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By Perry Burton - Holyrood, Newfoundland - Canada

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Back several years ago when I started building my own John Welsford Pathfinder, I had some restrictions on the size of boat I could build, most notably was my shop space and exit door. Even the spray rail had to be a certain size to ensure the boat would make it through the opening, it was that close. But in the end, the boat made out into the light, and had a busy summer cruising the many bays and coves of Newfoundland.

The Exploits islands had ideal winds and nice sheltered coves to spend a night or two in.

Random Island had a large shallow run for fishing and sailing with pebbled beaches for riding the Pathfinder upon.

There were many other notable places that the Pathfinder have seen, and most involved some trailering behind my car to get there.

Fast set up, easy launch and loads of room for gear, it has been a gem to sail. However my gaff rigged version has spent much of its time travelling under a reefed sail in 20+ knot winds, and under a double reef on a couple of occasions in 30 knot gusts, but that was heading for shelter with 2 hardy and adventurous buddies aboard.

It’s easy to achieve over 7 knot speeds in that kind of wind. That being said, Newfoundland also gets more than its share of rain, drizzle and fog in the same day. I have often been caught out in a rain squall, not due to my inattention to forecasting but simply due to the fact that I have a limited time for sailing.

If I waited for a sunny windy day, I might not get on the water at all. That leaves me heading for cover or a sheltered cove.

A boom tent does not serve well under sail, and setting up in the rain has its own drawbacks and an unhappy crew.

Since the launch I have thought of adding a cabin to the Pathfinder but wanted to get a few seasons in before I made up my mind.

Now after season two and enough sailings to know what my needs are, I have decided to add a cabin. This conclusion has not come around easily. Those of you considering adding a cabin to their boat know all the reasons for and against so I won’t make it worse by listing them. It really depends on the climate you live in and what weather you expect to be normally sailing in.

I made a couple of sketches and showed them to various friends and asked their honest opinion. The reactions were positive and most just questioned if it could be done. They were under the impression that once built you could not just hack away at a boat in such a way, removing the spray rail, cutting into the deck, and so on without making a total mess of it. I never heard of such a rule so here I am; at a crossroads preparing to cut up a perfectly functional sailboat add a cabin to my Pathfinder. What sealed approval of my budget for this folly? I told my loving wife of the added privacy of going potty in a cabin.

John Welsford has cabin plans for the Pathfinder and he sells them on the Duckworks site, but I am drawing up my own plans based on pictures of other cabin pathfinders and similar styled boats.

Many pictures were taken and studied from wooden boat magazines in places where nice cabin ideas were. All were morphed into the concept drawing. Trying to achieve the necessary space inside without ruining the look of the Pathfinders beautiful lines was probably the most critical thing. If I couldn’t make it look right the whole plan would be scrapped, but it looks like it could work.

Something to point out about the working conditions.

I have no garage to store my boat in this winter and no place to work on the Pathfinder until Spring thaw, A minor complication. Much of the cabin will need to be completed before I cut any decking. And the only real critical dimension I need is from the back side of Frame #2 to the back side of Frame #4. This is the length of the cabin and where it will be fixed in place. With unseasonably warm weather I managed to remove the tarp from the rear of the boat and climb inside with my scrap lumber jig to get my measurements. After clamping the pieces in place I got my measurement of 57” [1448mm] from the front side of the forward scrap wood to the forward side of the rear scrap jig.

For anyone interested in doing something similar I will be making my drawings cutting and fitting and changing the drawings as I see issues crop up. In the end I’ll have a set of useable drawings that a Pathfinder owner can safely use to modify their own sailboat. These will be in a pdf form along with full size templates, probably posted when i’m in the painting phase.

Next on the list, I will use my initial drawings to cut my plywood parts inside my workshop and start the building jig for the cabin.

Drawings (Click to Download)


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