original James W. Hart designed catboat: The "Family Cat 23" appears to have been suited to the deep waters of the north american west coast and its fjords. It differs from the typical catboat "Family Cat 23" with its oldtime extended counter stern with an underhung rudder instead the barndoor rudder. Also the centre board had been placed slightly off centre to the portside. On one hand by doing so the keel section is not weakened and also when grounding rocks or stones are not being jammed in the slot with the full weight of the boat as the keel will take most of the impact. The boom is quite long. To compensate for a negative on the weather helm also the centre board had been positioned way aft. Another difference is the relatively deep forefoot of the boat which allows to stabilize the mast without the necessity of shrouds. The boat had been built by Bill Boyd Boats (Victoria/Canada) and the tools later on sold to Collingwood Boats (Canada) which had used them also for the design of a motor sailor.

He also designed the smaller "Tom Cat" which he nicely describes in his book "The making of the Tom Cat". Plans for both types are available through Woodenboats.

C.C. Hanley; (1851-1934); USA


born in Maine first had worked as a blacksmith and moved in 1875 to Cape Cod, where he built his first catboat. his boats had developped to extraordinairy fast boats. And in this respect he belongs to one of the great masters in boatbuilding. he built not so often utility boats, but for the wealthier race sailors. In all his designs he had a special focus on high stability with at the same time least possible weight. Quite famous became his big 28´boats Harbinger and Almira with a gigantic sail area. In the foto below both can bee seen at a regatta fighting each other.




the Herreshoff family belongs to the most famous yacht designer dynasty´s in America. They have designed many of the successful america´s cup racing yachts. Among them are the winning yachts from Mr. Nathaniel Herreshoff (1848-1938) Vigilant 1893; Defender 1895; Columbia 1899 and 1901; Reliance 1903 und Resolute 1920; His son Francis Herreshoff (1890-1972) was similar successful in the field of production yachts. Sidney deWolf Herreshoff as well as Halsey Herreshoff are proceeding the series of successful yachtdesigns until today. The development on the racing formula on yacht-design for the famous J-class yachts had been a measure for the development of all production yachts.

Catboats from the Herreshoff´s: Already at the age of 12 the extraordinary talent of Nataniel Herreshoff as yacht designer showed up the first time. He designed in that young age all drawings and calculations for a

20´ catboat which was to be built for his blind brother in 1860, it was the Sprite. By the way: Today the Sprite is the oldest preserved catboat and can be seen in the Herreshoff museum. Halsey Herreshoff designed in 1971 the catboat Herreshoff Americat, it can easyly be identified by the stars-and -stripes- design in the sail. the Americat had further been developed and in 2002 the Horizon Cat had been lauched by Hutchinson. Halsey Herreshoff had also designed several yachts and larger cat ketches for Freedom Yachts.

Garry Hoyt; USA




In 1976 the american Garry Hoyt brought a refreshing new -but at the same time also old- input to the yacht designer and yacht building scene of seagiong yachts. Instead of further building yachts according to racing formulas and measure rules, which resulted only in faster but at same time also less comfortable yachts, Garry Hoyt reflected on some of the designs of old trading vessels of the past centuries. He combined their spacey designs with his demands towards an easier handling. As a result he founded in 1976 Freedom Yachts and as a first design he launched the Freedom 40, a cat -rigged large seagoing yacht. After that a whole series of further yachts in various had been designed. All of them were like the Freedom 40 built with an unstayed mast and a cat-rig. It were the types: Freddom 21, 25, 28, 32, 33, 35, 39, 40, 44. in difference to the Nonsuch types from Hinterhoeller Yachts, which were also cat-rigged yachts the focus at Freedom Yachts was always ease-of-handling and comfort but no on catboat design. In 1994 he also designed the Alerion Express Cat 19 and 28 with a "jib-boom" that was installed at the deck. He holds a patent on this design and on his later developed "Balanced-Hoyt-Jib-boom", which is a boom for a foresail that is mounted on an axle to allow an easy swing.

