Join Date: Nov 2009
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Re: Newer SunCat vs older Hereschoff America
We owned a Herreshoff America for about 15 years, quite a few years ago. It is similar to a Marshall Sanderling and close enough to the 17 and 19’ Mengers. The America is heavier than the Sanderling and has more weather helm, but has more teak and is prettier (IMHO) than the others. We stepped and unstepped the mast with the boat in the water at a floating dock, but we kept the boat in the water in season. We had a trailer, but launched the boat via travelift as a matter of convenience. The America should be floated off a trailer—not tilted off—if you launch at a ramp. That said, I would not want to dry sail a traditionally-rigged catboat in this weight category (2500# displacement) as stepping and unstepping the mast without a mast tabernacle or a gin pole is a dicey matter for 2 able-bodied crew. Otherwise, there are lots of folks who single hand them, once they are rigged. Newbies will find a catboat easy to sail, but skill matters if you want to sail them well. You should reef a catboat when you first think about it, but they are not tender and can handle being overpowered—is just isn’t comfortable ar pretty to watch.
The classic gaff-rigged catboat is a very stable platform, due to displacement and beam for its length. They can handle snotty weather and show their workboat origins in that regard. We’ve sailed ours in open coastal waters on trips as long as 45 miles and they are quite capable in that regard, but you don’t want to be caught in open water under conditions that risk getting pooped—given the large cockpit.
Most of the catboats I’ve seen as a formerly active member of the Catboat Association were well built and have aged well. Still there are some issues to watch, like the plywood bulkhead in the Marshall cats, which are repairable and worth the effort in an otherwise sound boat.
However, all that said, if the OP wants to dry sail and keep options open for single handed launch/retrieval, he would be better served to look at lighter boats like the Arcb’s Bay Hen (and lots of others). They won’t be as comfortable or as stable as a catboat, but they are certainly are an option.