This family lived for generations at Clark's Point, New Bedford, MA and were widely known for the "Beetle Whaleboat", unexcelled in design and workmanship. The Beetle family could build these whale boats very quickly, and at the same time keep their sound standards of construction.
They developed pre-fabrication in boat building, and employed mass production methods. Where it was usual to build the ribs first in other types of boats, they 'wrapped' the planks around the skeleton first, and put the frames in afterwards. This made it possible to build a complete whale boat in one day. In the Beetle's designed and built a small sail boat for one of the younger members of the family. This was the first Beetle Cat Boat.
Outsiders, impressed with the performance of this boat in New England coastal waters and rivers, were quick to express interest in it. The result was that the Beetles turned to making catboats, adopting some of the manufacturing techniques they had used in building whaleboats, thereby making the Beetle Cat comparatively inexpensive -- within the reach of the average man. John H. Beetle son of the founder, James Beetle headed the business when production of the Original Beetle Cat Boat was underway.
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Upon his death in , Miss Ruth Beetle, his daughter, took over the management. A full page article in the New Bedford Standard Times, November 8, tells of Miss Beetle's dual role of school teacher and boatwright. World War II interrupted all production. When the war ended, Carl Beetle brother of Ruth produced some of these boats at New Bedford, MA, but then became interested in the development of plastics for boat construction, and transferred the rights, title, and interest of the Original Beetle Cat Boats to the Concordia Company, South Dartmouth, MA.
It seems ironic that the person who tried to be a forerunner in the fiberglass boat market was involved with a boat that still built only of wood!
The Concordia Company was headed by Waldo Howland whose family, for generations, have been followers of the sea. His great grandfather was in the whaling business, and his father's first job was putting bungs in whale boats in the Beetle family boatyard. The latter, Llewellyn Howland, wrote a very readable book, "Sou'west and By West of Cape Cod" in which he gives a most interesting account of the building of one of these foot whale boats. He also tells of putting 40 bungs a day in a boat, for which he was paid a penny a-piece.
Little did he realize that his son, Waldo, would one day turn ship builder, and carry on the tradition of the Original Beetle Cat Boats. Thus the Beetle Cat Boat is rich in a history that stems from whaling days. But what are the features that have given it such wide acceptance?
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The wide beam, with the rudder not extending below the bottom of the keel, and center-board that lifts up, as previously mentioned, are features that lend this boat to shallow waters. It is a boat that can be beached. The great beam 6' , makes it unusually stable, and gives it a large carrying capacity. While racing standards call for a skipper and one person as crew, these Original Beetle Cat Boats have been known to carry as many as six pound persons.
Made entirely of wood, oak frames with cedar planking with no ballast, it is non-sinkable. The large decked area forward on the boat means spray falls on the deck rather than inside the boat. The rig is similar to that used on the old, large-size Cape Cod cat boat, with the mast well forward, and using a single sail.
With this type of rig gaff rig , if you release the tiller, the boat will head into the wind and practically stop. This feature makes it an ideal boat for youngsters. There is a great deal to be said for a Gaff rig on a catboat.
New England Beetle Cat Boat Association: History
You can shorten sail and keep the center of the sail effort where you want it without fear of the boat taking charge and falling off. The bow of this boat is generous in proportion, so that even an extra-large man can stand on it without tipping over a feature that is much appreciated when landing at a dock or float. The fact that the mast is short and the deck is long reduces to a minimum the possibility that such a boat may capsize while riding at its moorings, even in exposed locations where seas become decidedly heavy.
In the years since the first boat was built, the design has remained essentially unchanged. The builders have aimed to maintain this as a definite one-design class boat for racing. Up to seventy boats per year have been built although that number has been reduced in recent years. The dimensions and standards of construction of the original Beetle Cat Boat, as adopted by N. In recent years some minor modifications have been made to the regulations to improve safety or handling.
A revision to the regulations attempted to standardize the dimensions of the sail. However, the Narragansett Bay Beetle Association had dimensions which varied slightly over the years. In the Fall of , a committee finally standardized these dimensions, which action was approved by the membership of the annual meeting.
In , after a few years of discussion, the regulations were again revised and are printed elsewhere in this handbook. The early records of Beetle Cat racing are not complete, but since , there has been a movement afoot to compile them so that they may become a part of the permanent history of this class. Included in this project are three scrapbooks of clippings of Beetle activities, contributions to which will be welcomed by the Association. From available records it appears that one of the first sizeable fleets was organized at Duxbury, Mass. Farnsworth and Ralph Lawson. The popularity of these boats spread, and soon there were fleets scattered along Cape Cod and on Buzzard's Bay.
Ted Rowley, the owner, used to go as far afield as Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard Island, with his boat, to attend regattas. One such trip proved to be rather rugged, beating to the windward all the way, but the staunch little Beetle took it in good form, and but for a sound wetting, Skipper Rowley fared quite well.
His enthusiasm for his Beetle was caught by others and today there is still an active fleet at Bass River.
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Barnstable soon joined the growing number of Beetle fleets. Donald Griffin holds the honor of being first to own one there In he persuaded four others to acquire Beetles, and in that year they began racing. Later, in , this group merged with the fleet at Edgewood R. Meanwhile on Cape Cod, races were being held by individual clubs as well as in Inter-club regattas. There was a strong feeling that the time was ripe to form a New England association for this growing class of boats. The first step toward this organization came when Commodore Charles F.
Barber of the Barrington Yacht Club offered to be host club for the first New England championship races. Credit must be given to Mr. John G. Howard, Sr. Henry A. Street, Sr. Howard, Jr.
Subsequent races were held in and with skippers from Cape Cod and Narragansett Bay. Tom and Had Gately of Edgewood, R. It was retired in , the year the Gately brothers won it for the Edgewood Yacht Club.
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The Junior trophies now awarded are plaques with Beetle half-models made by John G. In August, ten clubs were represented in the regatta sponsored by the newly-formed New England Beetle Cat Association. The years and marked a new renaissance for the Beetle Association, for under the guidance of Russell W. Field, Jr. See you there tomorrow when the flag drops at 10 AM.
It's Simon in the 4th race. Congratulations to all who made the effort to compete in the st Northwest Ice Yacht Association regatta on Green Lake. It takes a lot of volunteers to make it look so easy. Provisional results here. People are sending in some nice photos and I will post them up tomorrow.
Photo: Tim Brydan. Herreschoff design named "Slipper" that had many innovative feature's as one would expect. Tony Van Witsen is working on a video about iceboating at the 4-Lakes Club. The Worlds were completed report and results and the European Championship has started in Haapsalu Estonia first day report. February issue of Runner Tracks, the newsletter of the DN class, is available online. For most sailors, the sport is most enjoyable when the weather is at its finest For a select group of enthusiast, however, sailing means something very different.
It means plunging temperatures and bitter winds.