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Horizon Cat

2002 October 5

Pocket cruiserr

Carrying on the catboat tradition in a smart new design

I was surveying the assembled fleet at this year's Perry rendezvous and feeling pretty good when I noticed a smallish catboat setting sail and heading out of the harbor. I've always liked Cape Cod catboats. The have character to burn. They are simple and have a distinct personality that, although quirky at times, is on the whole, endearing. Surrounded by 48 somewhat plush and over-equipped Perry designs, it occurred to me that a 20-foot catboat would be close to my ideal for an "old man's" boat. That could easily be translated into a "smart man's" boat.

The Horizon cat started life as the Herreshoff America, designed by Halsey Herreshoff and built by Nowak and Williams. The Hutchins brothers of Com-Pac yachts bought the tooling and redesigned the boat to fit it into their family of shoal-draft cruising yachts. The hull form remained the same, but they added a shallow keel and centerboard, and modified the deck and rig. This handsome hull is made even better-looking on paper by Bruce Bingham's skillful and playful drafting. We don't hear much from Bruce these days, so it's good to see him being published once again.

Cape Cod cats were the original fatsos and you can see this in the drawings and the L/B of 2.4. These boats were keelless centerboarders, and it was this beam that gave them stability and carrying capacity.

The 8-foot, 4-inch beam and lack of overhangs coupled with a displacement of 2,500 pounds and a D/L of 200 make this a big 20-footer. This boat is no rocket, but it won't be a pig either. It will go to weather about as well as you would expect a gaff-rigged boat to point, and it will offer a stiff ride for those of you who like to sail on the flat side. I think many of you would be surprised at just how well this cat will sail. Board-up draft is 26 inches. Note the rudder is a kick-up type.

Catboat's traditionally are gaff rigged. This keeps the center of pressure low to help stability and minimizes the complexity of the standing rigging. Some cats even fly a small, high-aspect-ratio jib (a jiblet?) from the forestay. Gaff rigs are fun. The old-timers would just ease off on the peak halyard and let the gaff sag to about 90 degrees when the wind increased in what was called a "fisherman's reef." It sounds awful to me, and you can see here that this 20-footer is rigged with normal reef cringles for a single, traditional reef.

One quirk of catboats is that the weather helm can be a bit sporty from time to time. But the aft location of this centerboard should help keep this cat well balanced. Also, I'd feel a bit shortchanged if my catboat didn't have a manly helm on a reach. It's just part of the fun of sailing a catboat.

Below you have two berths and a forward compartment for a porta potty. I suppose you could put an Origo alcohol stove on one counter in the main cabin. Or, maybe you could just cook on a grill or camp stove in the cockpit.

Four can sit in this cockpit in comfort. There is wheel steering shown on my drawings, but I would prefer a tiller-all the better to experience that helm. Actually the wheel is probably more traditional and a lot more convenient. Boom gallows hold the boom when the sail is lowered and make the boom the ideal ridge pole for a cockpit tent while cruising.

Does your boat have big battery banks, gensets, air conditioners, invertors, refrigeration and all that, that . . . stuff people insist on hanging off their stern pulpit-arch-thing? Well, you can't have that on a Horizon Cat. Thirty-five miles will be a darn good day's run in this cat. And what's wrong with that?

Com-Pac builds nice boats. They always have a sparkle to them and show excellent detailing. If you have outgrown your big boat or you want to return to the simple joys of carefree cruising, you might take a hard look at this stylish little hooker.