WET NOTES

One of the corni­est boat names any­one could ever put upon a cata­ma­ran is “Cat­ti­tude.”

Sailing World - - Contents -

A loaner cata­ma­ran gives a new sense of iden­tity.

Q That’s what I used to think. Un­til a sum­mer of two-hull sail­ing con­vinced me it’s not ridicu­lous at all.

I’ve been on a ca­sual hunt for a used and cheap (more like, “I’ll take it off your hands for free”) Ho­bie Wave for years, some­thing I can sail off my lo­cal beach, bang around with the kids and get more cat- sail­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. When RS Sail­ing in­tro­duced its Cat 14 ear­lier this year, I thought, This is what I need. This is

what sail­ing needs. This new model is a pure recre­ational ro­to­molded cata­ma­ran, like the ubiq­ui­tous re­sort­found Wave. Un­like the Wave, though, the XL ver­sion of the Cat 14 is a step above in the fun depart­ment. It has a big square-top full-bat­ten main, a pint-size jib, gen­naker and trapeze.

So, on a gam­ble, I reach out to RS in Eng­land: “Would you loan me one for the sum­mer?”

I’m shocked when they agree, and ec­static when a text comes out of the blue in June: “Cat is here. Where do you want it to go?”

My larger in­ten­tions are to sail it with the kids, fam­ily and friends all sum­mer long, but my un­der­ly­ing pur­pose is to take my­self from Cat Sail­ing 101 to con­fi­dent neo­phyte, which will then lead me to a faster, higher-tech ma­chine.

In early June, the sum­mer sea breeze is crank­ing and the air is per­fectly hot and hu­mid — swim- trunks- and- life- jacket con­di­tions. It’s too windy to try it out for the first time with the kids, so I call a friend who’s game for any out­ing un­der sail. He’s well over 6- foot­some­thing and eas­ily 200 pounds. I’m close in both mea­sures too, so the sight of two big dudes on this toy of a boat must’ve looked com­i­cal to the Tues­day-night rac­ers head­ing out for their beer-can series.

We ghost downwind through the moor­ing field and fa­mil­iar­ize our­selves with a pile of ropes on the tram­po­line. The boat sud­denly feels small, not the least bit in­tim­i­dat­ing, and as we emerge from be­hind the wind shadow of Fort Adams, the boat jumps to life. With sails sheeted for a tight-reach exit into the bay, it ac­cel­er­ates in a heart­beat, wa­ter sluic­ing past the lee­ward bow and hiss­ing off the rud­ders.

I’m mes­mer­ized by the sen­sa­tion of speed, the sounds of fun, un­til a big gust jars me back to the now. I’m late re­leas­ing the main­sheet from the cam cleat. The lee­ward bow sub­marines, spray spews sky­ward from the alu­minum cross­bar, and we’re lift­ing sky­ward to­ward a cap­size. I tug the alu­minum tiller bar sharply. The hull plum­mets back to equi­lib­rium and ac­cel­er­ates. Twelve knots

of boatspeed feels pretty darn quick on this lit­tle boat.

Back and forth, we sail aim­lessly for two hours, learn­ing how to be cat sailors, fig­ur­ing out how to tack it by back­ing the jib and turn­ing the rud­ders slowly to pre­vent them from stalling. Once we have our me­chan­ics down, tacks are smooth. That’s one box I can check off.

I’d been hyp­ing the cat to my kids as well, and next on the to-do list was in­tro­duc­ing my 7-year-old to the fun. Kids dig tram­po­lines. And splash­ing. And ad­ven­tures. I en­list two of my nieces as well be­cause kids also have more fun when other kids are in­volved.

We push off the beach in a gen­tle 5- knot southerly, three giddy girls chat­ting away, and over the next hour they share jib-trim­ming du­ties, squeal as we hob­by­horse through boat wakes and lounge like queens on the tram­po­line. Be­fore head­ing in, I pick up a moor­ing, un­hook the main­sheet in one step and trans­form the cat into a rau­cous div­ing plat­form. Af­ter­ward, they want to go again — like to­mor­row. That’s another box ticked.

