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Sail-plan of a gaff-rigged catboat.
Catboats with Bermuda rig in background

A catboat (or cat boat) is a sailboat with a single sail on a single mast set well forward in the bow of the boat.[1] Most have a shallow draft,[2] with centreboards, although some have a keel.[3]

Most are gaff rigged but some have a Bermuda rig.[3] The beam of the classic Cape Cod Cat's beam measurement is almost half the waterline length, making it very stable.

Some cat boats in current use include the Beetle Cat, the Redden Catboat,[4] the Nonsuch, the Inland Cat, the Zijlsloep.[5] the Cape Cod Cat[6] Com-Pac Trailerable,[7] Marshal[8] Menger, [9] and the APBY cat boat.[10]

A catboat is not the same as a catamaran, which is a multi-hull with a raised trampoline for crew seating and trapezing.[3] Nor is it the same as a Cat, a Norwegian ship used to carry up to 600 tons of coal.[11]


The Breck Marshall, a 20-foot (6.1 m) Crosby catboat design open for public use at Mystic Seaport

Descended from small boats carried by 18th century British merchant ships in the new world,[12] around the turn of the 20th century, catboats were adapted for racing, and long booms and gaffs, bowsprits and large jibs were fitted to capture as much wind as possible. The decline of racing and advent of small, efficient gasoline engines eliminated the need for large sail plans, and catboats today are used as pleasure craft for day sailing and cruising, and have the virtues of roominess, stability and simple handling, though many catboats have poorer upwind performance than well-designed sloop-rigged craft.

One of the most well-known catboats is the 12-foot (3.7 m) Beetle Cat daysailer. Fleets of these one-design boats are found in harbors all across New England, often competing in races. In the 1960s, Breck Marshall based his 18-foot (5.5 m) fiberglass Sanderling upon an existing, wooden design. The Sanderling has since become a very popular boat, with more than 700 built, and it has helped to rekindle interest in the catboat. To honor Marshall and his contribution to the type, the Catboat Association funded the construction of the Breck Marshall, a 20-foot (6.1 m) catboat built and berthed at Mystic Seaport.


  1. ^ "catboat". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  2. ^ MacKenzie, Mike (2005–2012). "Home page". Sea Talk Nautical Dictionary: The Dictionary of English Nautical Language.
  3. ^ a b c "What's a Catboat". The Catboat Association. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  4. ^ "The Redden Catboat". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  5. ^ "The Zijlsloep". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  6. ^ "The Cape Cod Cat". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Com-Pac Trailerable Cat Boats". Com-Pac Yachts. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  8. ^ "Marshal Cat Boats". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Thompson Boatworks". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Arey's Pond Boat Yard". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  11. ^ Smyth, William Henry. "The Sailor's Word-book: An Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  12. ^ "World of Boats". Archived from the original on 25 November 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016.

Further reading[edit]