Hatching a plan.

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Pathfinder build, autumn and winter projects.

Blog time : it’s November 2021 and a thoroughly wet and cold west-country autumn . Where we are, which is just west of Dartmoor UK is one of the wettest parts of the country alongside much of Wales and the English lake district. We are essentially right next to a huge mass of warm-ish water called the Atlantic ocean and being the first bit of land that the normal , and normally damp, westerly airstream meets high ground then a lot of it falls on us here. As i write it’s just gone 3 on a very wet afternoon and iv’e already covered the boat over with it’s tent under the shelter, closed the workshop and set the various rain cachments to ‘dump’ mode.

Last night we had the heaviest rain that we’ve had for a very long time and this morning i woke up to mt neighbor knocking on the back door and telling me that we’ve got a new drainage problem – too long to explain here but we have both a stormwater drain problem , old (1840) slate drains and now a blocked shared garden drain cum sewer line. Most of you know how this goes – heavy and dirty nasty work…..i even had to hack my way through brambles and heave a couple of hundred Kg of rocks and debris out of another drain sump before i finally got it running again. More and more heavy rain due again tonight but at least our emergency back up system will be working tonight.

This morning and in fact most of this week iv’e just done a bit of work on the boat in between heavy bouts of rain ; today just as an example i spent a couple of hours just sanding some of the rough epoxy fillets , getting rid of epoxy runs and dribbles and sanding the planks ready to coat. At this rate i’ll be sanding on and off for several days but it doesn’t matter because there’s no good reason to start epoxy coating plywood when the humidity is this high. This morning i made a quick run into town to buy some more ‘Delta’ sanding disks and a hot air gun….in fact i bought all the delta disks that the Screwfix store had on their shelf …..which wasn’t many but the young lady said that they’ll get a load in for me.

Working on the boat’s compartments earlier in the build – during planking

So…..this is the first post in my autumn and winter series of small project posts on the Pathfinder build – as of this week i have stopped working on the main build full time and instead i’m working in the garden when it’s not too wet, working inside when it is and only working on the boat for short periods when it’s dry. Just as a quick recap – my main goal was to finish the hull this year and ideally by the onset of the wet and windy autumnal weather ; well, i got the hull fully planked but i haven’t covered the outside with glassfibre and epoxy because i haven’t turned the boat over and i haven’t done that because the boat isn’t ready to turn over yet. My main job now is to prepare the rest of the inside of the hull for epoxy coating , those parts that i haven’t done so far and that’s mainly the top 2 pairs of stringers and the top 2 pairs of planks but there are also all of the various fillets and joints to smooth and cut back a bit……lots and lots of detail. That job , as any boatbuilder knows, is just hours and hours spent with various sanders and lots of different grades of sandpaper and the many different sanding blocks that iv’e made…..2 for example that match the radius of the epoxy fillets. So anyway, i do a couple of hours sanding whenever iv’e got nothing better to do while i also think about some of the nicer small jobs.

This month my project within the build is to work out, mark out and cut out where all of the boat’s access and inspection hatches are going to go : at this stage iv’e worked out that there’s a total of 15 hatches and inspection ports to prepare for and fit plus the 2 larger access hatches into the galley and icebox which i’m going to do as a separate project. Just to say that my build is slightly different to the standard plans in that iv’e installed my centerboard off-center and there are another couple of changes in the offing but even John’s original plans have the 5 access hatches, currently seen as holes, just in the cockpit and plenty more forward. One difference in my build is that i didn’t make any cut-outs in the bow girder or any in the frames as i intend that all of my boat’s compartments will be sealed and watertight…..that’s one of my main preparatory strategies for a potential capsize or large amount of water getting into the boat. In a way this post is the first one in how i’m dealing practically with the open boat risks which i’m talking about in parallel posts.

In the above (first) photograph you can see the bow compartment and what will become the forward watertight compartment, then 2 stages of under-floor (sole) compartments but broken into 4 because of the centerline girder, then, in the middle of the boat are the 2 largest under-floor compartments which as with the forward ones will all have sealed tops. Of the 2 big compartments alongside the centerboard case the forward one is divided by a small additional centerline bulkhead which allows access to the centerboard pivot bolt. That small compartment is going to also have ballast in it when i get around to working out how much i want to put in there and then cast the lead ingots. Anyway, that little compartment has one access hatch over the bolt head which lets me get a big spanner on it (it’s an M24 bolt !) and then in line with the bolt head in the small fore and aft bulkhead is another 4 inch inspection port which would allow me to draw the bolt out should i ever have to…..and while we’re there also another 4 inch port over where i would have to work.

Inspection/access ports going in forrad.

