Catspaw Dinghy by Joel White
This is Joel White’s adaptation of the elegant Columbia dinghy shown elsewhere on this site, for somewhat more utilitarian purposes.
Not so very long ago, dinghy docks were thick with boats similar to the Cat’s Paw. As a tender, it is hard to beat a dinghy of this size and type. Having plenty of freeboard, she is capable of carrying quite a load. She rows well, and she’ll row even better with a load. As a sailing dinghy she is both a pleasure boat and a workhorse. She’s ideal for the kids to sail while the adults relax in the larger boat’s cockpit, and it’s also easy to imagine sailing her into town from a remote anchorage, to go to the grocery store.
A common mistake is to give very small children very small boats to learn with, but tiny boats are tippy and not very seaworthy. Small children are strong for their size and will have little trouble handling the oars or the sailing rig of the Cat’s Paw, but they are often uncoordinated, which the beefy Cat’s Paw will not notice but which could result in the capsize of a very small boat. Cat’s Paw closely resembles Swallow and Amazon, the boats in the famous English children’s stories, and she is an ideal boat for just that sort of fun. With room for a gang of kids, who could drag her up a beach, or sail her into the tiniest of creeks, she is the stuff of high adventure on their scale, and is yacht enough for any such outing. Because she is roomier than many tenders, she is also more comfortable for older people to sail. A tender of this size is too big to bring aboard most cruising boats, so she is not for the offshore voyager, but she will tow very well and with little resistance, and on the end of a long, strong painter will handle very rough water while taking little aboard.
The spritsail rig is a perfect match for a rowing and sailing boat. There is no boom to hit you in the head should you need to row out of a tight spot with the sail up, and the sail and yard can be bundled up to the mast using the halyard, when they are not in use, a great convenience at the dinghy dock or when she is lying astern of a larger boat. Just don’t grab the mast to steady yourself when getting in and out!
As is often the case with Joel White’s designs, he has taken a common form of boat and executed it so perfectly that it seems to become an archetype, seemingly incapable of improvement. For a coastal cruising tender or a general purpose boat all on her own, consider Cat’s Paw.