In the depths of winter, more than 400 sailors gathered last weekend to talk about sailing — much of it centered on the waters of Martha’s Vineyard — at the 50th anniversary annual meeting of the Catboat Association in Groton, Conn. Sailors attended from as far south as Florida and from as far north as Maine.
A number of Vineyarders attended and were met by many of their friends. Jim and Kim O’Connor of West Tisbury sail a 22-foot catboat, called Gleam, out of Vineyard Haven harbor. Bruce and Jean Lewellyn of Tisbury sail Kermit, a cat out of Lake Tashmoo. It was the Lewellyns first time at the annual meeting.
Doug Leavens, who has a summer house in West Tisbury, was a featured speaker. Mr. Leavens’s late parents, John and Pinkie Leavens, were the principal founders of the association with a handful of others. The couple sailed out of Menemsha Pond. They had a summer home in Chilmark.
Much of the spirited meeting was dedicated to remembering earlier years., past presidents and current president Tim Lund sharing memories. Eric Peterson of Mashpee, the most recent past president, talked about his love for sailing with his family in the waters between Vineyard Haven and Woods Hole.
Sailors also spent a lot of time talking up their 50th anniversary rendezvous at Mystic Seaport on the weekend of July 7. As many as 100 boats are expected. The Vineyard Cup, a three-day weekend of racing, plus a catboat rendezvous, in Vineyard Haven scheduled for the following weekend, was also a subject for discussion.
Catboat owners and their friends from the Vineyard have long been supporters of the association, which has over 1,500 members. At the first big winter meeting of the club in 1963, the record shows that Robert S. Douglas, later to own Shenandoah (launched in 1964), Tom Hale, owner of Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, and Oscar Pease of Edgartown were among those who attended. Mr. Pease sailed a catboat called Vanity, which today belongs to and is maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and is regarded as the last of the working wooden catboats. Vanity, built in Edgartown, comes from a time when the business of the waterfront was mostly done by these sailboats. Today catboats are regarded as recreational sailboats with a rich maritime heritage.