Breckenridge (Breck)  Marshall (1921- 1976); USA


The beginning of the 1960´s marks a new era for the boatbuilding industry. with the development of the glasfibre reinforced plastic (GRP) and its successful use in the boatbuilding industry this material quickly became the material of choice. The times of the classic catboats appeared to have ceased for goog. Then it was Breck Marshall in 1962, who built a mould for a classic catboat to be built out of GRP. He built a couple of boats from this still relatively new material. After the suspicion of customers could slowly be overcome and difficult start-up years the boom started first slowly but then ever increasing after 1965. the type Sanderling of which until today some 800 units have been built not only was sign of one successful boat design. Its success released a true boom for the catboats in particular but for the boatbuilding industry as a whole. It was the beginning of the second catboat era. And Breck Marshall was one of the significant reasons for this. In 1965 another type had been built the somewhat bigger Marshall 22´, of which until today also some 275 units have been built. 1972 a smaller type had been designed the 15´Sandpiper, of which in the last 40 years some 600 units had been built. In 1976 even a 26´version had been developed. Breck Marshall was one of the initial founding members of the catboat organization. The catboat organization had honoured Breck Marshall by the building of a catboat in the museums workshop at Mystic Seaport Museum; which was named "Breck Marshall". His son Geoff Marshall is running the company today. The types Sanderling, Sandpiper and Marshall 22 are still being built. See >  Marshall Marine Corporation 

In his book "Penelope" W.R. Cheney describes the journeys with his catboat "Penelope" in genuine situation,  "Penelope" was a catboat type Sanderling but without engine !

Charles Drown Mower (1875-1942); USA

was a yacht designer at the beginning of the 20th century. Besides various sloops and other yachts also the legendary A-Cats had been designed by him. A-Cats were the open catboats rigged with Marconi rig, who became popular from about 1922. They had been designed especially for the purpose of racing. they became famous under the name "Barnegat Bay A Cats". Until today people are racing with them in the classic waters . See also > Francis Sweisguth

Manuel Schwartz Roberts (1881-1963); USA


was born on Martha´s Vineyard and was the child of immigrants from the Azore islands. He built about 200 catboats in his workshop in Edgartown and is known as one of the last catboatbuilders of his kind on Martha´s Vineyard. He relied rather on the half models which he carved then on drawings, plans and calculations and became known as The Old Sculpin. His catboats had a good reputation and were known for their good seaworthyness. Preserved boats are today well tacared of and valuable oldtimers.

Gilbert (Gil) Monroe  Smith  (1843-1940); USA


without any exaggeration the boats designed by Gil Smith can be described as the most beautiful, attactive and fastest catboats of the open type. Gil Smith designed boats , which became famous as the "Great South Bay Cats" and they inspire until today friends of his boats and many yacht designers. It is no known how many boats he had built but some indication is the number of half-models that are existing from him: about 400 are known and had been used by the boatbuilders. None of his boats was equal to another they all very individually different builts. He used up to 10 different woods, according to its use on the boats. His slogan became famous: this years model will outlast the last years model. A quite sustainable demand that he had put on himself.

Francis Sweisguth (1882-1970); USA

Francis Sweisguth began his carreer as naval architect together with William Gardner around 1901. He became mainly famous from his design for the "Star-Boot", for many years known as an Olympic class. on catboats he became a well known designer together with Charles Mower for the designs of the A-Cats, which became popular in the 1920 as "Barnegat  A-Cats". They were open racing cats with Marconi rigs. Characteristical for the A-Cats was their huge length with at the same low freeboard, which gave them a slim and elegant appearance. His own boat the "Secret" had been used some 50 years later as a prototype for the GRP design Americat. Well known became his boats Silent Maid and Scat II from the Barnegat Bay (N.J.)

Fenwick Cushing Williams (1901-1992); USA


belongs to the legendary names among the catboat designers. Born in Maine he already in school was focussed on boats. Instead of doing his homeworks he drew boat plans in his school books. And he did so although he was suffering an extreme short sightedness. During the years of the great depression he worked since 1923 in the office of John Aldens Yachtdesign. Although they were not searching for a designer they were quite impressed by the drawings which Fenwick presented. They were obviously so convincing that they employed him even in these times of economic difficulty. 1930 Fenwick designed his first plan for a 18´Cape Cod Catboot. In 1931 this design had been published in "Yachting"magazine. Until the mid 1930´s he had designed 2 more catboats

one for a 21´and another for a 25´catboat. They were mainly different in scale but the main characteristics and lines remained unchanged and became the typical marks for Fenwick Williams catboats.

