from The Spirit of the Times, November 24, 1877) Introduction
by L. Francis Herreshoff. Excerpted from An L. Francis Herreshoff
Reader, © 1978, International Marine Publishing Co., Camden,
will make a few comments on this old article about catamarans,
which was printed 77 years ago, or before there were regular yachting
magazines in this country (if we except The Aquatic Monthly, which
general interest in catamarans of that time was caused by N.G.
Herreshoff's AMARYLLIS, which competed with single-hulled craft
in the Centennial Regatta held on June 22, 1876, off the New York
Yacht Club's Staten Island station. AMARYLLIS raced in class 3,
which was open to all boats between twenty-five and forty feet
in length. There were eleven starters in the race, including the
best of the large-sized sandbaggers of the time. In the first
part of the race, the wind was light and AMARYLLIS did rather
poorly. This put her in a place where she would have to pass most
of the fleet if she were to win, but when the race was about half
over, a nice sailing breeze sprang up and AMARYLLIS sailed gaily
through the fleet to win by twenty minutes and two seconds over
the next competitor, the famous sandbagger PLUCK AND LUCK. Some
in the class were forty or more minutes behind.
AMARYLLIS won easily boat to boat, she was protested by several
of the competitors and subsequently ruled out, the prize being
given to the PLUCK AND LUCK. At that time, the papers called AMARYLLIS
a life raft and several things, but created all at once an interest
in catamarans, so that during the next ten years there were about
twenty of them on the Hudson River and the head of Long Island
Sound. However, their popularity was short lived, principally
because they were barred from all the regular classes, although
the Newburgh Bay Yacht Club ran special classes for catamarans
for a few years.
was Captain Nat's second catamaran, and he had worked out some
of the weak points of AMARYLLIS. By the time this article was
written, he had probably had several hundred hours' experience
in sailing these craft, for he made long-distance cruises in them.
JULIA that is spoken of in the first part of the article was my
grandfather's catboat, which had a shifting ballast car on rails
and so was fast to windward. The WM.R. BROWN, the WM. T. LEE,
and SUSIE S. and DARE DEVIL were crack sandbaggers of the time
whose crews were fighting mad because AMARYLLIS and other catamarans
had beaten them, for they thought they had the fastest sailboats
of their time. The reader must remember that this was long before
the automobile, or even privately owned steam launches made much
over twenty miles an hour, so the catamaran under perfect conditions
could make long runs nearly as fast as any privately owned carrier.
While the horse could travel fast for short distances, it could
not cover 150 miles very quickly, and the speed of the catamarn
was worthwhile in those days, even if it is not now. Many of the
prominent yacht designers of the past wrote a little. Dixon Kemp
perhaps was more of a writer than designer. George L. Watson wrote
quite a lot for the Scottish papers, mostly under a nom de plume.
Colin Archer contributed copiously to the publications of the
Society of Naval Architects, particularly on the wave-line theory.
However, this article and one about the theoretical speed of iceboats
are the only ones I know of written by Captain Nat.
R.I. 1. Nov. 10, 1877
day of our starting (July 26) was most pleasant and propitious.
The high winds of the early summer had subsided into those pleasant
breezes which the yachtsmen love best, and the fogs and rains
of June were swallowed up by that invisible softness of the air,
which makes a sojourn by the sea so delightful and so sought for.
'Tis our custom, when starting on a cruise, to race down the bay
with the JULIA, a cat-rigged boat whose speed is always taken
as a standard, and thus we can detect any error in trim that otherwise
might escape us. The one that beats the JULIA is set down as all
right. In this case the wind was fresh from the south, and a beat
dead to windward was the consequence. The four-mile point was
reached by the catamaran in 43 minutes; the JULIA was then one
mile astern. She turned back disgusted and we went on contented.
And now let me hasten to put right the minds of many people, and
particularly the yachting reporter of The Spirit of The Times,
on the subject of windward sailing by the catamaran.
is true that the enormous disparity of speed between the catamaran
and an ordinarily built boat is most noticeable when sailing with
the wind a little abaft of beam. Sailing to windward is a paradox
at best, and a small amount thus gained is a greater triumph than
much greater distances gained in the headlong, free wind sailing.
Windward sailing is not a weak point of the catamaran. I can,
with a good whole sail breeze, beat to windward faster, by a mile
an hour at least, than any sailing vessel afloat, or I can beat
the WM. R. BROWN, the WM.T.LEE, the SUSIE S., DARE DEVIL, or any
other boat of that class that can be named, one-quarter, or five
miles to their four, under the conditions before mentioned. I'm
not making an idle, empty boast. I know well of what I am writing.
