This boat is intended as the perfect one person cruising boat which in reality means she fits my concept of what a perfect cruising boat is. My concept is based upon experiences starting with a Stevenson designed Pocket Cruiser and extending through experiences sailing with a variety of small boats in 12 states. This includes the Florida 120, which I started, and the Everglades Challenge which I have yet to complete despite two attempts. Admittedly, both times I didn’t press on due more to what was between my ears than under my but….but I am gaining experience and learning. This boat is designed as the boat which will help me successfully complete the Everglades Challenge. My goals are as follows:
- Lightweight: You can always add ballast but you cannot take away the basic hull weight of a boat. Lighter boats are just easier to handle when you need to which includes getting the boat to the water, getting it in the water, and getting it out of the water. Being able to haul your boat out of the water is a great safety when a real nasty storm is bearing down on you. Also, I learned by example that being able to tow your boat or even portage it can really help get through tough passages of wind and tide. Finally, a light boat is easier to get unstuck should you run aground and, in Florida waters, that is almost a given.
- Able make distance in anything: Being able to make distance to weather in both the lightest winds and the hardest allows you to keep moving when others stop. This includes unlimited reefability of a weatherly sail, self bailing cockpit, and ease of recovery from a knockdown. To this end, Cruiser Mouse will have a low center of effort rolling lugsail which allows infinite reefing and a self-bailing cockpit with sealed cabin. ECduck, the puddle duck racer I attempted the Everglades Challenge in, was better designed for the knock down I experienced than I was only shipping an inch of water when righted. That was less water than I shipped crossing Tampa Bay!
- Able to be rowed/paddled: There are times when the wind is completely still or against you and you need to bring out the oars. I have experienced both and being able to move the boat off a lee shore against surf and wind is good. It opens up stops that other sailboats cannot take including the ability to bail out if things get really bad but still recover later.
- Comfort: My definition of comfort is something you can move around in, sprawl in when sailing, and have a dry and sand free place to sleep in. My definition has changed with experience. As recently as ECDuck in 2012 I thought you could combine the cockpit space with the cabin as so many open boat cruisers do. However, I have learned that Florida sand and saltwater is insidious getting into every crack and crevice. Having a cabin separate from the cockpit at least slows the spread. Also, doing a challenge means long hours of sailing and limited hours of sleeping so having to spend even a few minutes reconfiguring the boat for sleeping is less than ideal. I want a boat I can lower sail, throw out an anchor, and then climb into a warm and protected space for some sleep.
- Capacity: Having a light boat is great but it doesn’t mean giving up on the ability to carry those little items that make small boat cruising more enjoyable. I am hoping for a boat weighing 125 fully rigged (150 realistic). I am a big guy weighing over 200 lbs and want the option of sailing with my wife or kids onboard so add another 200 (weight + stuff) and we are at 550lbs. Throw in another 150 for gear and there is the possibility of cruising for two with a tent onshore (or very snug sleeping accommodations). If I have that extra capacity and I am cruising alone then I might throw in a 12 volt battery for unlimited charging of VHS, cell phone, kindle, and etc… Might also throw in a comfortable beach chairs for more effective rest brakes. If I still need ballast, I can always fill up some sand bags and park them in storage places.
- Storage: I hate shifting gear to do anything. I want storage places that are easy to get to and where I can store all of my food water and gear for an extended trip and not have to hunt for what I need or shift anything around to take a nap. I also like having storage spaces that can help with the trim of the boat.
To achieve all of the above, I eventually turned to the open-source design of mouseboats designed by Gavin Atkin. What started as a lightweight, easy to paddle, and easy to build 8’ boat has grown into an amazing variety of boats following the basic hull shape. A V bottomed scow (has too little rocker to be a pram) with vertical sides and chines that sit in the water. It is surprisingly stable a hull shape but with a nice V that seems to give the boat more purchase on the water and a definite ability to shrug off chop and cushion waves. It doesn’t “rocking horse” like a pram shape and has the ability to cut through the water and even plane a bit. A scow or pram shape has the advantage of a large carrying capacity on a short and lightweight boat. Short is actually desirable in rough conditions as it ride upon the waves rather than ramming through.
I took the basic hull shape and stretched it out to 12 feet and widened it to 44”. Still a relatively narrow hull so should row throught the water well. I have a fully enclosed cabin with 22” storage at the bow and a 6’4” sleeping birth with 50” of space with up to 30” headroom and 26” tucked under a bridge deck. The cockpit is just under 6’ long with a sloping cabin bulkhead for comfortable lounging. The aft 46” of the cockpit has a self-draining footwell with large scuppers to quickly drain any water shipped. Coamings that are highest at the front of the cockpit help to keep the spray out and keep the cockpit dry even if the boat is sailed significantly heeled. There are no hatches in the boat other than the cabin hatch. That hatch is hinged for entry to the cabin and has a built in hatchboards all designed for easy battening down of the hatches. Area under the cockpit is reached through the cabin so storage is by waterproof bags attached to a line for retreival.
The boat is equipped with a cartridge style daggerboard rudder which allows for shoal water sailing without crippling weatherhelm. It has a offset centerboard that both provides room in the cabin for sleeping and provides a pocket between it and the side of the boat for storage. This pocket is extended to the first bulkhead and replicated on the other side of the boat for significant bin type storage. A fastening cloth cover over the top of the bins insures things stay in place. The centerboard extends beyond the bottom of the hull the same depth as the lowest part of the V hull. A similiar shaped bilge keel on the other side of the hull allows the hull to sit upright when dried out and allows the boat to sail in the skinniest of waters.
The rig is a roller lugsail. It has a low center of effort helping the boat to stay on its feet in any sort of wind. The sail rolls up around the boom for reefing or for storage allowing the skipper to dial any amount of wind for the conditions. The sectional aluminum mast is lightweight and can be shortened when the rig is reefed to reduce strain. The boom is supported at both ends so it doesn’t fall when tension is released from the halyard. This makes reefing easy and allows a boom tent to be erected to expand lounging area or a respite from the sun.