A cat boat (alternate spelling: catboat or a cat-rigged) sailboat, is a single-hulled sailing vessel characterized by a single mast carried well forward (i.e., near the bow of the boat). Although any boat with a single sail and a mast carried well forward is ‘technically’ a catboat, the traditional catboat has a wide beam approximately half the length of the boat, a centreboard, and a single gaff-rigged mainsail. Some catboats of a more modern design carry a Bermuda sail. A jib is sometimes added, but this may require a bowsprit, and technically creates a sloop sail-plan.
It is generally accepted that the origin of the cat boat type was in New York around 1840 and from there spread east, south and north as the virtues of the type – simplicity, ease of handling, shallow draft, large capacity – were discovered. Historically, they were used for fishing and transport in the coastal waters.