Shallow draft
a whisker between her keel and

sandy flat
Softly she slides over a thousand
steamer holes
Eel grass tickles the sweet
clear grain
shaped to steer and keep
this cat on course
The surface of the Bay
idly churns as her
wide stern
lifts and floats forward
A ripple
of a wake
resonates gently
imperceptible and clean
to form a long wave
as if to say
I came this way
She bubbles on in
her easy workboat pace
built to haul
built to
hold her limit
Bushels heaped with scallops
clacking for the
shucking sheds in town

Then lazy summer days
transform her to

the party cat
on a sea of glass
Sunrise shimmering blindly
while crystals dance
she trolls for blues
in the gentle early rip
Later in the
freshening breeze
she heists her gear
and saunters home
full of fish

A simple working rig
compressed into fine lines
she sailed her way
in early days
from Bay

through shallow Bay
up and down this coast
Cats took to engines easily
working power
tucked gracefully
into the wide
belly of her beam
Bold schooners likewise
made their move

They too evolved with time
shaped to get men out

and haul a rugged living
from a deeper sea
As a boy
we lived downtown
I biked around
the wharfs and shacks
and caught the tail end
of the working cats
still setting hooks and
tending traps
pulling gear year round
Manuel Roberts built
these craft
his busy shed tucked
among the shacks
above high tide in
old time Edgartown
So many cats came
rumbling down his tracks
shaped for local men
with Manuel’s care
and all his honest pride
Al Francis had the Jambe
stout and wide
Danny Gaines fished his
grey house paint
inside and out
Percy West sailed Victory
he’s long gone but
she still struts smartly
her varnished decks
in warmer climes
Then big Pricilla
5 men broad
towing drags
and wooden barges
in her prime with
George T riding high
pier builder
always paid the crew on time
Ike had Idelwild
While Bob fished Mildred
strong and wide
Louis Goulart and his son
towed for scallops
side by side
their cat boat all of 8 feet wide
barely 16
foot long
Many many more

As a young man
I trailed behind
Oscar Pease’s Vanity
dragging scallops
winter gold
in Cape Pogue’s
icy bay
I’ve told of steamin home
a bumpy northerly
in my squat skiff
I bailed and stared
as the old
but spritely cat
came bounding through the
fresh and freezing chop
shedding spray in style
the last one
of her kind

So today
the working cats
have quietly given way
Skiffs with out boards
and sleek bass boats
have muscled in to
haul the drags
set the tubs
troll for blues
in the same jagged rip
While that familiar breeze still
tugs the sheet
as we hold fast
and trim
our sweet old party cats
that smartly yearn to
fill the yawing gap left by
the real pride of these
wide shoals
and channels
where men have
and hooked
and raked
and dug
and trapped
Years spent hunched
by culling boards
Hauling lives
over wooden rails
and combing shedding spray
not all that long ago


While eel grass gently tickles
the clear grain

that keeps our cats
on course