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by Robin Cotterell Trevors - St Kitts & Nevis - West Indies

Having sailed from my early childhood, when my Father decided to build a pram dinghy in Singapore, I have been fortunate enough to sail a number of craft over the years from 14 ft Bermuda Fitted Dinghies, multihulls and the family home, a 60ft Herbulot schooner.

The one thing I have learned is that there are no supermarkets, hardware stores, mechanics or maintenance experts offshore on the oceans or on far flung islands and places. As a result, with the help of others, one develops a "Can Do" or "Have A Go Attitude". I have always believed that you don't own a boat until you have drilled your first hole in it!

So whilst living in the Caribbean I realized that owning a cruising yacht which spent its time in a hurricane zone on a mooring or when we had to travel for family reasons, required hauling and maintaining, was expensive and a major chore. It's cheaper and easier to bare boat charter a boat in the area where you want to sail.

Nevertheless, I really enjoy messing about in boats as "Ratty" from Toad Hall would say! So as a result I started looking into having a cruising dinghy that I could pull out of the water and store in my garden when severe weather was imminent.

On the beach

The fishing boats in the Caribbean are designed to be pulled up the beach on heavy duty water pipe rollers. They are carvel planked and very heavy with a length of between 16 and 20ft, sporting a 40 hp outboard.

So I started looking for a boat in the range of 18ft. light enough weight it could be rolled up the beach while being towed by a small car. I wanted a classic looking vessel, safe to go to sea, plenty of buoyancy and light enough to be able to move at good speed and also one with construction that was easy enough for me to maintain on my own.

I liked the Pathfinder the minute I came upon the plans with a description of its concepts and mission. I liked the idea of experimenting with the gaff rigged ketch and the use of sprit booms (which I had experienced on an Yves Tanton 43). Further, I was impressed with a design that used plywood and epoxy and made the boat structurally strong, easy to build and fix, and although it looked like an old fashioned dinghy, had a flat bottom designed to provide ease of beaching. A flat run aft a smooth curve forward blending into a beautiful bow and bow sprit which allowed the boat to get up on the plane and give her "uncommon speed"

I did not have the time or patience to build a boat from scratch. However, a good friend of mine in St. Kitts of Pleasant Yachts agreed to build the boat for me. This would allow me to pop in every now and again and see how he was getting on and also consult on questions that might arise. Thus without building the boat I had a hands on feeling of her build, which would be important when I wanted to modify her.

The other thing that has helped me considerably has been the Builders Forum at

This forum is great because it is comprised of builders, tinkerers and sailors, thus there is a cross pollination between all the participants. Quite often we will have builders who are meticulous building their boat over three or four years, who come to the end of the build and then don't know how to rig and sail their boat. But there is always someone there to help with a good dose of humour. We have first time builders who are scratching their heads on dimensions or how to bend some wood or how to protect and finish their pride and joy. There is always someone with advice given with good heart.

As I have said I did not build my boat but I have spent time learning how to make things (like the rig) work, modifying and testing it.

So let me give you some of the things that make my boat Quan Yin tick for me.

The centerboard had no centerboard flaps so the water surged up and down inside the centerboard slowing the boat and making a lot of noise. The centerboard flaps solved the problem and improved speed significantly.

New Skeg Centerboard Flaps

Trying to put the mast through the hole in the deck down to the mast step was a two man job, but I found I was standing on the forward deck and trying to put the mast through the hole which was treacherous! So we modified the configuration to an under deck tabernacle. If you look on the forum various solutions have been designed and installed in these boats so as to make rigging a single handed affair.

Underdeck tabernacle

I turned the boat over in the reef and found that the hatches which were of the press fit type, promptly blew off from the hull compression, allowing the boat to completely flood. Fortunately trapped air kept her afloat. Her type of construction enabled me to repair her within the week and I have subsequently installed threaded locking hatches.

It took a while for me to realize that the reason we turned over and could not surf out of trouble was because we had omitted to fit the skeg!! That was quickly rectified and waves are not so frightening!

I spent a lot of time fiddling with the rig especially the main sail. As the Gaff main is large I wanted it to be easily and quickly reefed single handed. So I started by designing lazy jacks. The lashing system on the luff I found cumbersome so I installed a SS track, and then I had to install quarter round rubbing strakes to stop the gaff's throat from being cut to pieces by the track! Finally I designed a bag to accept the sail as it was reefed or stowed - what a difference!

So as you can see, for me a lot of the satisfaction I get from owning this boat is not only her speed, sea worthiness, practicality and look but also it allows me to carry on the creative spirit of the designer and builder.

Checking out the new full battens and sail track
Sail Bag provides stowage and clears the decks
Sailbag incorporated with lazy jacks and topping lift
Main SS Track
Quan Yin sailing through the reefs

More pictures.

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