Hi, I'm the originator of the RebelCat design
and a complex human being. My team? Me wearing many hats.
Catamaran designer and builder, photographer and videographer,
video editor, producer, web site designer... But that's not who
I am, that's just what I'm doing to manifest this adventure. I
do many other things.
For those who want to know a bit more about me,
I think the following mini-adventures, which relate to the
RebelCats, show something of me that is not apparent
from the digital media of this site. I'll start this brief
story just before the discovery of the original RebelCat design
in Brazil in 2001.
RebelCat 1 - The YouTube video
I made about that prototype is here,
in case you haven't seen it. Now that you've seen it, I'll tell
you what I was doing in Brazil on that reservoir. I had
produced a CD of spiritual chanting w/ guitar and a friend many
years before in Germany, and I was waiting for enough of them
to sell in Brazil to pay my ticket back to the US. I'm leaving
a lot out, but that keeps this brief.
So I've got four months left of my visa and
can't stay in Sao Paulo due to the smog, so I found this
reservoir and camped there. As the video explains, I wanted to
get to an island, and I made a raft to do that. The rest is in
the movie (and on the DVD). Here are photos and descriptions of
the birth of RebelCat
RebelCat 2 - Back in the USA,
I got into another smoggy situation and decided to make
RebelCat 2 and sail up the coast of California for four months
- for some fresh air. That was before I could think clearly
(smog does that to me), because the reality of ocean sailing is
not the same world as lake sailing. RebelCat 2 would not have
survived the trip. Testing in a nearby lake made that clear.
Full description with photos of RebelCat
RebelCat 3 - Well, I found
another way out of the smog - I moved away to a small town in
Arizona. But the RebelCat potential was still whispering to me,
so I sketched more ideas. Then I moved to Illinois for awhile,
got an invitation to help with a new high school in New Zealand
and spent four months there. There on the beach of the south
island I made RebelCat 3 from driftwood, at least it started
out as a cat. The wood was so heavy it became a raft out of
necessity. It sailed once, my crew and I survived, and that was
it. Recycled back to the beach. Full description and photos of
RebelCat 4 - Back in Illinois,
I transformed part of RebelCat 2 into a raft
for a friend's pond - still there as far as I know.
Moved back to warmer and sunny Arizona, and got out my sketches
of RebelCat 4. This time, I would build a cat closer to the
original but using 10" pipe instead of 20cm (8"). No sooner had
I begun when I saw the movie Waterworld - Kevin Kostner on his
60' trimaran - and I was blown away. Bigger is probably better
here in the US, I thought (I'd been gone for 25 years, what did
So I put those 10" pipes aside and got some 15"
pipes 20' long. You have to stand next to one of these
pipes to understand just how big they are - massive, and 90
pounds each! What have I done?, I thought, standing in the yard
where I picked them up. How will I ever get these on my
roofrack? Not to be undone by a couple of plastic pipes, I got
them on my rack (with help from a forklift!), strapped them
down and drove home.
How do I get them off? One end at a time! Holy
moly, those are huge. Okay, I can only be blown away for so
long - eventually I'll have to build a cat with them. This was
a major undertaking. Aluminum square pipe frame, massive mast,
huge sails - the cat was capable of carrying a party of six
adults, and I mean a party boat. How I managed to get the
entire cat on and off of my roofrack is the subject of a
whole story, but I did it.
It sailed well! It was simply too much boat for
one person to handle, and I was alone on it for the first
voyage. But I learned more from that design than from any
previous, so many of its features have migrated to RebelCat 5
in a simpler construction. Full story with photos of
Heat-Shaping Discovery -
Building this cat was a massive job, and I was so focussed on
it for months that I made some real breakthroughs in design.
The most revolutionary was the method for heating and shaping
the end of the PVC pipe into wedge-shaped, wave-piercing
pontoon bows. Heating PVC is not new - plumbers do it with
small pipe. What was new was heating large pipe and shaping it
around a form placed inside. I searched for months on ways to
do it, and finding nothing, I resolved to invent a way. Many
tests later, I had it. And it worked, as RC4 and 5 now
demonstrate. The DVD shows this method in great detail.
RebelCat 5 - It was now time
to dust off those old 10" pipes I'd set aside and
build the cat that anyone else could make. Nobody would tackle
a cat like RC 4, only someone as crazy as I am, and I was sure
there were too few of them to bother making a DVD.
Back to the drawing board for RebelCat
5. I was sure I could design a cat with the best features
of RC 1, 2, and 4 and which could be made with simple
hand tools from locally available materials. No more
aluminum frame - it was now too expensive anyway, due to higher
oil prices. It would have to be wood but light, minimalist but
comfortable, nice seats for long cruising, storage space for
food, water, gear, and light enough to carry from the
beach to the water.
Texas 200 - In the middle
of designing RC 5, the Texas 200 was born. The folks
at duckworksmagazine.com planned a 200-mile sail along the
Texas coast in the Laguna Madre - protected ocean water. I
wanted to go, but how would I carry a week's supply of water
for two people? Then it came to me - modular pontoons. RebelCat
5 would be convertible! 15 feet long for daysailing and light
loads, and 21 feet for long comfortable cruising with cargo,
like the Texas 200. The rest, as they say, is history. Well,
Alone at sea - By the time I
got my cat ready at the campground at Port Mansfield,
TX, the others had launched and were out of sight on
the Laguna Madre. I got RebelCat 5 in the water - the wind was
now about 40mph and increasing, the water was choppy and
incredibly shallow. I sailed about a mile and the wind was
ferocious. I headed for the shore and there reefed the main.
Still too much sail, but I headed out anyway. About 100 yards
out the wind pushed the cat's rear sideways, and I heard a
crack as the rudder hit sand. Popped all four nuts off the
rudderstock bolts - I had no rudder.
