Preview: Catspaw Dinghy, A Guest Blog by Ben Emory

Sailors sometimes say that the enjoyment a boat gives her owner varies inversely with her size – the smaller the craft, the greater the pleasure.  Certainly, small craft are quicker to use and put away, have fewer aggravations, and cost far less money.  A highlight of my life has been MY OCEAN, the original Catspaw Dinghy, a rowing-and-sailing tender built to a Nathanael Herreshoff design slightly modified by Joel White and constructed by Brooklin Boat Yard in 1978.

Catspaw DinghyI wanted to acquire a good rowing boat that also had a rudder, centerboard and quickly-stepped mast.  She should be fun to row for pleasure, useful for teaching sailing fundamentals to my then young children, and good for family picnics to nearby islands.  I was eager for my children to know the delight of a quality wooden boat, and I looked forward to the pride of ownership.

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9 Responses So Far to “Catspaw Dinghy, A Guest Blog by Ben Emory

  • Avatar

    Lannis Morris says:

    Enjoyed seeing this article. I ordered the plans and how to build booklet from wooden boat store, as Maynard mentioned above. I live in Texas, so I used local lumber… ash for the frames and cypress for the planking. It was a little challenging for such a small boat, but the booklet really helped out with details. Also my first attempt at steam bending…. Cutting rabbets… carvel planking…. Use of ribbands and lining off planks. The outcome was very satisfying and I still own and use the boat. She draws compliments on most outings. Yes, Joel was a master and nice man to lend his expertise to us home builders who want to push our limits and try something we not otherwise attempt. I learned ally from this project.

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    Paul Schmich says:

    Enjoyed your “My Ocean” story. Lucky enough to have a German fiberglass boat that gave us the same experiences. Came with Volkswagen colors… kolibri. -Paul-

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    Ron Inman says:

    Catspaw dinghy plans available? By Spencer Lincoln

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      Maynard Bray says:

      Plans are sold by The WoodenBoat Store and you can order them online.

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    Jay Garber says:

    I have been building the Cats Paw Dinghy for longer than I would like to admit, all that is left now is to hang the center board and build the rudder and mast.
    I have never built a boat before, but Joel White’s How to Build to Cats Paw Dinghy did the trick.

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    Gregory Phillips says:

    Thanks for the history behind such a lovely boat to see in Center Harbor. I will have an even greater appreciation for MY OCEAN now, Happy sailing!

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    Lee Fox says:

    Thanks for sharing your story about your Catspaw “My Ocean”, I love these rowing-and-sailing tenders. I had the pleasure of seeing and admit touching a fine Catspaw dinghy that was custom built by The Carpenter’s Boat Shop, Pemaquid, Maine. It was on display outside at the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks 2011 Winter Open House…..This Catspaw stole the show! I took so many pictures until my camera ran out of memory. It was a joy to see such a beautifully crafted Catspaw dinghy that day.

  • David Tew

    David Tew says:

    Hi Ben,

    I didn’t know the first Catspaw was designed for you. You and Joel should get the express lane to heaven for that alone.

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    Rob Denny says:

    I happen to own a Catspaw Dinghy which was finished much like a Haven 12 1/2, with foredeck and narrow side decks, along with a beautiful, rounded coaming, all of which makes a mighty handsome boat. She sails beautifully, and seldom takes a drop of water aboard in fairly rough going. However, her rowing capability has suffered because of extra weight and hight of the coaming. If I were building the boat myself, I would recommend building her exactly as Joel White drew her.