I have sailed every class of vessel, from the small cat-boat up
to the first-class yacht, and their performances are individually
familiar to me. And further, if the owners of the boats whose
names I have mentioned, want to be practically convinced of this,
that is, of the speed of the windward sailing of the catamaran,
the best way for them is to try it on. I shall be only too happy
to do so anywhere and at any time.
first night we anchored in Newport Harbor, and hoisting our tent,
made ourselves as comfortable as could be. The tent is pitched
under the boom, which is hoisted well up overhead, and the whole
of the car, which is 16' long by 8-1/2' wide, is covered by it.
Under it there is plenty of room for several to sit or stand protected
from wind or rain. Our preparations for sleeping were short and
simple. Our beds of blankets were made, and the air cushions on
which we sat by day, we dreamed on by night.
out in acatamaran is pleasanter than one would think. The tent
affords such perfect shelter, and the floor of the car is so broad
and flat, that it seems more like a little house on the land than
a veritable flying machine. In the midst of our sleeping, a fresh
northeaster came whistling in the rigging overhead. We aroused
a little, only to give her more cable, which she took with great
promptness. A fair wind induces an early starting, and, at six
next morning, we were off, with a fresh breeze from the north
and the sky slightly overcast. The run from the Torpedo Station
to Fort Adams was made in true catamaran style. Thought I, were
there only a straight course to New York, we would get there in
ten hours. But, at the Fort Wharf, turning before the wind, everything
became calm and quiet.
in a catamaran, you are sorely pressed by wind or wave, turn her
bow to leeward. There you will find comfort and consolation, so
light she is, and presents so little resistance, that the wind
blows her along like a bubble floating in the air. We laid to
off Point Judith at seven, for breakfast, after which reinforcement
we continued with the wind gradually dying. When off the Connecticut
River we decided to steer for the Long island shore. We had not
gone far on that course when the wind hauled back to east and
commenced blowing. Now, with the wind east in Long Island Sound,
and blowing a single-reef breeze, it does not take long to kick
up a sea, especially with an ebb tide. At least it did not that
day, and soon the TARANTELLA commenced to race, lifted and borne
on the crest of a wave, she should shoot forward with incredible
speed. We settled away on the peak halyards and made, in effect,
a leg-of-mutton sail from the mainsail. This made a very easy
rig, and one particularly adapted for off-wind sailing.
now, whilst we are flying along, with the waves lifting and breaking
high under the after tie-beam, let us overhaul another of the
alleged failings of the catamaran, to wit: their tendency to turn
over endwise or pitchpole. Now, the center of effort of the sails
of the TARANTELLA is 14 '6" above the waterline. With the
wind abaft of beam, the tendency to bury the bows of the hull
is quite obvious. This desire to bury forward is corrected, in
a measure, first by having more than an ordinarily large jib,
which, on account of its inclined position, lifts strongly that
part of the boat. Then the midship link, at which point is imparted
most of the press of the sails upon the leeward boat, is so placed
in relation to the displacement of the hulls that the downward
push (to which the force of the wind on the sails is resolved)
presses more toward the stern, so the leeward boat always keeps
in good fore-and-aft trim. The trouble then lies only in the lifting
of the stern of the windward hull. Of course, if you lift the
stern of the boat, and thus make the bow bury itself, the effect
is just the same, and just as unpleasant as when the bow sinks
for want of buoyancy with the trim of the stern where it should
the catamaran high in the bows cannot remedy this fault in the
least degree; the only thing to be done is to take care of the
stern, and the bow will take care of itself. Having stationary
ballast will keep the stern down, but this is against my principles.
I want to have everything about the boat as light as can possibly
be; so when the stern of the TARANTELLA looks light, my companion
sits on it, and says it is one of the best seats on the whole
boat. It is almost always dry, and one gets there a real sense
of the speed with which she tears along.
6 p.m., we drew near Port Jefferson, which I have always found
a pleasant halfway stopping-place. The tide was nearly out, and
a strong current setting in against us from the harbor. But in
a catamaran nobody cares about those little places where the tide
runs swiftly, and where you are mounting a little hill; the sails
are so large, compared with the whole weight, that I really believe
the TARANTELLA would climb the side of a mountain, if her element
would only arrange itself in the position of one. The proportion
of superficial area of the sails to the weight of the whole boat
complete is one square foot for each 4 Ibs. of water displaced,
lnaraceboat,say,25' long, with a large rig and ballast to carry
it, the proportion is 1 ' of canvas to 8 Ibs. of water displaced.
