Return of the Handy Cat

The 14' Handy Cat was first produced in the early 1970s by Cape Dory Yachts.

Catboat fans may remember the Handy Cat, a fiberglass, gaff-rigged 14-footer designed by Merle Hallett of Maine’s Handy Boat Service in 1969 and first produced in the 1970s by Cape Dory Yachts of Taunton, Massachusetts.

The refinished hull mold awaits layup.

After building over 150 of the boats, Cape Dory sold the molds to Nauset Marine in the early ‘80s. A few years later, the molds were returned to Handy Boat Service in Falmouth, Maine, which produced the Handy Cat over the next several years. In all, several hundred Handy Cats were built from 1969 through 2003.

It seemed that the world had seen the last of the Handy Cat, but it turns out this cat has more than one life, thanks to Brian Connelly of Maine’s Stroudwater Boatworks. A longtime catboat aficionado who grew up sailing on Cape Cod, Connelly decided to revive the model after a conversation with Handy Boats’ Jay Hallett following the Cape Cod Boatbuilders’ Show last winter.

The Handy Cat's hull liner and seats are installed.

Under a special license agreement with Handy Boat, Connelly refinished the existing molds last spring then laid up the first 2 hulls in July. After a summer of finish work, testing, improving and tweaking, the first Handy Cat built in close to a decade was officially launched in September.

“It’s a classic design, a proven design,” says Connelly. “It’s very stable and, seaworthy.” With its hollow bow and robust construction, the Handy Cat is easily sailed in light winds and handles equally well when conditions are windy and choppy.

A closeup of the centerboard trunk.

The Handy Cat boasts a large, open cockpit with comfortable seating for 4 adults. Hull and deck construction is solid fiberglass. The boat is fitted out with spruce spars, bronze hardware and fasteners, teak and mahogany trim (different trim choices are available) and positive floatation for safety.

The Handy Cat is built on a semi-custom basis, allowing the owner to select trim type, hull color, and more. A standard boat sells for $18,500 and comes with everything you need to sail away.

Fitting the deck of the first "new" hull.

“I have kids, and can say it’s a great little family boat.” Connelly adds. “The Handy Cat is a great choice for those who are looking for a beautiful boat that is easy and fun to sail–you can just raise the sail and go exploring. It’s an ideal boat for coastal New England waters and because it is easily trailerable you can take it anywhere.”

Connelly will be displaying the Handy Cat at several events this winter, including the Catboat Association’s annual meeting in Mystic, CT (Feb. 3-5), the Cape Cod Boatbuilders Show (Feb. 10-12) and the Maine Boatbuilders Show (Mar. 16-18).

Handy Cat Details:

  • The Handy Cat is fitted with bronze deck hardware

    LOA: 14’

  • Beam: 6’ 8”
  • Draft: 12” (centerboard raised)
  • Weight: 750 lbs.
  • Sail Area: 160 square feet

Contact Information:

To learn more about the history of the Handy Cat

The first Handy Cat produced in 10 years—launched and ready to sail.


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