The Canadian-built TomCat 9.7 is a truly unique cruising cat that packs a lot of design innovation, advanced build-technique and useful living spaces into a small package.
There are a few small cruising cats on the market, but the CE Category A certified TomCat 9.7 is the only one to combine a full 16 feet of beam (two-to-one length-to-beam ratio) for performance and stability with a fully oceangoing coach roof and interior accommodations. Designed by retired electrical engineer Ted Strain and built by his son Tom, who is an experienced sailor and offshore cruiser, the 9.7 is made to do a lot of things well.
RUDDERS AND CENTERBOARD
With kick up rudders and an innovative centerline centerboard mounted in a small nacelle, the cat is capable of sailing in 18 inches of water and can be beached while picnicking or for routine bottom painting. The rudders and centerboard are managed from the helm with a simple cable-driven lifting mechanism.
The centerboard is one of the coolest innovations on the boat. Normally, cats have their daggerboards mounted in both hulls, so you have to lower the leeward one and retract the windward one whenever you tack. Daggerboards require internal daggerboard boxes in both hulls, which take up space and break up the flow fore and aft in the hulls. On larger cats, this is not a serious problem; on small cruising cats, space is truly at a premium. Mounting the board in a nacelle has the added benefit of adding a wave-dampening shape to the bridge deck, which tends to diffuse the slapping of square waves that rise between the hulls. The bridgedeck has two feet of clearance all the way aft.
Underway, with the rudders and the centerboard down, the boat becomes quite close winded and easy to tack. The NACA foil section of the centerboard adds lift, and being on the centerline balances the boat amazingly well. The 9.7 will literally steer herself in most wind angles.
The propulsion system of the 9.7 is also unique and practical. The hulls were designed to take two small outboards in outboard wells. The simple solution is to fit out the boat with two 9.9 horsepower, high-thrust outboards mounted on sliding tracks. Weighing only 100 pounds each, the outboards reduce overall weight. A simple block and tackle system allows you to raise and lower the engines in shallow water or when you want to perform routine service.
The cockpit and steering arrangements aboard the 9.7 pack a lot into a relatively small space. The cockpit is open aft, but closed in with a stainless steel frame and bench seat that runs across the transom. This can be adapted to house dinghy davits, a solar panel array, a radome and even a wind generator.
The helm station is amidships, where you have excellent visibility through the windows forward. Two helm chairs are provided so you and your mate can handle the boat and navigate side by side in the shade.
Fixed cockpit covers are always a design challenge aboard cruising cats. They can look like an afterthought or worse. The Strains have come up with a design solution that looks very natural built atop the coach roof. It is shaped like a traditional monohull’s dodger and has large, tinted windows all around. The top of the hard dodger is another good place to mount solar panels.
Down below, the 9.7 has a dinette amidships that will seat six for dinner. The table-leaves fold down when not in use to open up the bench seats for lounging. The nav station is mounted on the centerline bulkhead facing aft and has a small seat tucked under it.
The galley lies in the starboard hull and has a ton of counter space, a large side-loading fridge, stainless steel sinks and proper seagoing stove and oven. There is ample storage space for extended cruising and plenty of ventilation for those cruising and cooking in the tropics.
The master cabin is tucked under the coach roof just forward of the dinette. The seven-foot-long queen-size bunk lies under the forward windows, so you can lounge in bed and stargaze or close off the windows with shades. Curtains on the forward end of the dinette close off the master berth. But, this is all in a 32-foot boat, so quarters are close and privacy somewhat scant.
The head is amidships in the port hull and doubles as a dressing room and shower. Guest cabins are tucked into the aft end of the hulls. These can be closed off with solid wood doors or left open and only curtained off to save weight.
The 9.7 is a remarkably livable small cruiser. The needs of live aboards and real cruisers have been addressed everywhere you look. The hulls and decks are sophisticated, vacuum-bagged, foamcored structures that are light and strong. The Strains work with some of the most experienced laminate builders in the world so they can customize a boat with ultra-light carbon fiber parts that can reduce overall weight by 10 percent or more.
The 9.7 can be built on a semi custom basis. There are a number of configurations available below decks and a range of interesting options for gear and equipment on deck. The Strains were sailors first, so they know what works and what doesn’t out there. The 9.7 reflects all of that knowledge, experience and seagoing acumen. Plus, the boat is remarkably affordable.
Draft 5’0” (CB down)
Draft 1’6” (CB up)
Displ. 4,800 lbs. (light)
Displ. 7,600 lbs. (cruising)
Sail Area 470 sq. ft. (working)
Mast height 45’0”
Water 35 gals.
Fuel 24 gals.
Holding 20 gals.
Base price $169,000 (Canadian)
Caledon, Ont., Canada