In a first-class yacht, such as the IDLER, the proportion is 1
' to 28 Ibs. of displacement. Why shouldn't the catamaran sail
with such power? But what seems wonderful is that they should
carry it so long and so well. The TARANTELLA will carry her sails,
and carry them as well and safely as any fairly rigged yacht afloat.
But their masters are apt to err in carrying sail beyond all reason.
The sense of safety makes them reckless.
28 was one of those perfectly dead, quiet days that I have often
experienced at the head of Long Island Sound. It was particularly
so this day, and a decent day's work could not be made, not even
in a catamaran. We anchored in Cow Bay in the early evening, pitched
our tent in a sullen rain, and consoled ourselves with the idea
that we were better there than in a worse place. The 29th was
a little better, and we found ourselves at Hell Gate, at 10 a.m.,
with the lightest and most untrustworthy of breezes from SE, and
the tide half flood. However, we put her to it, and by good luck,
and that ability of hers to go upstairs, we got through, and finally
anchored in Gowanus Basin.
the morning of the 30th, there was a fresh breeze from the north,
and we commenced the ascent of the Hudson. I kept a sharp lockout,
expecting every moment to see Captain Meigs in his METEOR, and
I thought then, as I have often since, what has become of him?
In The Spirit of May 26, Mr. Meigs has much to say about the comparative
merits of the flexible joint system, used in the connection of
my catamaran, and the rigid or partly rigid plan that he pursues.
For illustration, he makes use of a most happy simile, which,
I think, serves my purpose better than it does his. 'Twas that
of two drunken brothers wending their way through the streets,
arm-in-arm. So long as they keep walking on a smooth, level plain,
their connections are undisturbed, but if, in their erratic course,
one of them would step off the curbstone into the gutter, the
other one, if he undertook to keep his brother on the same plane
as himself, would find It very irksome, and after several repetitions
of that sort of thing, I think they would be glad to part company.
the laws of nature, which Mr. Meigs talks about, have made most
admirable provisions for this emergency. She has placed in the
shoulder of each brother a perfect ball-and-socket joint, which
allows one to raise himself over an obstacle, or sink into a depression,
without disturbing their union, or the laying out of any strength
on either side, which would tend at last to make the bond tiresome
the afternoon, as we were near the head of Haverstraw Bay, there
came a squall from the east-ward, and a peeler, too. We furled
the jib, and settled away a little on the peak of the mainsail.
The catamarans seem to possess a remarkable ability to steer well
under any disposition of sail. I have beat them to windward, coming
about surely every time with the jib alone, or with nothing but
the mainsail. With mainsail at double or three reefs, they always
work well; but what seems oddest of all, I have worked the TARANTELLA
under the storm-jib alone, a little sail containing only a hundred
square feet. With it I could beat to windward, and come Into stays
every time. When the wind and rain had ceased, and the great black
clouds with their thunder had rolled away to leeward, I discovered
two catamarans a short distance ahead, and on coming up with them,
I found my first-born, the AMARYLLIS, and the CARRIE, a smaller
one. We sailed along in company for several miles; and as we approached
the old Donderberg, there came yet another squall from the same
direction. There was more wind than in the first, but as for the
rainfall, it defied all description. There fell nearer whole water
than I've ever seen either before or since. An obstruction in
the scupper of the car caused the water to collect with such rapidity
that I think it must have filled it, had it not been cleared.
TARANTELLA and AMARYLLIS stayed near Peekskill that night, and
the CARRIE elsewhere, for we saw nothing of her after the squall.
next day commenced with a calm and an ebb tide, so the navigation
of the Hudson became rather tedious. The beautiful scenery of
the Highlands, however, fully compensated for the lack of wind
and our consequent slow progress. Farther on, toward West Point,
a fresh breeze sprung from the north, and the rest of the trip
was made most pleasantly. As for the regatta next day, nothing
here need be said, for it has been most fully described, [we assume
that TARANTELLA won. — Eds.] I can only regret it was not
a dead to windward and leeward race. In that event, the minds
of many reporters would have been put to rest in respect to the
TARANTELLA in comparison with the other racing boats. On the morning
of August 2, we started on our homeward trip and found the sailing
on the Hudson just as treacherous as ever as far as the old Donderberg.
