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by Rik van der Vaart - Aruba - The Dutch Caribbean

To start a small boat build without much risk, I built a Sam Devlin S&G 8.5' Sandpiper and called her "Nemo". The build was very instructive and I gained some boat building confidence. Once the hull was stitched up I realized that the boat was too small. Nevertheless it was a good idea to start out small so that the project did not take up too much space in the garden to evoke too much resistance from the family. Today I sail Nemo regularly with my 6 year old; It takes 20 minutes from the house to the sea. The sail rig is a very small gaff rig without boom. The sail was made by Duckworks and works perfect.

A week after Nemo's first splash, I ordered the Pathfinder's design from John Welsford. It is a lapstrake 17.5' boat, capable of taking 5 adults for a day sail. Its smaller sister design, the Navigator has been around for a long time and has a proven record of seaworthiness and build-ability. I chose the Pathfinder instead of the Navigator because I wanted a larger boat for a similar build-effort. The Pathfinder design allows for sleeping in the boat without changing the seating arrangements. Thinking ahead of the many opportunities to take others along for sunset sails here in Aruba, I also wanted to build something large enough to take others along. The apparent seaworthiness of the Pathfinder compared with other designs of other designers was another major factor for my choice of building her. The New Zeeland's waters are amongst the roughest on the world. Our Caribbean waters can get rough quickly also and the trade winds blow constantly with a 20+ knot speed. The lee end of the island provides very nice protection from the large ocean waves. One mile from the coast and this protection is gone and the waves quickly become large. "Safety above all" together with the urge to sail adventurous made me instinctively and rationally choose the strongest looking design. I trust John Welsford's years of experience with boat designs for amateurs like me.

The build is still in progress as can be seen here. The paint-the-inside phase is approaching fast and the decking and seating assembly steps follow. The strength of the boat is beyond my expectations. The structural strength of the honeycombed panels glued by the epoxy fillets is enormous. At this point I acquired a feeling of trust in this boat, even though it is not finished yet, that it will give me safe passages wherever I go.

Besides the strength of the design and build method, the beauty of the design in itself made me want to build her. The Dutch Botters look a lot like the Patfinder design, in my opinion. The flat bottoms used in the Netherlands for fishing are still in use and a joy to watch in action. They are mostly double ended lapstrake designs. The Pathfinder has a transom instead. But together with the ordered tanbark sails, the low gunwales aft and the strong vertical bow, many people will wonder whether this boat has strayed too far from the Ijsselmeer...

All hardware to be installed on her comes from Duckworks of course since this is the only place I could quickly get what I needed. Thanks to Chuck and Sandra's excellent long distance service I know that whatever I need for this and other builds, they will deliver.

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