Monday, February 2, 2009

About the boat...

Spartina is a Pathfinder open cockpit yawl designed by John Welsford of New Zealand.  I first read about his boats when I came across David Perillo's tale of a ten-month cruise in a Welsford-designed Navigator.  That got my attention!
The Navigator is obviously a great boat, but my eye was drawn to the slightly larger Pathfinder.  She is 17' 4" length on deck with a beam of 6' 5".  The yawl rig carries about 162 square feet of sail between the gaff-rigged main, mizzen and jib.
I'm not a boat builder or even a woodworker.  But I really wanted a boat that I could use for cruising so I decided to give it a go.  Advice was easily found both from John himself - he's very accessible over the internet - and the jw builders discussion group.  It turned out to be a learn as you go project from my experience.  The initial work is pretty basic - cutting frames from 3/8 plywood.  Then add stiffeners, brackets, supports.  Next, scarf the bottom panel out of two sheets of 1/2" plywood.  Mount the frames, then add stringers (that's the stage you see in the photo above).  Doing the first batch of planks is a little tricky, but each plank after that gets easier.  
I built my boat in about 20 months (but I confess I went a little crazy doing it, working five evenings during the week and six or seven hours each day on weekend).  As I said I'm not a woodworker so the boat is a lot like me - rough around the edges.  More of a work boat finish than a yacht finish.  But what is important to me is that she is both solid and  true to John's design.  
The name Spartina comes from both the cordgrass that lines salt marshes and one of my all time favorite books, Spartina by John Casey.  The novel, a 1989 National Book Award winner , is about a fisherman and boat builder that lives in the backwater salt marshes of Rhode Island.  He is struggling to build his boat, realizing at the same time that the world has become too small for people like himself.  A great read.
I think the name Spartina is appropriate as the Pathfinder, with cb and rudder raised, can sail in very shallow water.  Some of my best memories of cruises are skirting the edges those Spartina marshes under just mizzen and jib, ghosting along and enjoying the beauty of nature.

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