Tuesday, September 21, 2010


There's been much talk about cats lately, if "cats" can be taken to mean catamarans. As in two-hulled vessels. As in the choice of the America's Cup powers-that-be who have chosen to race the next go-round in catamarans, much to the chagrin of some in the yachting community.

But I'm not sure "cats" does apply to catamarans. It certainly could apply to catamarans, if one considers the stability that presumably is shared by the four-legged creature and the two-hulled boat. I'm pretty sure — gee, I suppose I should research it — that "cats" more typically refers to catboats, which are also relatively stable, or so it would seem given their wide-body stance. I'm going to take a huge flyer here and say that "cats" could/should apply to both categories: catboats and catamarans.

I have limited experience with cats. My grandmother hated them (I'm talking felines now); she said they were like living fur coats (creepy). Mr. Betty and Super Son are both allergic to cats, so I haven't actually had a cat in a long long time. When I was very young, I remember sailing on a Hobie Cat with my dad and hanging on for dear life to the trampoline slung between two bright-yellow pontoons as we flew — and I mean flew — through the water while Pop and his buddy talked about how catamarans can cartwheel end-over-end if the lower pontoon happens to dip too deeply into a wave.

I was sure we would cartwheel.

That's a far cry from catboats, something else with which I have little experience but a fair amount of fondness from a distance. There's something really sweet about them: that comfy classic shape. That single gaffed sail. That solid sturdy slowness. At some point, when I was a teenager, I ventured out in a friend's Beetle Cat and got stuck in a tide sweeping me away from where I wanted to go. That being home. Ultimately, I had to beach the boat and wait for the tide to turn or the wind to come up. I don't recall how I got home, to be honest, but I think about it every year when I hear about the Beetle Cats being restored at IYRS.

And last weekend I was reminded of it — the cat question — as I saw cats everywhere, all about town: at the boat show, in the harbor, in the bay, even a black one crossing my path (oh, no!) and padding silently up a few steps before jumping atop an old wall to turn and peer at me. Perhaps sweetly, perhaps creepily, I wasn't sure ...

"Bingo"... that's sweet.

"This Side Up" ... one would hope (!), and not just for cats, though they tend to land that way.

My other grandmother loved cats, come to think of it. I guess people are of two minds. Speaking of which, I read something quasi-relevant (in Wikipedia) that I didn't know — though perhaps everyone else did — about the history of catamarans. There's a Rhode Island connection:

Although the name came from Tamil, the modern catamaran came from the South Pacific. English visitors applied the Tamil name catamaran to the swift, stable sail and paddle boats made out of two widely separated logs and used by Polynesian natives to get from one island to another.

The design remained relatively unknown in the West for almost another 200 years, until an American, Nathanael Herreshoff, began to build catamaran boats of his own design in 1877 (US Pat. No. 189,459), namely 'Amaryllis', which immediately showed her superior performance capabilities, at her maiden regatta (The Centennial Regatta held on June 22, 1876, off the New York Yacht Club's Staten Island station[2]). It was this same event, after being protested by the losers, where Catamarans, as a design, were barred from all the regular classes[2] and they remained barred until the 1970s.