Weather-Shortened Cat Gathering Still A Sublime Sailing Event

By: Kat Szmit

Topics: Sailing

Catboats, many made in the shop at Arey’s Pond Boat Works in Orleans, set sail in the 2020 Cat Gathering, the 28th annual event held Aug. 22 on Pleasant Bay.  KAT SZMIT PHOTO


ORLEANS – Ask Tony Davis, president and owner of Arey’s Pond Boat Yard, what the theme of the 2020 Cat Gathering was, and you’ll likely get a wry grin before he answers with a decisive word.

“Decisions,” he said. “It’s been a tough year in the sense of having to make a series of decisions.”

It started with the pandemic, which had Davis taking note of the numerous sailboat races posting cancellations, hoping he wouldn’t have to add the 28th annual Cat Gathering to the list. The race features and celebrates the wooden sailboats made at APBY, some dating back more than 100 years.

Fortunately, Davis and his team came up with a plan that would allow them to still host the event while maintaining protocols to keep participants safe. Masks were required at the docks, and the traditional afterparty at the boat yard was not held, though a Zoom awards ceremony was.

As race day (Aug. 22) neared, weather forecasts that had originally promised wind were now reporting nary a breeze, even on the waters of Pleasant Bay. When afternoon wind speeds began to look promising, the race was delayed until 4 p.m., with sailors delighting in just enough wind to carry them across Little Pleasant Bay and through the Narrows.

But Mother Nature wasn’t ready to step back just yet. Just as the boats were making their way toward the finish, Davis and his crew received warning that a severe thunderstorm was heading into the area.

Quickly, Davis decided to shorten the course in order to get everyone to safety before the storm hit, with only those in the Arey’s Pond 14s actually finishing. To determine winners of the remaining classes, Davis and company crunched some numbers and deemed them projected winners.

But Davis took it all in stride, happy to see sails aloft and people enjoying themselves on the water.

“Nothing’s been easy for anyone and this event falls in line,” he said.

Prior to the dramatic end to the event, the race was a treat for those watching from the shore, including a handful from the newly opened Sipson Island. In honor of all of the hard work that went into preserving the land, the 2020 Alan McClennen, Sr. Award, given in recognition of the efforts on behalf of the Friends of Pleasant Bay, was given to the Sipson Island Trust.

Meanwhile, the Sailing Family Award went to Roland Bryan and the three generations of the Bryan family sailing the Sir Oliver, and Dan Shragg and family won “Best Masks.” Ari Roth, age 12, was the recipient of the Youngest Sailor Award, and the Carl Richter Award for the best-looking boat went to John Lee Scarborough.

Davis was especially excited to see his newest vessel, the 2021 14-foot Racing Catboat captained by owner Paul Desrosiers, take first place in its division.

“It’s the new wooden version of our classic 14 that we introduced this year,” Davis said. “This was a test of her boat speed. We were really, really pleased with how well she did.”

Davis said Desrosiers approached him after the 2019 event and challenged him to build an even faster boat, with all of the appealing qualities of the current catboats made at APBY.

“We designed it last fall and built it over the winter in our boatbuilding shop, and it’s been having an outstanding summer of winning races,” Davis said, adding that Bill Nash was instrumental in making the boat happen. “The Cat Gathering was her debut and she won it hands down.”

Davis said the Cat Gathering is an event he and his staff look forward to all year.

“We’re all part of it, all the employees, friends, my family,” he said. “What makes it happen is all the effort by the employees of APBY and the Davis family. It’s all in house efforts. We just wanted to make it work this year.”

The 29th Cat Gathering, slated for next August, will have the added excitement of taking place the same weekend as the inaugural Arey’s Pond 14 Worlds, an event specifically for owners and racers of 14-foot Arey’s Pond Catboats, which can be found throughout the world.


2020 Results: Catboat 19 and over (Projected Winners): 1. Matt Dooley and S. Brown in An Cat Mahair, 2. Brian Smith in At Ease, 3. Richard Stewart in a Marshall 22; Traditional Class (Projected Winners): 1. Alan McClennen, Jr. in Old Ghost, 2. M. Dunne aboard Wimeke, 3. Rich Vogel aboard a Caledonia Yawl; Arey’s Pond Lynx 16 (Projected Winners): 1. Rob Muller in Pippet, 2. Nick Athanassiou in Athena, 3. Charlie Zelle in Arthur B; Marshall 18 (Projected Winners): 1. Rick Cain in Pleasant Dreams, 2. Maura and Bill Terrell in Ripple, 3. Mon Cochran; Marshall 15 (Projected Winners): 1. Jim Nathanson in Cat’s Paw, 2. Drew Dunne, 3. Bob Summersgill in Jubilant; Baybirds: 1. Tony and Ari Roth, 2. Robin Adams, 3. Helen Kelsey; Compass Classic: 1. John Laurino in Business, 2. Jill Klein in QA Girl; Arey’s Pond 14 (Shortened Course): 1. Paul Desrosiers, new APBY 14, 2. Scott Phillips in Tuna, 3. Brooke and Skye Davis in Crusher (employee ruling).