Clark Mills envisioned a trailer able boat that was easy to rig, simple to sail, and would draw just enough water to make it suitable for breezing across skinny water or spending the night in a gunkhole. By the time his 17-foot Com-Pac Sun Cat came along in 2000, Mills was already famous for designing the Optimist pram in 1947 and the 15-foot Windmill in 1953, the latter a one-design dinghy made for sailing with a crew of two. Mills had received the commission to design a catboat from Com-Pac Yachts, a company founded in 1974 in Clearwater, Florida, by W.L. Hutchins, who was fond of saying, "I know people who get on a power yacht to go somewhere. But, when I get on my sailing yacht, I am there."
The decision to once again tap Mills for his design skills came at a time when Hutchins was adding a line of catboats to its fleet. The company introduced the Picnic Cat and the Sun Cat while adding new technology such as the trademarked Mastendr Quick Rig Sailing System for raising and lowering the mast without having to remove the rigging. According to Gerry Hutchins, who today runs the company with his brother, Richard, the Mastendr technology attracted customers interested in ease and convenience. The system allows the mast to be quickly lowered in preparation for trailering or, perhaps more importantly to coastal sailors, to fit under low bridges.
First impressions At first glance, the Com-Pac Sun Cat seems like a little bit of everything. It's clearly a catboat with main and gaff booms,
a sassy elliptical cabin port window on each side, and a sweeping sheer with pronounced bow as though meant to take on the waves. The daysailer has a huge cockpit, while the version with a cuddy cabin has potential as an overnighter, and perhaps even a weekend
One version of the Corn-Pac catboat has a cuddy cabin with two berths and space under the bridge deck for a porta-potti, The Sun Cat at 17 feet is obviously a wide boat, with a 7-foot 3-inch beam. The cabin has an enclosed locker forward.
The Sun Cat requires an outboard engine for propulsion. The boat has -an adjustable motor bracket on the transom. It typically handles a long-shaft outboard of approximately 5 horsepower.
The Sun Cat has no shortage of control lines and clutches that when used in tandem can finely tune the sails. The primary sail control is the peak halyard that controls angle of the gaff boom, and small adjustments make a big difference in sail shape and performance. The downhaul controls the tension along the luff, and there are two outhauls, one for each boom. The traveler is mounted across the bridgedeck. According to Hutchins, the Sun Cat literally sold itself because it was trailerable, easy to rig, offered a shoal draft, had few moving parts and was nearly maintenance- free. The company even offered advice on how to sail this diminutive catboat, including how to veer off the wind for a more comfortable sail rather than attempt to pinch it.
The Corn-Pac Sun Cat 17 is an affordable, safe and sturdy boat ideal for adventurous coastal sailing and overnight gunk- holing or a rollicking afternoon sail to a favorite picnic spot.