The Catboat was developed for and by American sailing fishermen at least 200 years ago, but it was preserved from extinction by modern recreational sailors who love its maneuverability and stability.
Typically, a Catboat has one, often unstayed, mast set as forward in the boat as practicable. It is a low and wide boat, with a beam (greatest width) that’s usually one half the hull’s length – a bulge originally created for a substantial ballast of stones. Catboats also often sport an oversized (“barn door”) rudder and a centerboard keel that can be removed in shallow water.
There are many unsupported theories about how this boat got its name. The leading one is that the boat got a reputation for tacking and turning as quickly and gracefully as a cat can run and spin; hence, the single mast without standing rigging (“unstayed”) also is said to be “cat-rigged.”
Reply to Fran: The pictured boat is Shenaniganz, a very small (16-foot) traditional Cat in the WoodenBoat School fleet. It was designed by Fenwick Williams, a noted Catboat architect of the last century, and built in 1983 by Maynard Lowery of Tilghman Island, Maryland. (Brooklin, Maine)