‘Living large’ aboard a very small vessel

By Bob Muggleston
For Points East
Last summer, in the crowded Connecticut anchorage where I kept my boat, there was one vessel that always caught my eye. It was a small catamaran with a rectangular cabin aboard it that had not one, but two, decks – one on the roof, and the other on the main platform where you could get out of the sun. Views from inside the tiny floating house spanned 360 degrees, and were through large windows. Permanently rafted up to the vessel was a short length of dock that doubled as both a swim platform and a place to tie your dinghy.

Yes, this was a houseboat, but it was a small and nifty-looking houseboat, and occupied a corner of the harbor too shallow for most boats. The owners were almost always aboard. It occurred to me that they might be the only ones in the harbor truly getting their money’s worth – and then some.

The Shanty Cat, from Maine, is very similar to the vessel I’ve just described. Similar, except that it’s been re-imagined by Rick Keith and Steve King, two budget-minded Maine woodworkers/boatbuilders, who also happen to be artists.
The boat is 28 feet long and 10 feet wide, and its twin hulls are made of fiberglass-skinned plywood. Much of the material for the boat’s cabin – a stylish affair with a cambered roof and multi-pained windows – Keith and King bought as reclaimed lumber. Overall, the boat cost about $10,000 to build. Last summer they launched hull No. 1 in Falmouth, Maine, and gunkholed the coast for a while, where the Shanty Cat’s unique looks and low-cost approach garnered plenty of attention.

Plans for the Shanty Cat are available for the do-it-yourselfer, though Keith and King would happily build one out completely, or partially build one and send you the pieces to assemble. So far one has been built in Key West, and a school in Portland, Maine, is building another. To build a Shanty Cat without scrounging, the pair says, might cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000.

A single 9.9-horse outboard will push the Shanty Cat along at six knots, while wide, shallow hulls provide lateral stability, and overhangs at the bows keep the vessel from pitching. Move the Shanty Cat under power or on a trailer, moor it or anchor it – the idea is to enjoy life on the water without breaking the bank. The style points you get while doing so? Those are absolutely free.  FMI: www.ecocats.us.