A fine breeze from the eastward, and backing to the northeast,
made the rest of the trip to South Brooklyn very short; for, as
we neared New York, the breeze became unwarrantably fresh, and
with all jib, and the mainsail partly settled away, we flew along
at more than steamboat speed. Now and then a more than usually
strong flaw would strike her, upon which her bows would be lifted
in air, like the taking flight of a great bird who was uncertain
which to make her favorite element, the sea or sky. Once comfortable
at anchor at the Gowanus Basin, and sitting quietly under our
tent, we talked of the folly of many people who make an effort
to combine the catamaran and the cabin yacht.
my opinion, the catamaran is a perfectly distinct variety of vessel,
having its own peculiarities and characteristics, and any attempt
to cross it with the old form of yacht results only in a mongrel
production having none of the advantages that make the catamaran
so attractive, and retaining all the bad qualities of the single-hulled
yacht, with unwieldiness and ugliness combined.
catamaran should be preserved always in its pure form. 'Tis a
light, airy, fantastic machine for flying and floating, and if
one attempts to inflict a cabin on her, all the lightness is lost,
and I feel sure that such a craft will prove in every respect
unsatisfactory. At least it shall always be my aim to develop
the characteristics that belong purely to the catamaran, and make
the gap between it and the old craft wider and wider.
haved demonstrated, at least to my own mind, that cruising in
the catamaran is both pleasant and practicable. To those who are
truly in love with aquatic sports, the tent affords sufficient
shelter, and if anyone wants a cabin, it is clear in my mind he
doesn't want a catamaran. The outlook on the next morning (the
fourth) was most promising, and we started at six on the front
of a fresh northwest breeze. Then commenced a most magnificent
day's sailing. Off every point we were greeted with flaws that
would send us flying at such a pace as to almost annihilate distance.
Points ten or fifteen miles ahead were made and passed in an incredibly
short time. But, after all, it was not a day to make continuous
fast time. The wind was so unsteady, and our speed, consequently,
so variable, that the fastest time made between any two points
was seven miles in 28 minutes. We ran from Stratford Light to
Faulkner's Island at the rate of thirteen miles an hour.
passing the Connecticut River, the wind hauled more toward the
west and became much lighter, so our hopes of reaching home that
night almost failed us, but again between Watch Hill and Point
Judith, fresh flaws favored us, and we turned into our home sailing
ground at four in the afternoon.
sail up Narragansett Bay was most lovely; though its banks were
not as high and as boldly beautiful as those of the Hudson, the
islands, now alight with the glow of the declining sun, had a
peaceful beauty of their own. As is common here in summer, the
northwest breeze departs with the sun, and that evening at eight
o'clock it fell a perfect calm, leaving us a provoking 100 yards
from our landing; however, that day's sail, though it closed in
ignominy, was a great triumph. A 140-mile run in 14 hours, or
in easy daylight in the summer season, was enough to suit anyone's
fancy: at least I was fully contented. I have made lately several
trials of windward speed in the TARANTELLA, the best of which
was a beat to Newport from Bristol, a distance of 13 miles. The
wind was so nearly ahead that the sum of the length of the port
tacks was 7-3/4 miles, whilst that of the starboard was 8-1/4
miles. This run was made in 1 hour 53 minutes. The tide was fair.
From this and several other similar trials, I have rated the maximum
speed of the TARANTELLA, dead to windward, at 6-1/2 miles an hour.
Of her speed, in free wind sailing, the fastest I have actually
measured was 18 miles an hour, though on one other occasion I
am positive of sailing over 22 miles an hour. It was at the first
striking of a squall, and the water was nearly dead smooth. Unfortunately,
I was not near any point where I could take time. These extreme
speeds are by no means made every day in the week. In our average
summer winds, say, about three-fourths of a whole sail breeze,
the catamaran, sailing free, will go 15 or 16 miles an hour. As
the season advanced, and the winds became stronger, I had several
opportunities of trying the TARANTELLA under shortened sail. With
a three-reefed mainsail and storm-jib, I made as fast time in
smooth water as under any condition. With adouble-reefed mainsail
alone, she worked admirably to windward. But what seemed to me
most surprising was that, under shortened sail, she would make
remarkably good time, even faster than the common style of yachts,
and that in breezes when all sail might be carried. One day, late
in September, the wind in force and direction chanced right for
me to race with the RICHARD BORDEN, our fastest bay steamer. I
lay in wait for her as she was making her daily trip to Providence
and pounced upon her off Papoosesquaw Point. I passed her with
the greatest ease, and at Rocky Point I was a full half-mile ahead,
notwithstanding the breeze, which over the last part of the course
became quite moderate. The distance sailed was 4-1/2 miles. In
regard to next season, and what it may bring forth in the further
development of the catamaran ,I do not at this moment see where
I should change the construction and arrangement of the catamarans
that I have built this year. I have always in view improvement,
and to that end have devised a new rig, which I shall try on my
next catamaran. ***