RebelCat 2 - Radical
Departure in Design
Back in the USA, I decided to scale up the RebelCat design
to do some serious sailing.
Humble beginnings. I rented a corner in a yard behind an
auto repair, seven miles from my father's house, where I lived.
I rode my bike six days a week in 110-degree Mesa, Arizona heat
to get here, worked all day, then rode home. That was my
routine for two months.
The shelter includes a workbench, drill press and a canopy I
stitched from cheap material.
In the back you can see the 12-inch PVC pipe, 2 x 2 inch
aluminum pipe, plywood and foam insulation boards.
There were far too many steps in the construction to show
here, so I've selected a few to show the progression and the
PIP PVC pipe is thinwall and is quite flexible. It can also
be punctured during a crash and fill with water. I decided to
make this cat unsinkable. I stuffed the entire pontoons and
cones with foam insulation. A mouse would not have found room
to nest in there - packed solid from nose to tail.
The four things in the front are PVC reducers, to reduce the
diameter of the pipe from 12 to 10 inches, because I could not
find traffic cones larger than 10 inches. But the reducers are
not smooth, they reduce sharply, so I made a paste from sawdust
and white glue and filled in the space to make the nose
hydrodynamic. Bad choice, as it turned out. The paste did dry
and worked fine, but small nicks in the waterproof coating
allowed water in and the paste soaked away. That was long after
it was turned into a raft and set loose on a pond in
Plywood cut to make all the parts I needed from 3/4 ply. In
the foreground is the centerboard and the rudder stock, then
behind will be the rudder, the transom and I can't remember the
Here the frame is complete and the rudder and centerboard
are visible. Both will swing up for shallow water and
This is the main sail, and it is huge. My first real Dacron
sail project. I studied sailmaking and jumped into this with no
hesitation. Since I was renting space for the boat
construction, I worked at home on the sails on Sunday, when the
auto shop was closed. So, yes, I was working seven days a week
to get this boat done. If you work in 110-degree heat all day,
sunrise to sunset, you want to finish the job as soon as
I think the mainsail is eight feet across the foot and maybe
22 feet tall. Working with real sailcloth is like trying to sew
cardboard. It lays flat with no difficulty, but trying to get
it through the sewing machine is fun. Rolling it up made it
easier, as you can see below.
Here I'm sewing a reef point on the jib. You may say, "But
jibs don't have reefpoints". Mine does. If you look at the next
photo, you can see that the entire lower triangle marked off by
this white polyester tape can be rolled up and tied
to the sail, reducing its area. There is a second cringle
(grommet for attaching a sheet, or rope) right where the white
line meets the blue. I never saw it done, but I love to
experiment. I also never reefed the jib, so I can't say how
well it would work.
During the last stages of construction, I moved the whole
operation to my father's backyard, now that the noisy part was
done. The white cloths covering the blue reducers prevent the
PVC from getting soft in the incredible heat of the sun. I made
a note not to paint PVC dark colors again. I later sprayed the
tops white to prevent them from melting. This is Arizona.
An early phase of the construction. I had planned to have
two storage boxes that double as seats on the sides. I made
them and they were looking good.
Then I sealed them with boat resin. However, this was to
become a disaster, as the resin never cured. The tube of
catalyst had been taped on the cover of the can and it burst in
the heat, leaking catalyst into the can through the sealed lid.
So the resin looked a little odd, but I used it anyway. Bad
move. It simply never cured and smelled like, well, resin for
I worked on everything else, hoping the resin would cure -
it didn't. So in the later stages I had to find a replacement
for the two boxes. I chose large ice chests, huge ones. Four of
them. Great storage, not great seats.
Sure, they look impressive, but as far as sturdy parts of a
boat that is going to be treated roughly, they didn't
Fortunately, I didn't drill holes in them to mount them, so
later I cleaned them really well and returned them to the
Orange cones are okay for the road, but I wanted them to
match the sails, so I used fabric paint. It bonds well and is
heat resistant. No problem leaving them in the sun. I later
discovered Krylon Fusion which works much better for plastic
First test on Lake Roosevelt, in the mountains SE of
Phoenix. At this point the boat is completed, and I'm
assembling the parts which I have brought in a U-Haul
What I don't see at this point is the fatal flaw in the
pontoon supports - the blue steel 'L' things that hold the
frame together and are bolted to the pontoons. We got in the
water, put a little weight on the boat, and the pontoons folded
up - the metal simply didn't hold. It was an oversight, it
wasted a day, but it was easily remedied.
I welded the 'L' pieces into triangles, by adding a piece of
steel to close the 'L'.
After all were welded and tested with a hammer for strength,
I painted them blue.
The second test was on Lake Sajuaro, and the boat sailed
well. At first there was no wind, so my father and I are rowing
around waiting for it. He got bored and went ashore, and a
friend joined me. Then we got some nice wind and sailed
like crazy across the lake. Some powerboat owners probably
couldn't handle having a sailboat in 'their' lake. Two of them
came by pretty close at great speed, creating wakes about three
feet high coming from both sides. The boat rocked violently,
the heavy mast jerked from side to side and a stay yanked
one pontoon loose from the frame. The right side of the boat
dipped into the water, but it stopped when the two huge ice
chests on that side touched the water. The whole side of the
boat was supported by those coolers!
A kind gentleman in a motorboat came and towed us to shore,
where I took the cat apart. I realized that my radical
departure from the original design was not successful, and I
decided that the next RebelCat would follow the prototype more
RebelCat 2 lives on as a raft on a pond in Illinois! Most of
the cat was recycled into other projects, including RebelCat 4,
book shelves, and pieces of aluminum made it into RebelCat
RebelCat 2 taught me a lot about what does and does not work
on this kind of catamaran, so in that respect is was a success.
The RebelCats to follow benefitted greatly from this
Back to top
See RebelCat 3