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Sailing Through Life: The Story of Robin Pinfold – An Energetic Octogenarian & His Adventurous Journey

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Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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Robin Pinfold is an energetic octogenarian who walks half marathons in the noon day sun. He is a nimble ole sailor who loves to sail, cook and be a part of his grandchildren’s colorful island life. He always has a story to share with us all, so I felt it was time to share his story with you.

I met Robin and his family when I was running Soper’s Hole Marina in West End Tortola, in 1989. His children Thomas and Tasha were very small and running around the marina all the time while daddy was daysailing KURALU the family home and day sailing business there. One day I heard a howl and little Thomas had managed to ride his bicycle off the quay into the warm clear waters of. the marina. He was not happy but that is another story.

Robin was born in Arbroath, Scotland, near Montrose on the east coast of Scotland. His father was a flying instructor for the RAF, so when his parents were abroad Robin went to boarding school, sailing was not an option at this time of his life.

It is rumored however, that his first dip in the sea as a small tyke was in the cold clear waters of Bude, near Cornwall.  

Pillar of BVI’s Day Sails – Captain Robin Pinfold
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Years later he went to Ibiza where his illustrious sailing career began. Once as mate on a motor sailor in the Bay of Biscay, his captain saw the barometer plummeting and calmly said ‘prepare to meet your maker’. Shortly thereafter Robin, who was off watch, awakened to a huge crash as the boat took a knock down which blew out the windows in the main salon, flooding the cabin. Using his adrenaline he tore the salon table from the cabin sole and used a Spanish windlass to lash it over the gaping holes to the keel stepped mast nearby. His quick thinking and actions earned him the respect of the captain and as I am told he was amply rewarded for his efforts.   

Later, while a mate on a small daysailer in Ibiza, he happened upon ELELE at the dock there in 1981. The previous owner bought the boat to offer guests an ‘experience of a lifetime’ but soon lost interest and like so many vessels of distinction it languished at the dock. ELELE was built in 1901 and was a Whitstable Oyster Smack. She was a gaff rigged cutter, thirty nine foot on deck but fifty eight foot overall as the main boom overhung the stern by a yard and the pine bowsprit was an impressive nineteen foot over the bow. She was a versatile craft which Robin sailed for years.

While in Ibiza Robin met his future wife Caroline who became a master varnisher and an accomplished mate and partner.  Over time, they met a Dutchman named Harm who owned a double ended schooner named GASTEN which resembled Noah’s Arc and they decided to cross the pond and sail to the Caribbean in 1983. Fond memories of rum, freshly baked bread and other pungent aromas from GASTEN still linger. Once in Antigua many of Robin’s mates decided to remain there, however Harm and Robin decided to sail on and ventured North to the Leeward Islands.

As years went by Robin sold ELELE and returned to Europe where he made the transition to faster and more modern watercraft. In fact when he entered the first ARC race with two hundred and fifteen boats at the start line, Robin was in a fleet of seven, thirty seven foot Snowgoose Prout catamarans, where Robin finished first in his class.

When Robin returned to the Leeward’s with his family in 1987 he was aboard Kuralu a larger Quasar forty nine foot Prout Cat, which was his new family’s home and business as a daysailer operating out of Soper’s Hole In West End, Tortola. He would prepare fresh quiches aboard while the guests snorkeled and made sure they were well cared for. In fact I’m told he received a five thousand dollar tip from a wealthy Venezuelan which has to be some sort of record in the daysail business.

That being said, Robin is worth every penny as he continues to surprise us all with his wit, humorous acumen, and colorful past and future here in the BVI. 

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