This design has been
a long time being born
There has been a lot of enquiry for a “bigger Navigator”.
Someone said, “One with room to sleep on a nice flat
space that doesn’t need rearrangement of the floorboards
to stretch out”. Another said, “I have a family
which is effectively four adults, and while Navigator will
accommodate that many, we’d like a boat just like that
but stretched a bit”. Others wanted more speed or more
range, a motor in a well inside, room for more gear, and so
on. Lots of enquiries.
I had in mind a really serious cruising dinghy. With full
buoyancy, lots of storage, about the maximum size that two
people could right if swamped in a hard chance, really capable
in a head sea ( a weakness in almost any small boat) and capable
of making some sort of progress in really nasty conditions.
A boat still really well adapted to exploring an estuary with
the family, cruising along a sunny coast or even just knocking
around the bay while Mum and Dad have a quiet snooze on the
beach, but capable of fulfilling the dreams of those who read
Frank and Margaret Dyes stories with far away looks in their
eyes, capable of really covering some miles, and capable of
doing so in the sort of weather that will eventually catch
up with every voyager.
My experience in sailing Navigators led me
to strongly favour a rig similar to the yawl
rig so popular on that design, she can heave to head to wind
with the mizzen sheeted hard on with the jib and main sheets
flying, will balance and sail well on jib and mizzen only
in really awful weather, can be sailed forwards, sideways
or backwards and will self steer on most points of sail. One
really good point of this rig is that the main lies straight
down the middle of the boat when you are putting a reef in,
much easier than a sloop where the boom
invariably hangs over the side.
I have though drawn a gaff sloop rig
for those who like to race in the old gaffers events, or who
are into daysailing more than cruising, it will offer more
speed upwind and slightly more downwind due to the greater
projected area of that big main, but for me the versatility
of the yawl is hard to beat.
I’d drawn the hull years ago, and built a scale model.
The numbers were all done and for some reason she ended up
being put away. I did pull the drawing out now and again,
I even asked the guys on Openboat forum (A yahoo group) what
they’d like in the way of a serious cruising dinghy.
Very recently the clamour got too much and I spent a couple
of days on her. The shape got altered a little to incorporate
some design lessons learned and I have almost all of the plans
done. I’m very pleased with the way she is shaping up.
This boat has a very high power to weight ratio, her extra
length over the 15 ft Navigator means a lot of extra sail
carrying ability and still having the fine lines necessary
for speed and comfort, I really like the rig, the gaff headed
main is very controllable and the extra spacing between the
main and mizzen will help the boat point well. She’ll
be a rocket reaching and running and I suspect that it will
take a very good boat to get away from her upwind.
The shape forward should mean she is a dry
boat, and the big foredeck and wide side decks will help the
crew to stay out of the spray, there are lots of dry storage
spaces for camping gear and stores, and the swinging centreboard
and rudder mean that she can be sailed into water as little
as knee deep.
The construction method is the same as Navigator, a flat bottom
panel substitutes for a keel, plywood frames are cut out and
erected on the bottom panel and stringers bent around, then
clinker lapped planks are laid over those. Most Navigator
builders have never built a boat before and I expect that
Pathfinder will be the same so I’ve stuck with my tried
and true methods.
She should take an experienced and motivated builder about
225 hours unpainted, you can think how much slower your own
skills would be in comparison and get an idea of how long
she would take you. She’s not beyond a winter of evenings
for a couple of keen friends and even for one it would not
be an impossible task.
I’m looking forward to seeing some of these around;
being honest I want to borrow one!
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