Of Mice and Boys - Part 2
By: Kellan Hatch - Salt Lake City, Utah - USA

Of Mice and Boys - Part 1

How We Spent Our Summer Vacation

Part 1 ended with us putting the Mice in a small Utah reservoir on an icy Easter weekend. No sooner had we moistened the boats than the Utah State Park rangers descended upon us and announced that we were operating illegal watercraft. Apparently, sailboats of any size are considered powerboats in Utah and must be registered and taxed by decree of the High Sheriffs. My father was once cited for sticking a piece of polyethylene drop cloth on a broomstick and letting it blow his canoe sideways for a few minutes. Anyway, my argument that our boats are shorter than windsurfers –which don’t require registration - and have less sail area fell on deaf ears, so now we pay registration for yet two more boats.

Sail Rig
The sailrig I put together for the Mighty Mice turned out to be ideal, with a sail patterned after the 31 sq. ft. CLC Mill Creek balanced lug, a leeboard borrowed from the brain from Jim Michalak and a very simple kick-up rudder. The mast, a modified stair rail, drops into a step and partner mounted to the aft side of the forward bulkhead.

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Mast step and partner

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Kick-up rudder

The mast placement was the starting point for the sail plan and I placed everything else accordingly. The spars are closet poles, tapered at both ends, and the sails are “laced on” with cable ties. The simple brass ring I used for a halyard block worked great. The hardware came from the Duckworks, which is a great resource, considering what you have to pay in the boat stores around here.

Cable ties and halyard ring

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If you’re looking for a simple, effective sail rig, you really should consider the balanced lug. It's a very forgiving rig and it tacks like nothing I've seen, which is a real consideration on an ultra-lightweight boat, especially with a kid at the helm. The balanced lug also has a low Center of Effort and doesn’t require a long mast, in fact, all of our spars came from 8-foot stock. One of our sails was sewn from a Sailrite kit and the other was purchased from Duckworks. The Sailrite sail was quite a project to put together. Since it has more panels than the Duckworks sail, I expected better performance from it, but I’ve sailed both boats a number of times and I’ve watched the boys race them and I can’t see that there’s any performance difference between the two. The kit cost about the same amount as the custom Duckworks sail.

When we rig the boats for sailing we always mount the oars in their locks and tuck them under a bungee line that runs across the foredeck. There have been a number of times when one of the boats got blown into a tangle of weeds or the wind died at just the wrong time. Quick and easy access to the oars was a good thing.

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Stowing the oars

Transportation & Storage
I can put both Mice and all our gear in the back of my pickup, leaving the roof rack free for one of my boats. I like to push for maximum boats-per-vehicle ratio. The deep hull of a Mighty Mouse can hold a lot of stuff, too. I even built a cover for one of the cockpits so I can stuff it full of lightweight things like PFDs and cushions before I invert it on top of the other boat.

Getting there

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I made a couple of simple dollys for moving the boats around on the ground. I had two ideas in mind and since there are two Mice, I built one of each. I didn’t want to modify the boat in any way to accommodate the dolly, so my first design strapped on with a loop of rope through the oar receivers. But the design I ended up liking most, because it’s much smaller, was the one that requires drilling ¼” hole through the skeg to accommodate a bolt that maintains a snug fit around the skeg and transom.

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Snap-on wheels

Wheeling it down to the water

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The Mighty Mice have a very small storage footprint. I just stand them on edge and stack them together out behind the garage. They sit there quietly and mind their own business until called upon for the next adventure.

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Mice at rest

Putting ‘em through their paces
Our first summer outing was to the Kokonauts’ gathering at Starvation Reservoir. I went out once with each of the boys, checking them out for their first solo, but then the wind picked up to a near-gale and I decided not to send them off on their own. Instead, I took one of the boats out by myself for the first time and was very impressed. These little boats really sail! They’re a blast. Since then I’ve thought a lot about people who set off on over-ambitious first boat building projects, only to run out of steam and never see them finished, and I realized that you can have so much fun with a simple, tiny craft that if everyone built something like this first, they’d realize that you don’t need much more to have a really good time on the water.

The next trip was with Evan and a couple of his friends who wanted to try their hand at sailing. They wandered around another nearby reservoir and did pretty dang well, once they got off the overgrown lee shore and out of the tangle of willows.

I really thought only the kids would sail these tiny boats, but they're so easy to transport they tend to get used whenever I just don't feel like hauling a larger boat onto the roof rack. They can carry quite a load.

Next we took the whole family sailing (four of us on two 8-foot Mighty Mice) on a fiord-like lake deep in the Wasatch Mountains. This was some of the trickiest sailing I’ve encountered. Causey Reservoir is shaped like a 3-tentacled octopus: long, skinny arms radiating in three directions, lined with cliffs and rock towers.

The wind tends to flow down the canyons and along the arms, which for us meant a swift downwind run followed by a long beat back to windward along an ever-narrower arm. If that's not challenging enough, the wind was gusting radically, like zero to 40 instantly, and back to zero. Between gusts we had a 10-15 knot breeze, but the gusts and williwaws would randomly shift the wind through 90 degrees or more without warning.

Fickle wind in the fjord

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Elliot and Lily were in Fledermaus and I was with Evan in Blarney Stone. We quickly learned how stable these mice are, especially when loaded that way - 300 lbs in Blarney. Those gust would slam us pretty hard, but we'd never heel dangerously. Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down. Lily screamed anyway, and scared the wits out of poor Elliot until he remembered to slack the sheet in the gusts and spill wind. With so much windward work, we really got to see how well the Mice sail to windward. I can't tell you in degrees, but it was more than satisfactory. The windage of our high freeboard didn't seem to be much of a detriment, which was something I’d been concerned about. And I must say, I was also pleased with the way 10-year old Elliot handled his boat and managed to keep his mom safe and dry.

Lake Powell
The highlight of Mouse Summer was the Lake Powell messabout. This was the first chance for The Guys to really get out in their boats and see what they could do. It was also the first time either had sailed entirely solo, and I was very pleased with how they did. We plopped the boats in the water, rigged them, and before I had time to lay down any rules, Evan was off and halfway to the island ½ mile away with Elliot close behind. Islands are boat magnets – and boy magnets. I couldn’t catch them in my 12-foot Cartopper.

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Evan takes a breather on a Lake Powell island

Elliot masters the wind

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The wind was perfect on this trip – I’ve never experienced such consistently good sailing here in the Wild West. I’ll always remember this messabout as something extraordinary – terrific mousing and a great time with fascinating people. The only mishap was when Evan sailed downwind into a narrow sandstone ravine and ended up mired in a Sargasso sea of tumbleweeds at the end. Bruce Anderson raced to the rescue in his PD Racer and we all had a long, zigzaggy beat back out into open water.

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Evan makes for open water

Chuck Leinweber even went for a spin in Elliot’s boat. I took his comment as a huge compliment to me, the boys and to Gavin Atkin, the father of Mouseboats: “I think you’ve built the perfect kids’ boat here.”

Chuck takes Elliot's Mouse for a spin

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Kids are great. Boatbuilding is great. Put them together and you make memories for a lifetime. Building boats with my kids was one of the best things I’ve done. If you want to give it a go, check out Gavin’s plans in the Duckworks catalog – they’re free! Drop me a line if you want more information about the Mighty Mouse mutation.


Other articles by Kellan Hatch:

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