Murray G. Peterson’s schooner designs are well known, but many consider Susan — a modest 28-foot schooner that he drew for himself and his family late in life — to be his greatest achievement. The boat was handsome and rugged, and offered the feel of a yacht twice its size — all very appealing to Frank Mann, a Massachusetts yachtsman with a penchant for gaff rig and offshore cruising.

Mann and his wife, Katrina, had been looking for a traditional boat that, while small in size, had the sea-keeping ability of a much larger yacht. Spacious accommodations were not a concern, and complicated systems were out of the question. A modified Susan design seemed like the right choice.

Mann approached Bill Peterson, the late designer’s son, and negotiated rights to use the lines to build one hull. They then had Peterson, who carries on his father’s work, lengthen the yacht by 2 feet and draw the boat as a topsail cutter. A traditional schooner rig with two masts and split houses would sacrifice precious accommodation space, especially on a boat of this size.

Katy was to be built plank on frame, cedar on oak. Mann began searching for a yard that would be up to the task and suggested the project to Cape Cod boatbuilder Ned Crosby, owner of E.M. Crosby Boatworks in West Barnstable, Mass., and grandson of the legendary boatbuilder Chester A. Crosby. Ned Crosby enlisted two of his grandfather’s former employees, Mike Santos and Ted Crosby, a cousin. Together they brought 90 years of boatbuilding experience to the yard.

Although the boat’s construction was traditional, lofting the hull was a high-tech affair. Mann had Peterson’s lines loaded into a CAD system, and 20 plywood panels were laser cut to produce a jig type of mold. Mann said at first Crosby was skeptical of the lofting method, but once the jig was assembled, the precision-cut and -labeled form proved to be a major time saver.

Like Susan, Katy has a spoon bow in contrast with the clipper bow Peterson drew on many of his other designs. High bulwarks, lots of freeboard and broad teak decks enhance the yacht’s big-boat feel. Also, because the house has been kept small, there is room for wide side decks, making the yacht’s beam seem much broader than 9 feet.

Below deck, every bit of precious space has been used brilliantly. Up forward are a simple nav station, a galley and two V-berths that can be expanded to sleep four. The galley is fitted with a two-burner Force 10 stove and oven that is concealed by the counter when not in use. To port there is a fully enclosed head with additional storage space.

The joinery is bright finished teak, mahogany and cypress cedar, and the house overhead is painted off-white in the Herreshoff style. Countless traditional details abound, including deck prisms, bronze hardware from Davey & Co. in Colchester, England; wooden blocks from Dauphinée; and an antique Japanese binnacle, complete with a kerosene lantern.

Since launching Katy in August, the Manns wasted no time at the dock. After a few shakedown cruises off Cape Cod, the new owners headed for the Gulf of Maine in their rugged little cutter. Future trips include a passage to Bermuda and some time in the Caribbean. Some might consider those ambitious plans for a traditionally fitted, 30-foot boat, but after all, Joshua Slocum’s Spray was only 7 feet longer and could make 100 miles on a good day. The Manns don’t have any plans to circumnavigate, but they are certainly confident in the boat’s ability as a passagemaker. In Katy, Peterson’s enduring design, Crosby’s skill as a builder and Frank Mann’s vision for a traditional bluewater cruiser have come together in a handsome and able yacht that will serve, as Susan has, for generations.

By Ocean Navigator