by Les Brown

I have always loved small boats and simply being on the water. I am with the ‘ Wind in the Willows ‘ rat all the way on that one. I am a pensioner, getting on a bit and my family has gone in all directions now so I want to make these days as ‘ boaty ‘ as they can be.

I live in England a little less than half a mile from a waterway called the Stratford Upon Avon Canal so called because it winds its way from the city of Birmingham along its twenty five mile course to Stratford, home of the Bard, where it joins the River Avon. Solihull, the town where I live, is on the Stratford Upon Avon Canal about seven miles out of Birmingham, eighteen miles short of Stratford.

Fine, my problem was I had no personal transport and while the half mile to the canal bank was a pleasant stroll – not with a boat on my shoulder it was not. I needed a boat that was small, light and could be pulled along by an old guy on some kind of micro-trailer that would come apart like a piece of James Bond equipment and stow inside the boat when I reached the water. It was love at first sight when I saw pictures of the ‘ Mouse ‘. It was small, it was light, it was cute but although I still had no idea how the trolley would work I was surely going to need the space under those sealed decks to stow it. I decided to round the decks too. Not knowing the diameter of the wheels I would choose an extra two or three inches below decks could make all the difference. I also intend to fit ‘Shrimp’ out with pedal power eventually and side decks seemed a good idea to prevent me accidentally treading on the control rods that will run from the seating area back through the transom. So, with one thing and another, ‘Shrimp’s’ deck seems to have designed itself.

I already had two sheets of plywood that were gathering dust at home but I also bought a half sheet of 12mm ply for the bulkheads and transoms because I intended to remove the centre of the bulkheads for under-deck access and the extra thickness would make them more substantial. I reasoned that as no extra framing was needed and with the middles gone the weight difference would be negligible. I plotted the larger of the two bulkheads onto the 12mm ply exactly as the plan, marked the centre point along the top and made a new dot three inches above it. I bent a piece of whippy beading from one of the top corners, through the new dot, down to the opposite corner and then drew in the resulting curve. After cutting the bulkhead with its new shape I measured 11/2” in from the outer edge, all round, and cut the middle out. I now positioned the large bulkhead on top of the other marked out bulkhead and transoms and drew the same curve on them. Although the curves were different sizes they were all arcs of the same circle. A gut feeling told me that was the way to do it. I have no idea whether that was the correct thing to do but it worked fine.

I had already glued a 3/8” x 5/8” gunnel strip along the top inside edge of the side panels to glue and tack the deck edges to when I bent them down. The strip stopped ½” short of each end so the transoms would fit between the sides but the bulkheads had to have notches cut out of their top corners to house the strips.

Should anyone decide to try a curved deck do not use ply thicker than 4mm and if 3mm is available so much the better. If you decide to use 6mm ply or thicker it will fight you. If you are also going for side decks keep things simple by decking the ends first and cutting the side decks in separately afterwards. You will need deck support strips for this to carry the inner edges of the side decks. I used two lengths 5/8” wide and 11/2” deep. I measured 4” in from the gunnels along the top of each bulkhead on both sides and made marks for siting the support strips. I cut them to fit snuggly between the bulkheads, glued the ends and put screws through from the other side. Be sure to mount them proud of the bulkhead top because when the glue is dry you will need to plane a bevel on the top edges of the deck support strips to accurately slope the side decks down to the gunnels. This is very easy if you have an electric plane. When tacking the glued side deck edges along the supports it will help if you get a trusting friend to hold a big rock under them while you hammer the tacks in. When the side decks are on and butted up to the end decks you will see a slight difference in shape between the end deck, which is curved, and the side deck, which is flat. The difference can be wiped away with a sander and if the deck is painted the join will be invisible. When the gunnels have been planed and sanded to your satisfaction epoxy a strip of fiberglass tape all round the gunnel and transom edges.

You could make life still easier by simply curving the end decks and leaving the side decks off altogether. In that case you will need an outer gunnel strip as specified for the standard Mouse.