The year 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the Beetle Cat sailboat. This will make the “Beetle Cat” the oldest one design that has been continuously produced out of wood and continues to be competitively raced for the past 100 years.
The boat is a big part of New England history, sailing, wooden boats, and wooden boat building. Its distinctive silhouette is known at a glance, the name brings back memories of learning to sail, first tries at the tiller and of course the smell of cedar, varnish, and pine tar. It is the preservation of a handcrafted art form used to produce a sweet little boat out of a living tree.
The Beetle Cat is a 12’, gaff-rigged wooden catboat designed by John Beetle in 1921. Originally built in New Bedford, Beetle, Inc. is now the sole builder of Beetle Cats in Wareham, MA. The boat continues to be hand crafted by true craftsmen working together using traditional methods to preserve the integrity and quality of the boat.
Over 4,000 Beetle Cats have been built since 1921.
Beetle Cat History
The Beetle Cat was named after the Beetle family of New Bedford, MA who originally designed and built the small 12 foot gaff rigged wooden sailboat for their children in 1921. Famous for their Beetle Whaleboats, they used some of the same mass production techniques that enabled them to build quality whaleboats in record times. With interest growing in the Beetle Cat, and the demise of the whaling industry, the Beetles shifted production to the Beetle Cat boat.
- John Beetle, founder of the Beetle Cat sailboat in 1921 with son Carl Beetle, worked as a surveyor for Green and Wood Lumber Co. John continued to build the Beetle Cat after Carl left until his death in 1928.
- Upon John Beetle’s death in 1928, Charlie Beetle (his brother) took over the building of the Beetle Cat with his son-in-law, John Baumann as builder and niece, Ruth Beetle as bookkeeper.
- Charlie hired Leo Telesmanick in 1930 as a 15 year old helper.
- In 1936 both Charlie Beetle and John Baumann died leaving Ruth Beetle with the building of the Beetle Cat. She put Leo Telesmanick in charge and kept building until 1941 when WWII broke out.
- Waldo Howland (Concordia) purchased the right to build the wooden Beetle Cat boat from Carl Beetle and turned the production over to Palmer Scott’s yard in New Bedford. Leo Telesmanick was shop foreman for Palmer Scott at the time and was put in charge of building the boat.
- Palmer Scott retired and closed down the boat shop in New Bedford. Concordia built a new shop across from Padanaram harbor from South wharf location and relocated the Beetle Cat to the new location on Smith Neck Road in 1960.
- Leo Telesmanick retired in 1983 and Charlie York took over as Master Builder of the Beetle Cat.
- Charlie York purchased the rights for the Beetle Cat from Concordia in 1993 and formed Beetle Inc.
- Bill Womack purchased the rights for the Beetle Cat from Charlie York in 2003.
- Womack relocated the Beetle Boat Shop to Wareham, MA in the summer of 2004 where they are today.
- The new shop in Wareham allowed more space for Beetle Cat new boat construction, additional storage space for the Beetle Cats - where over 225 are stored and maintained.