Preview: The A-Cats of Barnegat Bay, And a Visit Aboard SPY

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Last summer we headed to Barnegat Bay in New Jersey to get the inside scoop from Roy Wilkins on A Cats – the racing sailboats inspired by workboats of the 1800’s.

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16 Responses So Far to “The A-Cats of Barnegat Bay, And a Visit Aboard SPY

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    Bjørn Hellner says:

    What is the origin of the name “catboat”. I suppose it never was a pussycat involved.

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      Donald Gregg says:

      No one knows for sure but I like the explanation of Catboats being nimble and quick. it may also be that they tend to stay on their “feet”. Another explanation is that it is a derivation of a Dutch word for a boat that is wide. Still another story say’s that the name comes from the feral cats that had to be shoed away from these boats when they unloaded their catch for the day.

      Pick the one you like best.

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    David Foote says:

    My great grandfather sailed a catboat out of Spray Beach. Roy Wilkins and your crew helped me appreciate his love of sailing. Thank you!

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    Chris Noto says:

    Thanks to all y’a at OCH who keep turning out all this lovely content, and thanks, also, to all the members who keep adding their thoughts, memories, and dreams, making these comment sections such tasty and rewarding reading! Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I am thankful for you, and for this point of contact with your lives.

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    Richard Miller says:

    So nice to see how much this man loves “SPY”. I crewed on a Flying Dutchman for four years and not to brag we did very well. Then I owned a Finn which was a cat boat. The main thing I can tell you about a cat boat is that you on a jibe.I’ll bet these A-CATS are a real hoot on a broad reach.

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    Ian Roger says:

    I don’t get around to looking at the videos you send me…mostly too busy…great shame…but just looked at the A cats of barngate bay…loved it…loved it….keep em coming, Ian.

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    Cap'n Rick Urban says:

    Silent Maid now works out of St. Michaels, MD and takes people out on short cruises in the season. I went around her in a Brush Creek Mellonseed during the October small boat festival this year .

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      Martin Gardner says:

      Rick, the cat you saw was probably Selena II. She’s an odd duck – for a cat. Built 1926, 41′ long. As you remarked, she does cruises from St Michaels. Owned and captained by Iris Clarke, a granddaughter of the original owners. Google “Selena II” for more.

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    Terry Smith says:

    This video gave us a unique look at the Class A Catboat of Barnegat Bay. I encourage the OCH camera crew to take us for a sail on one — perhaps in a two or three boat “race.” It would be quite a sight.

    A bit over a half-century ago, I crewed on the Class-E Sloops on Barnegat Bay. We shared the afternoon racing card in the Saturday regattas with the A-Cats. The southeasterly breezes were usually present and were very “fresh” by the time of the first start. Our sloops were “racing machines” with long, sleek scow hulls that (once their reacher or the chute was set) would get up on a plane, and it was Katy bar the door. The boats least likely to be confused with our sloops were the A-Cats!

    The general wisdom among us young-uns back then was the A-Cat fleet consisted of 6-8 “old” boats whose hulls had been around for decades and were kept afloat by owners who truly loved them. They were a quaint throwback to another time. The sail area powering those old hulls, in fresh breezes, seemed to border on the suicidal, but they always managed just fine. Their crews were up to the challenge and usually appeared to be having a jolly good time as well.

    Anyone wanting an in depth look at the story of another A-Cat might try: “Silent Maid — A Catboat History” by Kent Mountford.

    • Steve Stone

      Steve Stone says:

      Oh, we’re on it Kent. Stand by for the video on Silent Maid.

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        Chris Noto says:

        I’m going to try to avoid holding my breath until the next video is released. ☺️

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    Jon Younghans says:

    Well done and fun to see the finished product. (I spent time with you during you visit) Nothing better in the summer than racing A-cats on Barnegat Bay! If you were able to capture any cary mark roundings maybe you could share in a future video… or come on back.

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    My dad Tom and his family had a summer home in Seaside Park, built in the ’20s, that my cousin Rob still owns. I spent some of my youth there in the 50’s and early 60’s. If I remember correctly the two A-Cats in Seaside at the time were Spy and Bat. They were amazing to see on a windy day on the bay. My wife gave me a beautiful print of the A-Cat “Tamwock” from the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, that always reminds me of fun days at the shore. Thanks for the great videos.

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    Olaf Peters says:

    Very interesting for me, beeing unfamiliare with Catboats. Thanks.

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    sam romano says:

    ……big doins when the A-Cats race… and yes, our bay is a little shallow but it still a great bay to sail on. we have a saying, “if ya havent run aground, ya havent been around.”

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    Ken Weinstein says:

    Thanks for bringing this close to where we live now. Transplanted Mass. family who loves Maine and Maine-built boats. It was fun to see the good old catboats of Jersey Shore, too.


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