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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
Three catboats
Three catboats sailing New Jersey waters.

Ship Building Traditions

The catboat is a craft dating back to the 1800's. During the catboat's years of existence it has been a work boat, racer, cruising boat, and family daysailer. Although many think of catboats as a New England icon, the earliest documented example of the catboat we know today is Una, a 16'6" boat built in what is now Bayonne, New Jersey. Una was built in 1852 by Robert Fish and was later shipped to England and sailed in Hyde Park.

The sleek "A-Cat" racing boats, the Mary Ann, Lotus, Spy and Bat, built by local boat builders in Ocean County in the 1920s, are still sailing the waters of Barnegat Bay and the Toms River, in Ocean County, New Jersey. They are the first boats the State of New Jersey prepared for a scholarly nomination to a thematic listing of historic boats on the State and National Registry of Historic Places in 1985.

These "A-Cats" are the culmination of a history of large A-Catboats adopted by local fishermen and oystermen since this vessel was introduced to local baymen in 1985. These craft had been preceded by three-hundred to eight-hundred ton coast vessels built by local Ocean County ship builders in Tuckerton, Forked River, Barnegat and Toms River. Those coast vessels were active in coastal shipping trade, carrying cordwood and charcoal to eastern coastal ports and as far as South America.

Trade was cut off during the Civil War years, but the boat-building tradition continued after the war. Sailing regattas, begun in 1867, continue today to provide pleasure and sport sailing along the bay and rivers in Ocean County.

Project documentation consists of a page of text and a photo.

Originally submitted by: Christopher H. Smith, Representative (4th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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