Catboats are the most weatherly

Porter Hoagland, Boatbuilding & Restoration Student Ambassador

Meet Porter Hoagland! He is one of our newest Student Ambassadors, and he is in his first year of the Boatbuilding & Restoration Program.

We’re now a month and a half into the IYRS program, and it has proven to be all that I expected and more. The instruction is superb; the facilities are first-rate. I’m the older outlier of an age distribution of students from late teens to retirees, but there are strong feelings of mutual support and solidarity, and it’s easy to engage. The shared interest in wooden boats is, of course, the driving force here. Although function is paramount, I find wooden boats aesthetically pleasing, and engaging in their building and restoration is an art form that deserves to be both maintained and cultivated.

I spent four decades in an academic environment, studying, working on, and teaching about the conservation and sustainable use of ocean resources, so this experience has been radically different for me. I find the IYRS program to be both mentally and physically challenging in ways that are helping me grow, especially at a time when some begin to kick back. Most importantly, it’s teaching me to become more patient.

I love to sail, and as a racing sailor I've always had a need for speed, so to focus on simple catboats—such as the Beetle Cat—might puzzle the casual observer. I've lived and worked most of my life in the region from northern New Jersey to Massachusetts Bay where catboats first came into use, so—from Turnabouts to Dyer Dhows to Lasers to Finns to iceboats to Woods Hole Spritsails—I’ve sailed a lot of them. Notably, Howard Chappelle, a giant in the wooden boatbuilding field, once said that “catboats are the most weatherly” of sailing rigs, meaning that they can sail closer than others to the wind. Accordingly, to study the catboat may be to focus in on the very essence of yacht design, construction, and even sailing.

And, as we are currently discovering, Beetle Cats are not quite as simple as they might seem…