The American Worker: Beetle Cat Sail Boat, Example of American Craftsmanship

The Beetle Cat -- a small single sail vessel 12-feet long and half as wide -- is an iconic symbol of New England - made the same way since 1921.

The pre-fab vessel was first designed in the days when the Beetle family of New Bedford, Mass. promised customers they could build a whaleboat in less than two days. The pieces were precut and the boat builders would work around the clock.

Almost a century later, the 4,000 Beetle Cats are still being made the same way, says
Bill Womack, owner of the Beetle Boat Shop.

On this Labor Day, FOX News celebrates the small business owner in our The American Worker series.

Click here for a video report on the Beetle Cat

"Our shop is very much a traditional wood boat shop and that is plank on frame and we have oak frames and we have cedar or wood planking on top of that," says Womack.

With a thick southern accent Womack doesn't fit the mold of a Yankee boat builder, but his proud little company traces its fortunes along the lines of American history.

Their building process was so innovative and their method so legend that Henry Ford stopped by to study the precursor to his famous car assembly line.

As the whaling industry died away the Beetles turned their attention to pleasure craft - and almost 90 years later - even in the midst of a recession - they're still going strong.

"Lord knows we're very fortunate for that and I think it's because of the basic product - the basic Beetle Cat sailboat," says Womack. "We'll build ten, twelve, fifteen of these a year."

These little boats are made with an attention to detail rarely seen in modern mass production. The wooden planks are steamed and rushed to a hull that sits on a frame made in 1946.

"A wood boat builder in today's world is more of an artist than a laborer if you will - or the term would be shipwright," says Womack.

They've built more than 4,000, and with their rainbow sails and colorful cat inspired names they race through the seas.

Many have been handed down -- generation to generation like heirlooms -- and they become a part of the family.

"You develop that sense of belonging to each other, and for someone to miss that and not enjoy that while they're out on the sea, they've missed out on a big part of life," says Womack.

Molly Line joined Fox News Channel as a Boston-based correspondent in January 2006.