Mouse Crash Bash
 
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Mouse Crash Bash
by Andrew Butchart

At long last, my wife and I were able to take off for a paddle without the kids. This allowed us to be a bit more adventuresome than usual, and we were finally able to take a paddle down the Saugeen River. The Saugeen watershed covers much of the area that we live in and provides - in my opinion - some of the best paddling in our part of Ontario, Canada. Much of the river now has it's access points marked with road-signs, so it's easy to find a good spot to launch from. The river itself is broad and varies from calm deep stretches to some shallow sections with mild rapids.

For this trip, we chose to start in the Village of Paisley, a former farming village now mostly dedicated to the tourism industry, especially to outfitting for canoeists. Our ending point was the campground at the Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area, about 5km as the crow flies - much farther by river. For boats, my wife took our MouseBoat and I took the modified "Cheap Canoe". Neither of these boats are built using the recommended stitch and glue method, but are constructed using external chine logs, luan plywood, with PL Premium as the adhesive and sealed with either epoxy or polyester resin, depending on what I had handy. Both boats also have 3/4" thick keel strips made from fir recovered during a renovation project and skegs made from a scrap 2X4. The mouse is finished with bright red rust paint, and the pirogue has just regular exterior latex house paint on it.

As we set out, leaving the bugs on shore behind, we were stopped by people at the campground in the village asking about the boats. They asked if we had made the boats ourselves - we probably could have sold a couple if we had them with us. The first section of the river loops wide around the village and starts out calm and broad, but quickly shallows out with a rocky bottom where we encountered our first set of rapids - the first that either of us had experienced in these boats. While I managed to get the pirogue through safely, the mouse hung up sideways on it's keel strip and hard chines causing water to wash over the deck. Fortunately, since I knew that my home-made hatches weren't water-proof, we had stowed anything that couldn't take a wetting in the waterproof hatch on the pirogue. It took some inventive pushing with the paddle by my wife to get the mouse off of the rocks. After that first set of rapids, we soon had more practice on the next set. The river started to get more shallow with many large stones poking above the surface and lurking just below.

While dodging rocks and enjoying both the slow and fast sections of the river, we were treated to some visits by a heron, watched a hawk fishing, and saw a number of blue-jays. As the afternoon wore on, we saw fish jumping for bugs and surprisingly, a group of about a dozen vultures, just hanging out in a dead tree on the side of the river. If they were waiting for us, they were waiting in vain. Each set of rapids that we encountered included a few heavy hits by rocks. Both the mouse and the pirogue got hung up on rocks to the extent that we had to get out and float the boats down to deeper water. A few times, we were able to free the boats by rocking them fore and aft, but overall they were great. Since they float on bare inches of water, they avoided most obstacles. We did have some entertainment looking at the different colours of paint on the rocks we passed though - evidence that others had preceded us.

When we eventually arrived at our destination, we were quite shocked to find out that both boats had only superficial damage. The keel strip on the mouse had a couple of dings, and the paint on the hull was scuffed. The pirogue had all the paint stripped off its skeg, but there was no damage to the hulls themselves. This was a surprise since they had quite a bit of abuse, but the stressed plywood hulls held up well - a quick touch-up on the paint before I put the boats away, and they're ready for the next adventure.

For more information about the Saugeen River watershed, check out http://www.svca.on.ca/

For original drawings and build instructions on the "Cheap Canoe" see the free plans links at http://www.bateau.com

Information about MouseBoats can be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mouseboats/

For details of my modifications to these designs, you can check my web-site at http://www.abutchartconsulting.com/sailing/

Andrew Butchart
Neustadt, Ontario