When the forecast shows a 20-knot sea breeze a few days later, the spin­naker is rigged and it’s time to see what the boat can do. It’s also time to in­tro­duce my wife, Dana. She’s skilled on any boat, but cat sail­ing is new ter­ri­tory. I’m itch­ing to go faster in this thing, and I’ve yet to have any­one on the trapeze. She’s the per­fect model for this test; to­gether we’re the ideal weight and size for these con­di­tions. And she’s gone for the bikini.

Our first reach across the bay is sans gen­naker. Bet­ter to ease us into it. When we get to the other shore­line, I tack, and as in­structed ear­lier, I bear away on a run while Dana eas­ily pulls the hal­yard to full hoist. I turn up to a reach, she tugs the spin­naker sheet, the sail snaps full, and the boat lurches for­ward. We’re on a breath­tak­ing ru­n­away ride, into a blind­ing late af­ter­noon sun.

Like ev­ery good down­hill run, though, the fun comes to an end with the op­po­site shore­line. To douse the spin­naker, I turn downwind again and un­cleat the pink hal­yard. Dana pulls on the re­trieval line, which gathers and pulls the mid­dle of the spin­naker into the spin­naker sock’s throat. Two more pulls and the en­tire spin­naker is in the sock and stowed. That’s easy sail­han­dling.

Turn­ing up­wind, I en­cour­age her to give the trapeze a go. She man­ages her way to an awk­ward squat, hang­ing from the trap han­dle with one hand, un­will­ing to fall back and let the wire catch her fall.

Sus­pended like a tea bag, she fi­nally ex­tends her legs and an­chors feet against the cat’s rounded hull. I slide in­board a few inches to en­cour­age the weather hull a lit­tle higher out of the wa­ter and power up the sails. We’re groov­ing up­wind in flat wa­ter, the boat is per­fectly bal­anced and go­ing fast and, in this mo­ment, I’m start­ing to feel like I’m a cat sailor straight out of a 1970s Ho­bie 16 ad­ver­tise­ment: sun-tanned, shirt­less, babe on the wire and sail­ing care­free. I in­ten­tion­ally steer a lit­tle lower so we pass close by a sun­set char­ter boat packed with pas­sen­gers. I ad­mit it: I’m show­ing off. I’m start­ing to get a lit­tle cat­ti­tude.

At this point, I’ve made a be­liever of ev­ery­one I’ve taken for a ride: cat sail­ing is en­joy­ment. My friend has a blast, the girls talk about it non­stop for days, and even­tu­ally I en­lighten my teenage daugh­ter who takes to it with ab­so­lute ease. The only thing left to do is to take it out my­self — in big breeze — and do it all.

The op­por­tu­nity comes one af­ter­noon in Au­gust. Just like my first out­ing with my buddy, the sea breeze is in line with the cur­rent, and it is steam­ing hot. Per­fect cat-sail­ing con­di­tions. I duck out of the of­fice early, sprint to Sail New­port and rig the boat in a race against sun­down.

Once past the shadow of the fort, I turn hard on the wind, trim both sails, and shift my weight un­til the boat feels bal­anced, the lee­ward bow’s knuckle just kiss­ing the sur­face. With a long run­way and dark patches of puffs as far as I can see, it’s time for the trap. My tech­nique isn’t grace­ful, but it’s ef­fec­tive. I sit on the tiller, hook into the trapeze bail and, in one swift move­ment, fall on the weight of the wire. The boat lev­els, I ease the main and bear away a few de­grees to build speed. The weather hull lifts higher. I’m hov­er­ing over green wa­ter rush­ing be­neath my legs. The boat is so per­fectly bal­anced, the sur­face so sun- kissed. My state of mind so bliss­ful.

I tack and gun it to­ward a fleet of J/ 22s twi­light rac­ing and a cou­ple of guys out train­ing in a For­mula 18 cata­ma­ran. I’m feel­ing pretty cool out here on the wire, feel­ing like I should stray-cat strut. There’s that cat­ti­tude. I get it now. Q

: PHOTO DAVE REED

Kids just want to have fun, as do adults. Cata­ma­ran sail­ing, es­pe­cially on the new RS Cat 14 XL, is pure en­joy­ment.

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