Atlantic City Catboats, The

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  • Pub No.: 5717
William Wood and Bennet C. McNulty/A brief history of that other American cat boat--The AC cat boat.

by William Wood and Bennet C. McNulty

Atlantic City needs no introduction as thc capital city of New Jersey’s serrated, seductive and sandbar-guarded seacoast, endowed bountifully by its natural topography and enriched by mankind’s artifice to a degree that probably justifies some such sub-title as “America’s Playground.’ Salt water stretches between its teeming avenues and the mainland. Skippers sailing coastwise find their inland waterway in back of the Atlantic City bar. Today Atlantic City is one hour from Philadelphia and three hours from New York by steam train and the piercing of New Jersey’s pine woods by the railroad pioneers back in 1853 is the date from which Atlantic City’s history starts. Then the place was a desert waste. Now the annual number of visitors is estimated at about 10,000,000, making it probably the most visited seaside city in the world. Before the railroad laid its fingertip there, dangerous shoals kept craft of all kinds from coming near the sandbar that supports today’s seacoast capital. Each year the deceptive shallows took their toll of wrecks from the ocean’s floating population. Today the same topographical features, because of man’s handiwork, provide the landlubbers with their bathing beach and the seagoers with their channel from inland waterway to high seas. On the Yachtsman’s Map, Atlantic City, with its lighthouse 167 feet high, is a port situated well towards the southern end of an inland waterway some 80 miles long. It is an anchorage with a quarter-mile-wide channel leading to the open ocean, combining for the skipper a place to hang up his hawser while he strolls the boardwalk; and, when he wants to go for a little sail on the old Atlantic, a well-buoyed corridor from anchorage to ocean. The boats making up the Atlantic City Catboat Class came with the reorganization of the Atlantic City Yacht Club in 1913. The aim was to provide a one-design racing class for the younger members. The boats are therefore about fifteen years old and the fact that most of them are still in good condition testifies to the worth of their design and construction. In planning the class, the following considerations were regarded. First, the boats had to be inexpensive, easy to handle and reasonably non-capsizable, since they were for the younger members. This necessitated a small boat with a simple form of rig.     Secondly, the design and construction had to be sturdy, since they were to be sailed in Absecon Inlet, Great Bay, and even outside, in good weather. Thirdly, they must be dry and comfortable, since racing was not to be their sole purpose. They were to be used for afternoon sailing and fishing as well as racing. Finally, to fit the rather shallow inland waters of the locality, they had to be centreboard boats and of shallow draught. Universal opinion is that the problems could not have been better met.

11 pages

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