Mouseboats in Norfolk, England
by Gavin Atkin
http://home.clara.net/gmatkin/design.htm

As planned, we took my daughter's Mouse to Norfolk, England, for a week's holiday on the Broads, and I'm pleased to say it turned out a great success.

Ella (six years old) was initially a bit nervous about paddling but became enthusiastic about the idea after seeing her elder brother paddling around - so much so that on our last day she must have paddled just a little under two miles behind our hired Old Town canoe. Following close behind, she seemed to have no difficulty keeping up. I think that part of the key to this was the boat's confidence-building stability.

Ella's brother Ewan (eight years old) also took to the little boat like a duck to water. In truth, I should say that he would have preferred us to have brought his sailing Flying Mouse, but still he was delighted to find that he could race and beat his Dad rowing an 11ft tender supplied with the houseboat in which we were lodging. (That tender was a pig of a boat, but still it says something that no matter how hard I tried I couldn't beat him without playing dirty...)

For myself, I can see why people like these little boats; they're quite a lot better than I would have guessed they could be when David Colpitts and I first worked on the original idea.

>'Lion' is a standard vee-bottom 8ft Mouse. It's urprisingly stable when heeled even slightly (a LOT of chine goes into the water very quickly as she heels), it comfortably supports my weight (195lbs or so) and it paddles acceptably straight with the skeg I made for it (see the picture files). AND and I can put it on a roof rack and take it down easily without help.

It travels at a reasonable speed without being too tiring. I took it out for a paddle after the kids were in bed (see sidebar) a few times while we were away, and from experience I'd say the boat settles down to a kind of natural rolling-along speed of about 3mph with a desk-jockey non-athlete paddling after a good dinner - going any faster takes so much effort that it's unrewarding and going any slower seems too easy. A true athlete might get something better, however!

Overall, I'm very pleased. In fact, I'm absolutely delighted with the boat, and the experience has confirmed my theory that young children love to be in charge of their own craft so long as they feel confident and it's done safely, of course. Really, I should have found a way of taking a Mouse boat each for them.For more on the Mouse family of boats, sign up at

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mouseboats/

Wayford Bridge to
Dilham by Mouse

Itís 9.30pm on one of the first pleasant evenings weíve had this summer.

We Ė my partner Sally and my two children, Ewan and Ella Ė are staying in a houseboat close by Wayford Bridge in the quiet Northern part of of Norfolk Broads. After an action-packed day at the seaside and a slap-up dinner at the Wayford Bridge Hotel, the kids are in bed and itís time for me to go for a twilight paddle down the river. After three beers and a good feed, I probably shouldnít be doing this but I canít resist the opportunity to take my daughterís Mouse on its first real voyage.

So I get ready to go, strap on my bouyancy aid, launch the little boat, and paddle round to my childrenís bedroom window to wish them a last goodnight before I set off into the gathering dark. At this time of the evening the Broads are still, with the holidaymakers eating, busy in the kitchen or watching the football world cup matches on television Ė itís so still that I wonder if thereís a rule forbidding movement at night.

The water is glassily still as I round the first bend on the little river up to Dilham. Itís a stretch that the big family motor cruisers can use, but most donít as the little hamlet isnít on the way to anywhere very much, either by water or by road. This, therefore, is a wild and unspoilt stretch of the Broads. All around me the river is hemmed by reeds, and by a willow scrub thatís slowly turning what was once open water into land.

In the warm of the evening there are clouds of flies in the air, but inexplicably theyíre taking no notice of me. An occasional fish jumps to catch one. A heron explodes from the reeds about a boatís length from me, looking for all the world more like a dinosaur than a bird. I pass a single cruiser, from which a happy, slightly inebriated face gives me a wave.

Dilham has a row of neat little houses with gardens running down to the water. I could live here. After half an hourís paddling, I turn round at the village staithe, and head back for the houseboat Ė Iíve said that Iíll be gone for an hour only. Passing a meadow, a stoat runs across the grass, which I can now only just see is green in the dim light. Ducks and coots fuss over their young. The happy holidaymaker waves to me again. I feel as if I could paddle like this for hours, if only there was light enough, but I have no regrets as this quiet paddle in the evening is a different thing from what it would have been in broad daylight. Besides, I can come back another time (and do so a few days later).

Soon Iím back at the houseboat, feeling that Iíve had some sort of spiritual experience in the quiet dusk Ė but Iím also cock-a-hoop about the little boat that has carried me perfectly safely and with very little fuss for about three miles in the space of an hour. Iíll do this again and againÖ

Gavin Atkin