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Building Meerkat, A Very Small Catboat

Building Meerkat, A Very Small Catboat

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Published by John M. Watkins

I decided that I needed a boat that I could throw in the back of my pickup, launch easily, rig fast and sail with two adults. None of the currently available designs appealed to me, so I designed my own boat, Meerkat, built it in two months, and won the first regatta I entered.

I decided that I needed a boat that I could throw in the back of my pickup, launch easily, rig fast and sail with two adults. None of the currently available designs appealed to me, so I designed my own boat, Meerkat, built it in two months, and won the first regatta I entered.

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Published by: John M. Watkins on Nov 26, 2012
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12/09/2013

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Building Meerkat,
a very small catboat
  by John MacBeath WatkinsRather than wanting a bigger boat, I find I keep wanting a smaller one.I had a 30-foot keelboat, a Yankee One-Design,which was great. But wouldn't it cost less and makelife simpler if I had a smaller one?I restored a 50-year-old Snipe, but it was tooheavy for me, with my bad back, to pull up on thedinghy dock by myself, and it would only hold two people, so I had to have exactly two people every timeI went sailing.I designed and built a sharpie,
 Black Swan
,using the Snipe rig. She was light enough for me to pull on the dinghy dock and roomy enough for three people, and was very pleased with this boat as long as Ikept it on a dinghy dock. Then I moved to VashonIsland, where it cost more than $100 to get on the ferrywhile towing a boat on a trailer. And the rather complex Snipe racing rig took a while to set up onlaunching.1
 
Clearly, I needed a boat that I could fit in the back of my 1997 Nissan truck and under itscanopy, pull out and plop in the water, and still take a friend out on.I'd been teaching myself to use some yacht design software, Delftship, when I ran across an adon Craig's List for a $200 El Toro. The 8-foot bullship seemed to fit the bill, except that if I took afriend, they'd need to be small, and the daggerboard and rudder would snub when coming into a beach,and if I needed to tow the boat behind another vessel, water would shoot up the daggerboard case andthe El Toro would stubbornly refuse to exceed its hull speed of about four knots.I bought it anyway, for the rig, then designed a boat of about the same beam and a little morelength that could readily accommodate two adults, row well and tow well and exceed hull speed rather than sail under in the comical fashion I'd seen back when I raced El Toros in strong winds.The El Toro rig is a cat rig, so I designed a catboat. But most catboats are based on the CapeCod catboats perfected by the Crosby family. If the boat were to have the displacement to carry two people and be narrow enough to fit in a truck bed with a canopy, I needed to keep the beam narrow.There is an older type of catboat, the New York catboat, in lager sizes given a sloop rig. One of these catboats, the 16-foot
Una
, wowed the British when she showed up at the Isle of Wight in 1852.The type, in addition to inspiring the sandbaggers that raced in the 1860s to about 1880, inspired CapeCod catboats, also led to the British centerboarddinghies, which were revolutionized by Uffa Fox and became in their turn the basis for most racingdinghies today.An example of the type is
Comet 
, designed and built by Archibald Cary Smith in 1862 and raced both as a catboat and a sloop. She was pretty muchdesigned on the building molds, but John Hysloptook her lines off about 30 years later.2
 
But the boat would have to live out of the water and still not leak, and I'd need to design it for construction by a method a ten-thumbed wood butcher like myself could do. I chose plywood, andstitch and glue construction, which should allow me to build the boat in the narrow window of at mosttwo months in which an outdoor boat builder can count on not too much rain the the Pacific Northwest.This meant that I would have to find some way to simulate the slack bilges of the New York catboat in plywood. Here's my solution: At 9 ½ feetlong, she's abouthalf the length of 
Comet 
, but hasnearly the samefreeboard, whichI think is aboutthe right amountfor a boat thissize. Because she is a catboat, I've given her a barn-door rudder, but put it behind a short, deep skeg sothat she's not too likely to be caught in irons. The faceted midsection, with a narrow, flat bottom, flaring bilges and straight sides, is very much like that of the first boat I ever owned, a Thai sampoa. Thismidsection always struck me as a nice compromise between stability, load carrying, and formresistance, and yielded a boat that handled well. It was a boat like this:3

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Well, at least I've managed to get one more picture to show. Still no help from Scribd on the issue with pictures not showing in the upload.
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well, I've managed to get one more photo to show. Still no help from Scribd on the issue.
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I cannot for the life of me get all the pictures to show.
John M. Watkins added this note
For some reason, Scribd is having trouble uploading a revision that I hope will show all the pictures,
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