Now I'm a mile from Port Mansfield, our put-in,
and there is nothing - not a house and nobody - in sight.
Calling the others on the radio would be pointless.
They couldn't sail against that wind to help me. So I
paddled to shore, dropped sails, tied the cat to my waist and
walked in the surf a mile back to the launch. Ah, but was my
pickup was waiting for me? Sure. Where? 200 miles north at
the takeout! We'd driven up the day before and bussed
Bus, hitchhike, walk - made it to my pickup and
back by midnight of the NEXT day. Cat was still there! And
a great time was had by all (or so I heard later). Actually,
others had a rough time on that trip - capsize, broken this and
that... The rudderstock was easy to fix, and this time I used
thicker bolts. On to Grand Lake Oklahoma and Beaver Lake
Arkansas, where RebelCat 5 performed well in light winds.
Lake Powell Messabout 2008 - A
yearly event of homemade boat enthusiasts around the end of
September. Now with new couplers for the pontoons and a tighter
jib, RebelCat 5 sailed better in the light breezes. But I
needed some video of the cat sailing fast, I mean that's what
cats do, right? How can I convince people that this cat is fast
if there's hardly any wind?
When a little wind did come, everyone
headed for their boats. Whom can I ask to take some video?
Nobody, they're all sailing already. So I put my camcorder on a
tripod, turned it on, aimed it in what looked like a good
direction, then launched the cat and sailed back and forth in
its field of view. As soon as I got aboard, the wind dropped.
Well, that's what they say about Lake Powell - either too much
wind or too little. I'll just have to manage with the footage I
have, I figured.
Back in Arizona - Not
willing to settle for less, one windy day I packed up RC 5 and
went to a small nearby lake and set it up. A man standing
nearby looked on with interest, so I asked him if he would
operate my camcorder on the tripod. Sure! Does he know how to
use a camcorder. Oh sure! Well, he sure fooled me! I zipped
back and forth in front of him while he filmed what I thought
will be the best footage yet. "One more pass", I shout. "Okay".
That's when the centerboard, which I realized at Lake Powell
was not made from the right plywood, decided to buckle. Oh
well, at least I got the footage I need for the DVD. I'll
replace the centerboard with a new design. It was worth it.
Great video? Not exactly. It turns out the kind
man was not the best choice for a cameraman. Oh well, the Lake
Powell Messabout 2009 is coming up! And the DVD is done. I
expect to have much better footage of RebelCat 5 sailing fast
posted here on this site soon after the Messabout, if we get
some wind. What footage I have from Lake Powell 2008 on the DVD
shows that RebelCat 5 points extremely well - that is, it sails
very close to the direction from which the wind is coming
- rare for a cat, and probably due to the large
centerboard, which was still working. Full story of
construction with photos of RebelCat
Changes to RebelCat 5 - I'm a
perfectionist (thanks Dad), and there are a few things I want
to do to improve the already great performance of RC 5. Larger
jib - the one I have is fine, but I found that the forestay -
the front cable holding the mast - can be higher, creating a
larger 'foretriangle', the area described by the mast, the
forestay and the boat. A larger foretriangle means a larger jib
is possible. And since I didn't do such a great job on the jib
(late night sewing, in a rush), I wanted to either re-sew it or
make another. I found some beautiful blue polyester fabric in
the usual place - the discount table in the fabric department
at Wal Mart - for $1.50 per yard. Blue will go well with the
deep red/burgundy mainsail. (Update 8-09: Forestay raised. I'm
replacing both sails by cutting down the sails of RebelCat
Next, a new centerboard, of course. I have an
idea for a CB that I've never seen but I'm sure will work well.
In light winds, the rudder was not very efficient on the
long version, so I made it 1.5" wider with some sheet metal,
and it worked fantastic. That gave me an idea for a new design
for both CB and rudder, using oak and sheet aluminum instead of
plywood, which is prone to leaks and splitting. I haven't
tested it yet, but I will soon, and I'll report the results on
the RebelCat 5 Updates page. (Update 8-09: New CB and 2 rudders
done as per new design.)
A cargo net for the back. The hooks are
already there, but I never made the net. That would increase
the cat's already ample storage space. I love storage space,
especially for camping gear. (Update 8-09: Cargo nets
RebelCat 5 is already such a mature design that
it's hard to find things to improve, but those are a few of
them. (Update8-09: Found a few more things to do. Clamcleat now
holds the CB in any position from horizontal to vertical.
Clamcleat on the end of the boom makes outhaul adjustments
quick. Cleats for the jib allow quick release of sheets. Quick
release on hiking straps allow pontoons to ride inside upturned
deck on roofrack, instead of on the straps.)
RebelCat 6 - Possibly the cat
that will have the most impact, because it is intended for
kids. Back to 8" pipe, RC 6 is a scaled-down RC 5, with most of
the advanced controls and similar comfort, unlike its prototype
RC 1 which was really basic. RC 6 will convert into its own
trailer which can be pulled behind a bicycle - now that's
convenient. I've already got the pipe and the design is done.
This cat will be the most accessible of all of them, and I
believe a 12-year-old could build one, because that's who will
be sailing them.
When Kids Respect Nature - My
real intention with all of these cats is to give kids a
positive experience while in contact with Nature. If kids bond
with Nature at an early age, they are less prone to want to cut
down trees, shoot animals, poison the lakes and rivers and, in
general, disrespect Nature. If I can help in some way to get
kids out sailing, camping, swimming, hiking and loving it, I
think that will help them develop a respect for the natural
world that they now are enjoying. One day they will be adults,
hopefully with a healthy respect for this planet.
The evolution of RebelCats 1-5 here.
Back to top