Nowadays, tracing the Trotter Pandora’s history is somewhat difficult, because all the archives of Van de Stadt, who died not that long ago, are in the hands of a journalist who is publishing a book on the Van de Stadt heritage in September 2001. The book will be accompanied by a CD-ROM, which will include all the Van de Stadt designs, including the Trotter Pandora. As good as that may be, it also means that sail-plans, deck layouts and interior-drawings are not available at the moment. I hope to be able to put them on our site in September or sooner if I can get my hands on them earlier.
The very first Pandora plunged into the water in 1962, built by Van de Stadt’s own Shipyard, just north west of Amsterdam. The hull of this Pandora was based on another ’62 Van de Stadt designs: the “Randmeer”. The Randmeer is named after the “Rim Lakes”; which lie in between the Dutch mainland and the polders created in the IJsselmeer and are characterized by long stretches of relatively open, but very shallow water. The Randmeer was, and still is, a very successful open day sailer with a shallow keel – center-plate configuration.
The Pandora on the other hand had a fin keel and was considered in those days to be a four person family boat.. How society has changed. The low freeboard of the Randmeer design (which can be seen at www.rko.nl the site of the Randmeer Class Organization) however made the interior somewhat cramped and a higher freeboard was needed to make the boat safer. Therefore the hull was adapted to these new demands. With this new hull and the original deck- and interior mouldings the now named Trotter Pandora became a great success for Van de Stadt.
It is typical of so many of his designs of those days, characterized by its round shapes, the keyhole entrance, round hatches on fore- and afterdeck and it’s patent Van de Stadt reefing system. (Little hooks on the boom and elastic bands in the mainsail for quick and easy reefing)
The PBO-article writes about this boat as being “a scaled down version of offshore yachts”; in fact it was based on the 9-meter “Pioneer”, which was used by the first Dutchman who sailed solo around the world in the early Seventies. These boats are sought after today as “classics”.
The Trotter Pandora was meant as a family boat cruising the Dutch inland waters, lake IJsselmeer and the Zeeland-estuaries, the latter being tidal waters with occasional strong currents and -being mainly open to the south-west, an often unexpected seaway.
Van de Stadt was not the only shipyard building the Trotter Pandora. The design was used by boatyards in the UK, USA, Japan and Australia. When visiting Hong Kong in 1985 I saw quite a few Pandora’s sailing, but I could not find out where they were built.
Van de Stadt sold his shipyard to Dehler and concentrated on his still existing Van de Stadt design bureau. Thereafter in Holland the Peulen Shipyard near Maastricht in the far southeastern part of the Netherlands produced the Trotter Pandora (from 1972 to 1982). A few years ago the moulds were unfortunately destroyed, so no new Trotter Pandora’s can be built here.
The boats Peulen built have undergone major changes: they were equipped with the retousse stern and the inboard rudder, well know in the UK too. I’ve heard two reasons for these modifications: the first one being following the fashion of the day and having the longer waterline increasing her speed within the IOR-rules and the second being a letter from Germany.
In this letter, a German yachtsman thanked Van de Stadt for his excellent design of the Trotter Pandora, which saved his life when he came across some groundswell in the Ostsee. His Trotter Pandora made a 360-degree roll, taking the Pandora’s wet sailing reputation to its limit. The little boat (with her cabin doors in place) turned upright without any damage done. That is to say, with one exception: the transom-hung rudder was gone. A good reason to replace it by the inboard rudder of later versions. The truth is most likely with the first reason, but probably like the majority of you I prefer the second one.
The Trotter Pandora’s of that generation all had a larger IOR-style rig i.e. Taller masts, smaller mainsails, larger Genoa’s etc.. Although I did not have the time to thoroughly check it, in my 20 years of being a Trotter Pandora enthusiast, I have never seen a Dutch TP with twin or triple keels or Centreplate so I assume they were only built with fin keels.
The last version of the Dutch Trotter Pandora, once again built by Peulen, saw it’s birth in the very early 1980′s. Higher cockpit coamings for more comfort, an extended cabin for a roomier accommodation and a sliding hatch here too made for a different and new looking yacht. It was not a great success, however: only a handful were built, so this is probably the rarest of all Trotter Pandora’s in the world. In retrospect they told me at Peulen that changing the keyhole-door to the sliding hatch was maybe not the best of the improvements created.
As written earlier, I had no access to the Van de Stadt data and Peulen never numbered their Trotters, so I can not tell you how many Dutch Trotters were built and sold. They are however still plenty seen; all major Dutch Sailmakers have the sail-plan and they are still regularly offered for sale. (Usually between HFL 3000,- to HFL 15.000,- depending on their state and equipment). Pandora’s of the first generation are more difficult to find and often in a poor state after some 35 years of service.
To illustrate the Dutch developments of our little boats, I have images of all the types discussed. The pictures of “Simply Red” show you a Pandora of the first generation (What I call a Mk1).
In the little time available for writing this, I couldn’t take pictures of a Trotter Pandora Mk2, but the boat bought by Oliver Drägert in Berlin is exactly what I would name one, so his photographs show us this model very well indeed.
The pictures of “Blue Bird” and my own boat (waiting for its major overhaul to last her safely for another 30 years) show you the Mk3. Pictures and drawings out of the Peulen folder bring you the final version of the Trotter Pandora sailing Dutch waters.
Given some further time to spend on it I am hoping to update the research already done on the Van de Stadt archives and to inform more in detail you later on.
Having sailed a borrowed Van de Stadt-build TP Mk 1 first and my own Peulen-build Mk2 afterwards, I can still remember the remarkable differences I found between these two boats.
The Van de Stadt-boat seemed a sturdier build, with much thicker glass-fiber being used. There were even small steel supports in the middle of each window. The lesser weight (?), the longer waterline and larger sails of my own Peulen-boat make her a lot faster. The inboard balanced rudder makes her react on the slightest movement of the helm. This can be negatively interpreted as her being a nervous ship, but positively as a little yacht that has the advantages of a cabin cruiser but give you all the joy of dinghy sailing. Needless to say I favor the latter opinion.
Although, I personally prefer the looks of the original design with transom hung rudder and the sturdy way in which Van de Stadt built his boats, I must admit that my own boat has always brought me home safely and sails excellently, even in adverse conditions on the North Sea.
Buying the boat when I was 20 and it costing me all I could afford. I still dreamed of sailing her across the Atlantic. Sadder and wiser today, I know that will probably never happen, but I still hope to sail her some day to Abersoch and see if we can hold out against the British Pandoras!
© Jan Gramsma