Although he designed besides catboats various other boats and yachts, such as schooners, ketches, cutters and several yawls - famous became his yawls "Concordia", which had been built at the german Abeking & Rasmussen shipyard-  he was linked often and mistakenly as a pure catboat designer. That was because of his great success with his catboat designs.  All of his designs were well balanced and easy on the helm. At the same time they offered a very appealing boat design. Part of his philosophy was that the bow of a catboat does not need to be sharp as a razor blade to have a good close to the wind behaviour. His catboats had a full bow, elegant lines, a significant shear and a moderate sailing plan. Beside his work as a designer he also had put down his ideas and images on how a catboat should look like in writing. For the Catboat Bulletins of the american Catboat Association he has written his famous "Design Elements of a Catboat", which is a must to read for catboat builders. An extract of this is also printed in "The Catboat Book". Fenwick C. Williams belongs to the initial members who have founded the Catboat Association. in 1962.

(Fotos: Catboat Organization CBA)

Charles W. Wittholz (1918-1993); USA

was born and raised in Buffalo N.Y. . He studied naval architecture at the university of Michigan and completed his study at the MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology). His career began in the first 7 years t the design offices of Philip Rhodes and John Alden. His own catboat, which he bought quite early in his life was from a less known boat designer. It had several weaknesses, from which he took several thorough lectures. from the design lines, the sail area, the point of lateral resistance to the rudder. He digged into any detail of his boat and modified it step by step in order to improve it. The experience that he gained by this process had been helpful through his entire career. He has designed in his life plans for about 270 boats, among which also big company orders for motoryachts for Chrysler and Cheoy Lee.   He always was fond of catboats and he designed chine built catboats in lengths of  15´, 17´, 18´9´´ and 20´, which had been built world wide. A non-chine design became well-known as it had been built at Ted Herman´s the Herman Cat .

After Ted Herman had ceased the production the type had further been built under the name Cape Cod Cat. His 20´catboat design he named after the mother of famous brothers Worthington and Horace Crosby: Madame Tirza. Charles Wittholz is also one of the initial members of the Catboat Association. He wrote numerous articles for the Catboat Bulletin and published the "Catbook Design Booklet"


Gerhard Gilgenast (1938-1991); Germany

Gerhard Gilgenast is an successful german yacht designer who of course need to be mentioned. But in his later years he rather became famous by designing Motor-Superyachts for the Aga Khan (Kalamoun, Octopussy and more). The Team of the german yacht magazine Die Yacht was at the late 60s so enthusiastic about catboats that they asked yacht designer Gilgenast to design a catboat for the local market. With the Seezunge types A and B he designed immediately 2 of the in America most successful sizes of about 17 ´and 20´. About 10 years later the team of Die Yacht team once again looked at the concept. By that time some 80-100 units had been built. Once again they could get Gilgenast to further develop on some detail improvements. The Seezunge is being built until today and the most popular catboat in Europe.

Horst Stichnoth; Germany



The naval architect and yacht designer Horst Stichnoth has since 1988 his own design office Horst Stichnoth Yachtdesign in Bremen. He designs yachts of various sizes and for all types of materials. His specialty are yachts with variable draft for shallow waters. From his drawing board the chine built catboats: 

Törncat 55 and Törncat 60.

Artur Tiller (1884-1957); Germany

was a famous boat designer of the last century. He studied ship building and had a degree as ship building engineer. He worked at the shipyards Heidtmann in Hamburg and Engelbrecht in Zeuthen. Since 1920 he founded his own office Artur Tiller Yacht-Konstrukteur. In his lifetime Artur Tiller had designed some 300 plans for boats and yachts of all kind. From sailing canoes up to 80m long motor boats. Among his many designs are also the designs of the catboats Teufelchen, Svane and the 6m Catkreuzer. in difference to the american models he had designed them with a fixed keel instead of using a centre board: Also they are significantly less in beam, the length: beam ratio is more 2.5:1 and instead a barndoor rudder his design look more like a drop shape rudder. He had written numerous articles for the german magazine "Die Yacht" and published several books such as "Yachtbau", "Handbuch des Segelsports"


Aldo Gatti ( 1926-1995); Italy



Aldo Gatti designed in Italy an interesting european plan on a catboat. He avoided the typical length: beam ratio of 2:1 but limited the beam to 2.50m at a length of 7.15m. The GRP boat has a modern interiour with a separate shower cell at the bow section and a pantry section below the entrance section. 

Carlo Sciarelli ( 1934-2006 ); Italien



is one one of Italys most famous yacht designers. He had designed yachts of all all sizes and had published a book on yachts and yachtbuilding "Lo Yacht - Origine ed evoluzione del veliero da diporto"  had been published in German also. On catboats he had designed the "Chirone" of which several units are sailing in the Lagune of Venice and the surrounding waters.