Sunday, October 22, 2017

Don Betts: A Micro Catboat Design: The "PeaCat"

From the very large (Silent Maid) to the micro; a 7' by 4'6" (2.13 meters by 1.37 meters) catboat. In the early 1990's, Brooklyn NYC artist Don Betts designed a very small catboat; the PeaCat. Despite the tiny size of PeaCat, I always thought Don did a good job at replicating a catboat design. I never saw a PeaCat in person but, from the following photos, at least two were built. It is unclear if anymore were built. The hulls were built using stressed plywood.

The boating magazine "messing about in BOATS" had two articles on the PeaCat. Several of these photos were scanned from an article in the February 15, 1992 issue of "messing about in BOATS."

messing about in BOATS
Carrying capacity; one adult or four small kids.

messing about in BOATS

Don Betts didn't skimp on the rig for PeaCat.
messing about in BOATS

messing about in BOATS

Don took one of the unfinished hulls and treated it as a hanging sculpture for a photo shoot. You can see the bend-em-up shape in this photo.

messing about in BOATS

Nice high, catboat coamings provides some measure of dryness for this tiny sailboat. I'm not sure how the tiller arrangement worked.

messing about in BOATS

messing about in BOATS

Designer Don Betts sent along this email, March 2018, filling in the details of the Pea Cat.
"I built the two of these little boats. I wanted little sailboats to keep on the beach. After building long thin boats that seemed to take a lot of walking up and back thought it would be fun to build something that could be built standing in place and spinning the boat around. The first boat has a centerboard, the second an off centerboard through the rail outside the coaming. The hulls are 1/8 plywood 4 ounce glass inside and out and both serviceable after more than 25 years of abuse and neglect. Fitted with oarlocks they have made ok dinghies, easy to carry up the stony beaches. The rigs haven’t aged as well. The drawings from Glen L Designs inspired the curve of the bow blending into a hard chines, The first boat has the chine up to the bow, but I realized each side could be cut from a single sheet of plywood. So redrew the pattern to form the shape from cutting the wedge shape to form the chine. There are patterns that I’ve sent to a few people that asked. The boats were a lot of fun but had some quirks that made me reluctant to share the design.
  1. With the sail up they were unstable in the water until the crew was aboard
  2. there seemed to be a speed limitation to a seven foot boat of that shape, going downwind against the tide the boats would sail themselves deep but not easily buck a current.
"The sailing pictures don’t tell the whole story, the boats were used mostly with two adults and a child, With two adults and both children the Pea Cats did not sail so well. Some of the memorable sails were out on the Hudson up near the Tappan Zee, and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay to watch the sailboat races. We knew the skippers of a few of the Herreshoff S boats and would sail out and along their courses close enough to wave. And they made good boats to sail the couple of miles around to the anchorage to see what boats were there for the evening. A more recent project has been a Providence River Boat, about the size and rig of Newport photographer Edwards Smith’s Kingfisher with the retractable bowsprit like his and the Button Swan in Chapelles American Small Sailing Craft.

Click here for a writeup on another micro catboat, the Bolger Queen Mab.


Bursledon Blogger said...

Wonderful little boat, I'm a real sucker for small catboats, I don't think I can ever sell our Cornish Cormorant , the nearest thing we have to a catboat over here, 12'3" x 5' 10" close enough to the 2 fathoms long and one wide.

Joe said...

Lovely little boat. I wish we had them today, maybe then sailing would not be dying (in the US).

Tweezerman said...

I looked up the Cornish Cormorant. Looks like a lovely daysailor. Definitely getting rid of the barn-door rudder is a definite improvement.

Joe, It's sometimes amazing how an artist/sailor can nail a boat shape when working free-form. L.F. Herreshoff is another yacht designer who, in my mind, was a true artist.