What i haven’t worked out in detail yet is that the larger part of that big compartment is going to be the boat’s main water storage area although i don’t yet know what the water will be stored in ; there are 2 main possibilities and the one i currently favor is to have 3 of MSR’s (Mountain Safety Research) 10 litre ‘Dromedary’ bags which are basically tough and well made water bags. Iv’e had a smaller one ( 2 litre) for at least the last 20 years as part of my long distance hiking kit and it’s lasted the course where many plastic ones have cracked or given up. With those, if i go down that route, i’ll make some way of securing each one in place and have some kind of tube/pipe to each one and some way of drawing the drinking water up from any one. In terms of weigh and ballast of course that would be 30 litres thus 30 Kg under that part of the sole and right in the middle of the boat-right where it should be…..low down. Just to add at this stage that i want a total water capacity in normal use of around 60 litres just as i had aboard my last boat.

Working aft.

The larger compartment just ahead of the cockpit foot well is the largest single compartment under the boat’s sole and as with the forward one it’s also going to be divided into 2 – what looks like the beginning of a box and another fore/aft bulkhead is going to be a battery compartment inboard, right up against the centerboard case and then a large sealed dry compartment which will probably be the main food locker and dry stuff stowage area…..the other food storage area is going to be a decent sized icebox to be built into the large locker outboard of the centerboard case. The main access into the dry stuff compartment will most likely be an off the shelf conventional hinged hatch well outboard as that locker cover will also be a place to sit on, stand on and my chart table and cookery prep area. Just to add at this stage that my battery/power plan is to have a large , 140 Ah deep cycle sealed AGM (absorbed glass mat) battery which will weigh-in and 45 Kg….forming part of the ballast plan. That compartment will be sealed with only an access port over the battery terminals and i have no plan to remove or access the battery body….it’s reckoned to have a 15-20 service life and i don’t intend to have to change it in normal use.

One small job that i’m working on this week is to make the fore and aft bulkhead for that compartment and fit a large soleboard bearer to span the locker and support the large plywood board which is only 9mm ply….it was either make a bearer or buy a sheet of much thicker plywood – i had some 70 x 20 mm stock left so it’s getting a piece of that as ‘floor’ bearer.

Cockpit lockers.

One thing that i worked on seriously was a plan to reduce the cockpit foot-well volume by about half – i worked the numbers on that one because the footwell is the one open place that would take a huge volume of seawater in the event of down-flooding but at the moment that one is on hold because it would make the cockpit less functional in most conditions and as i explain in the risks posts it’s ‘normal’ that i want to plan for. To be honest iv’e never been in a boat that’s taken an enormous amount of water over the side or stern…..enough that would endanger the boat except once in the Southern ocean when we were genuinely ‘pooped’ in a 40 knot plus gale. I do have to consider the risk though but at this stage what i’m thinking about more is putting the water back where it belongs and quickly if any of it gets aboard.

One of my reasons for keeping the relatively large cockpit area , even given that i’ll sail solo a lot of the time, is that some amount of kit will normally be kept there – i’m planning on my reserve water (2 x 10 liter containers) being at the forward end of the pit and one of my anchors will live at the aft end. In normal practice i deploy and retrieve my anchor/s from the cockpit – a practice that i developed aboard my last boat which had poor access forward. While i think about that i should also mention that my boat won’t have the anchor well in it’s foredeck because i don’t like having that much weight in the bow and there will probably be a big cuddy top in between cockpit and foredeck.

More simply the cockpit lockers are the currently bare compartments around the currently full sized footwell and they’re already cut out for 4 and 5 inch inspection hatches. The locker tops will be formed by the cockpit seats and i haven’t started to make those yet and won’t do until we get dry weather. During today’s work i was having a good look at the cockpit lockers and working out where best to site the 2 bilge pumps that the boat is going to have….one each side i think so i can pump from whichever side i’m sat on and maybe a kayak pump ……and several BOSS’s as well.


  1. Really enjoy your blog and following your Pathfinder build. I’ve found myself thinking along similar lines- Scamp, Pathfinder, Navigator, etc. I’m leaning toward a Scamp- build looks easier, will fit in the garage, etc. But I do love the lines of the Pathfinder.

    If it were me I would rethink your battery strategy. I’ve felt with several fiberglass boats where the builders built in tanks, wiring, etc. that were inaccessible. Batteries do fail, and the next owner will thank you.


  2. Steve, thank you for your continuing and detailed record of your Pathfinder build, I very much appreciate the clear and detailed photographs you provide as well. I have a question regarding build space – I have a location that could work for the assembly, but it is just 9 feet inside width. In your experience, would this make it too difficult to build a Pathfinder in?


    1. I’m sorry to answer your question with another question but are you on the JW forum ?, if you are then the best thing for me to do would be to take some measurements here and put those in a post for the forum to discuss….that way you’d get much better answers than i can because this is my one and only boat build that iv’e done at home. Cheers


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