The best introduction to the origin of RebelCat
1 is the video below. However, if your computer has no sound or
you prefer photos and text, skip over the video.
Brazil, near Paraibuna. Just below my camp was a ferry which
carried cars and people across the lake. It was diesel, smelly
and noise, and the people who came and waited for it were also.
I could see the island I wanted to go to, with a white sandy
beach and thick jungle. So I got some materials to my campsite
to make a raft. Two PVC pontoons, a deck and an oar should
work, I thought.
I cut the pipe into two equal lengths, capped the ends and
finally settled on a width for the raft - just wide enough for
me and hopefully stable in the water.
The deck would have to hold the two pontoons together and
not slip off of them, so I made six curved wooden 'feet' to sit
on the pontoons.
Two coats of varnish on the finished deck. The deck is
suspended from a tree on a thin nylon cord so it will dry
without touching anything.
The deck sits on the pontoons and is just tied with some
nylon rope. And that's it. The raft that will take me to
paradise - the vacant island I've been admiring from a distance
for over a week - is now finished.
Oh, the traffic cones are just taped to the PVC caps with
clear packing tape. They are absolutely necessary for the raft
to move. Flat pontoons do not work well, because the front
would just push water. Now they are like giant pencils, pointed
It works. I knew it would float me with no problem, because
I calculated the amount of air in both pontoons - about 188
litres. Plenty for a raft. Notice it's more than half above
Rowing was a challenge, because the raft tips easily from
side to side. It was great for improving balance, and I got
pretty good at it. A young man came by on his kayak and we
traded 'vehicles' for awhile. He loved rowing my raft, and I
liked his kayak.
I got the idea to widen the raft to make it more stable, so
I rotated the deck 90 degrees so the raft was about four feet
wide. Talk about stable. I had to reach farther to row, but the
stability was worth it. I rowed this little raft all over the
reservoir, exploring all the islands and coves, for three
months. My island was the only one with a white-sand private
beach, so I stayed there. As I stood there rowing on a windy
day, I noticed how the wind would push me along. That idea,
combined with the wider and more stable shape, would eventually
inspire me to turn this raft into a sailboat.
All it needed was a sail, a rudder and a keel of some kind
to keep it from sliding sideways.
I went to town and scrounged some scraps of wood, pieces of
old furniture. A few more tools and I was making the conversion
from raft to catamaran on my beach.
Here I'm screwing the tiller to the rudder. The large piece
is the centerboard.
With all of the new parts varnished and dry, the cat is
assembled upside down (minus the rudder, which I attach just
The extensions on the back are necessary to make enough room
inside the mast stays for the boom to swing, and so that the
boom can be longer, giving the cat a larger sail area.
The centerboard is made like a 'T' and simply ties
under the deck to screw-eyes.
The material for the sail lies to the left of the cat, the
bamboo mast farther left.
I made the mast and boom from bamboo from another island.
The sail is just plastic sheeting from a hardware store. The
sail was about three meters/10' high and two meters/6.5'
The mast is held up by four stays (nylon cord), two attached
to those extensions at the back and two on the front spreader
which connects the pontoons at the front.
The mast 'locks' on a step, just a button of wood, screwed
to the wood that connects the front spreader to the deck.
The boom barely clears the back stays. The traffic cones are
just taped to the PVC caps and taped closed at the nose. Very
crude, but highly functional.
This cat is as simple as a sailing craft can be. There is
nothing on it that can be taken off, without fatal results.
Flotation, sail, rudder, keel, and a place to sit. Minimalist
sailing on a low budget.
A friend visited me on the island and took this and other
sailing photos. The cat sailed quite well, considering I had
never made a sailboat before. Flotation was minimal for an
adult - notice I'm sitting in the middle of the deck. However,
as an experiment, it was a total success.
There was about one meter in front of the mast, so I made a
narrow jib. It added a little speed and control to an already
RebelCat1 from the front. This perspective shows why
catamarans are so fast. Two narrow hulls that cut through the
water, lighweight deck and frame, and large sails for the
Slightly repaired double exposure (not a problem these days
with digital cameras). This cat was a lot of
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See RebelCat 2
Make Your Own
with this step-by-step, how-to DVD.