Moon Dancer

2024 March 1

A Hinckley Pilot 35 yawl turns out to be the perfect boat at the perfect time

Moon Dancer wasn’t a name that Rob and Kristin Browne chose for their Hinckley Pilot 35 yawl, but it turned out to be entirely appropriate, and like many things about the boat, it seemed meant to be.

Rob looks on as son Ben takes the helm. 
The Bristol, Rhode Island, couple, who bought the boat in 2019 with Rob’s father, found the 1974 yawl thanks to a tip from Rob’s uncle, and made an offer on the boat the same day they saw it, then returned to Jamestown, Rhode Island, to sail her home.

“As we pulled out of the boatyard, the worker who had forever been her keeper yelled to us, “You can never change her name,” Kristin said. “And so Moon Dancer she remains.”

Moon Dancer sails almost daily during the season out of Bristol Harbor in northern Narragansett Bay, often in the afternoon and evenings, when her owners invite friends for frequent sunset cruises that often end under moonlight. And she has turned out to be an excellent fit for the Brownes.

In fact the yawl was Rob’s father Herbert’s dream boat, part of the reason why at age 87 he joined Rob and Kristin in buying the boat, his 17th. Herbert died in July 2023, having sailed on the boat until he could no longer walk onboard. Rob, owner of Bristol Bagel Works, and Kristin, director of events and public relations at TotalBoat, continue to own the boat, which they frequently sail on with their sons Oliver, 19, and Ben, 15.

The boat was in good shape when they got it and most of the work they’d done on the boat so far has been cosmetic.

“Summer 2020 was right in the thick of Covid and the perfect time for family cruising to Block Island,” Kristin said. “Rob started working on the varnish right away and has completely stripped and refinished almost every bit of teak or mahogany on the boat, choosing different parts to refinish
every winter.”

This winter they are installing a Force 10 stove, and a new Ronstan traveler and mainsheet setup. They hope to replace the boom and add a vang in the future, along with upgrading to lithium batteries, she said. New cushions, which will replace the original lime green ones currently onboard and a new set of sails are also on the list.

Oliver gets a view from the boom.
But any improvements are just bonuses on a boat that is beloved by its owners for its sailing ability, particularly in the 15- to 20-knot sea breezes in Bristol.

“She sails amazingly in heavy air,” Kristin said. “She loves to lean over with a bone in her teeth and just power through waves and puffs. It’s like she barely feels it and it energizes her. It’s like no other boat we have ever sailed.”

Kristin credits some of the boat’s smooth and capable sailing ability to its yawl rig. 

“The yawl set up is the best reefing system in the world,” she said. “Jib and jigger is the way to go.”

And, she adds, Moon Dancer is
also beautiful. 

“She’s the prettiest boat in the harbor and because we often sail at sunset, Moon Dancer ends up as the backdrop to many people’s sunset photos. When we sail past another boat we turn heads and always get compliments about her beautiful lines.”

The family enjoys sailing to Newport for quick trips and to Block Island, where
Kristin and Rob met, for longer cruises. The first summer with the boat in Block Island for a week immediately became a favorite sailing memory, she said. 

“It was a dream living off the boat, clamming for dinner, swimming and paddleboarding daily. We hacked together a camp stove set up in lieu of the sketchy propane situation with the old stove.”

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