Mouses
by David Colpitts

Mice are known for their ability to multiply. That is true also of Mouse boats. Who would have guessed that Gavin Atkin's little Mouse design would have spawned so many copies and variations. For more information, join the Mouseboat discussion:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mouseboats/


Hello, Mousers.


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I had to write a little note about my river trip today. I was left with an odd hour, and chores on hold, wife shopping with her mom, garden watered, I figured paddling was the logical way to spend said hour. With all the boats in my garage (I gave away four this week, I think, and am down to eight 'til my summer building frenzy in two weeks) it was not an easy matter to decide among 'em, but I opted for simplicity and went with the flat skinny from Mystic earlier in the month. I had only put about a quarter mile on it 'til today, but it's the one Ian paddled 7 miles one morning at the Seaport, and seemed none the worse for it. By the way, I always make them narrower than specified, now, since two bottoms come out of one four by eight only if the actual width is about 23 and 3/4 inches. I think my summer program will be exclusively this hull, for simplicity and utility, but I will use the eighth inch for the sides, since this boat has shown remarkable rigidity using the quarter inch only for the bottoms. It also hit me (duh!) that one of the "darts" that gets cut off the side pieces is an almost perfect ready-made skeg, and I will use the former scrap in this way. Two birds with one stone, and all.


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Anyway, the boat took one minute to tie to my rack, and another minute at the launch to prepare; I put the plastic cutoff chair on its one-inch foam pad and trimmed up, and paddled upriver against a strong current (recent rains up north, by the flotsam) and just had a dandy workout. It was everything I wanted a Mouse to be. Cute, stable, seaworthy, comfortable, and paid for. A nice foursome in a flying soapdish teased me gently, with "Wow..Where's the rest of that boat?" The answer, which I share with all mousefolk, hit me. "In the bank, of course," said I.


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My streamlining for kid building, aside from what I mentioned above, may interest others. I will make the bow and stern transoms, respectively, of Home Depot 1x2 and 1x3 spruce strapping. These cost 97 cents and a buck thirty five, and also work as thwarts. As you may recall, I use un-sealed-in flotation, like foam and extra pfd's, rather than boxing in a bulkhead. I admit I may box in the back, with a hatch, but I really am price-sensitive with my summer workshops. Gunwales will be more spruce, but for two dollars worth of mahogany "tomato stakes" I can use a bit fancier looking wood.


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The thin side material makes fine-trimming them a snap, compared to quarter inch goods. The trick then is to bend the one by chine logs as they get bronze ring nailed to the sides, without missing the edge of the side and without smearing toxic glue everywhere. I have one kid take each end of the chine log, after nailing a couple of spots at the middle, and then simply compress and/or spread the "handles" while another nails. Nicely done, it is a model of cooperative endeavor. By myself, I just make a mess and cleanup later. Anyway, here's where the Titebond II glue gets used, perhaps. I will always use PL Premium for the "roll on" of the bottom, along with more nails, but the Titebond for the tricky bending and nailing saves skin rashes and clothes. I see no problems so far, and will keep an eye. out for any signs of weakness. Other folk seem to swear by Titebond, if used with discretion in the right applications.


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Last summer, I varied the width according to the skill of the paddler and her/his weight. With sides about nine inches high, that left a bottom width that could be as great as 30 inches, and I guess the spec is 27 or 28? The 30 incher wasn't pretty, I promise you that.  Well, this year I think the boats will vary in depth, and not width, so's to hold larger folk. Two feet wide seems to me to be a magic number, which everyone I have ever seen can be comfortable in almost right away. That means I could go up to 11 inches and change, to make a higher volume skinny flattie, doesn't it? Like a fat flat???


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I should have started with the fact that the boat launch I used today, the Great River Park in Hartford, CT, is home to the much-heralded and recently opened Community Boathouse. They are about to get a proposal on the importance of saving some of the new and elegant space for kids who use boats in which they face forward, to see where they are going. I can stand up a Mouse on end in a space one by two feet. If they provide an eight by 20 foot room, eight feet high, I can house an entire fleet, for heaven's sake.

I ramble. I know this is mundane, and maybe redundant, but today made me mindful of why I'm in the Mouse game to begin with. My vision is to get all kids able to make and use personal paddle craft, and to literally empower them to seize control of and responsibility for preserving our waters. Pied Piper fantasies, except leading the children to the mouses and the whole lot to the rivers. We spend about eight thousand dollars a year in our CT suburbs to educate each kid, and more like ten grand in the city schools. Why not take about 30 dollars off the top somewhere and have every kid build a Mouse? What a blast! Any other teachers out there wanna pool ideas?

Regards to all,
David Colpitts