by Shawn Payment
mouseboat, "Dustspeck", was officially launched this past Saturday
morning! Our local messabout group, the
California Small Boat Messabout Society (aka ScuzBums) had organized a
group paddle through the salt marshes at the southern tip of San Diego
Bay. Even though my mouse is still awaiting some "finishing touches", i.e.
decks and gunwales, I couldn't pass up the chance for test drive.
The mouse caught a lot of attention immediately... "What's that you've got
there?" was the immediate response, closely followed by "It's awfully
small" and "Have you got a bailer?" Another attendee who had brought his
tiny "Wee Lassie" canoe immediately recognized the benefits of a mouse.
"The smaller the boat, the more you'll use it," he said. Assuming that's
true, then I should be using the mouse an awful lot...
yr old boy asked me how I was going to launch the mouse. I picked it up
and dropped it off the dock into the water. "Pretty much like that," I
responded. Once launched, I had no choice but to climb aboard since I've
yet to install any method for tethering the hull to anything... I have to
admit that I hadn't truly appreciated how small a mouse is until I climbed
in and sat down. I had borrowed an inflatable kayak seat with a back rest
from a fellow ScuzBum which at least kept my arse dry and prevented the
aft bulkhead from digging into my lower back. A few tentative strokes
later and I drifted easily away from the dock while the other ScuzBums
stared on, half expecting my tiny craft to flounder at any moment... it
didn't... but I kept a watchful eye on the tiny 3-4" of freeboard
separating me from an unexpected swim nonetheless.
The rest of our group soon launched their boats and our rag tag bunch
headed out of the marina and into San Diego Bay. In attendance were my
mouse, a wee lassie canoe, a 10' plastic canoe, a flat sterned guide boat
canoe, a couple of inflatable kayaks and pretty 15' lapstrake
rowboat. As soon as we exited the harbor, we were faced with a 8-10 kt
breeze and 6" - 12" chop... a couple of small waves broke over the bow of
the mouse and I immediately began to question the sanity of launching
without decks or installed flotation of any kind... however, I quickly
settled into an easy stroke and began to make progress across a short
stretch of open water toward the nearby salt marsh.
Within a few minutes, the rowboat, the wee lassie and the mouse had left
the rest of the group far behind. (More due to steady paddling than any
performance advantage...) Once we reached the salt marsh, I paddled
Dustspeck up a narrow passage in the reeds. The rowboat quickly ran
aground in the shallows and the wee lassie headed off up the shoreline...
Dustspeck cruised onward however, moving easily through the 6" to 12"
depths... I followed the network of narrow passages for about a 1/4 mile
north and re-emerged from another exit to the bay just in time to find the
rest of the group paddling up the shoreline to meet me.
We spent the rest of the morning exploring the small marsh channels,
looking at herons, sandpipers and the occasional stingray scooting along
in the shallows. After about 2 hrs of exploring, we set course back for
the marina with
the wind and sea at our backs. Dustspeck paddled easily with following sea
and gave indications that it would easily surf along when the opportunity
presented itself. I seriously regretted not bringing along an umbrella for
a "wind-assist" on the downwind leg. Next time I'll be better prepared...
All in all, it was a very successful first outing. The wide cockpit took a
bit of getting used to and I'm looking forward to widening and smoothing
the gunwales to minimize knuckle scrapes... The hull also had a lot of
flex in it's current form, which I expect will be greatly reduced by the
installation of decks and gunwales. Although I was a bit tentative about
pushing the limits sans floatation, it seemed that the harder I rowed, the
better the hull tracked... It's not a speed demon but it could easily keep
up without too much effort on my part. I also discovered that after
intentionally grounding myself on a sandbar, I could slide my seat
forward, lay back, kick my feet out onto the bow and take a nice nap in
the summer sun... thus proving that a boat doesn't have to be moving to be
More mousey adventures are undoubtedly to follow.