A new as yet unnamed cruising boat.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


cruisemouseTo 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.

Mighty Mouse: a big 8′ mouseboat

2012-09-15 17.08.15Another mouseboat variant but designed by John Bell to be a tender for a larger boat.  Has nice freeboard, 46″ beam, and 500lb carrying capacity on an 8′ boat.  This is a fairly new build and I only sailed it a few times but was overall impressed with the hull design.  The V bottom hull with its chines in the water and vertical sides is surprisingly stable in the water but creates barely a ripple as it goes along.  My boat has fore and aft storage with side airtanks but enough width in the cockpit for my wife and I to sit comfortably side by side and sail or electric motor about.  What is amazing about this boat is how sturdy but yet extremely light it is thanks in part to the tortured plywood shape of the hull.  This boat inspired me to my newest cruising boat design which will be detailed in the rest of this blog.

Mighty Mouse equipped with the roller lug sail.

Mighty Mouse equipped with the roller lug sail.

Knot Yacht: a 12′ speedster

FL120 Knot YachtKnot Yacht (own design) was inspired by the i550 sportboat.  This 12′ speedster was the most fun boat I ever built.  It passed many a larger and faster boat on the water.  I used it for the 2011 Florida 120 which also turned out to be the year we had a lot of wind and was generally the first boat to arrive at each stop.  Did suffer from a rudder breaking (fixed en route) and then the cheap flagpole mast I scrounged from a dumpster gave up 1 mile short of the finish after 4 days of incredible abuse.  This boat, like Queequeg’s coffin, succumbed to a combination of cheap plywood and poor ventilation in the sole and had to be cut up.  Was sorely tempted to build a little bigger version with some more freeboard and a cabin.


Queequeg’s Coffin: A 12′ scow

coffinA 12′ flat bottomed scow inspired by Gavin Atkin’s Hot Rat equiped with an Escape roller rig that I also equipped for sleeping onboard with a boomtent.  Used this boat, which I called Queequeg’s Coffin for the 2010 Florida 120 and gave it away shortly afterwards.   Went with cheap Luan and no glass on the hull and regretted it as the boat just disintegrated.

Plumbcrazy: My first successful design

plumbPlumcrazy was actually the second boat I designed from scratch and the first boat I built in Georgia.    She was a 12′ narrow dory made as a fun rowing/paddle boat with a sprit rig.  Made a great tender for the MacGregor 26D boat.  Four sided sprit was handy but not that great to windward.  Ended up given that to the person who bought my MacGregor.


Puddle Duck Racers

This diminutive 8′ simple flat bottomed scow developmental racer seems to be a type of boat I keep coming back to.  Not because the design is inherently better than others, quite the opposite in my experience, but because of the great community of people who build and race these boats.  Not to mention the opportunity to experiment with rigs!

dd3I have built 3 Puddle Duck Racers and don’t doubt that a 4th boat will show up in this blog as a new build.  First one I built in two days in my parents garage in Houston, TX using my own design and sailed it to a third place with in the 2006 Puddle Duck Worlds before giving it away to a father and son before flying back to Ohio.

IMG_4741+[640x480]Second one was again to my own design with a windsurfer rig.  I  won first place in the red-top regionals then placed 5th at worlds despite missing the first race.  I won the two races I did participate in.  I gave this boat away before driving back home to Georgia.

100_0022The third Puddle Duck was the ECDuck built to do the Everglades Challenge in 2012.  It was the toughest year and I was the last sailboat to drop out with only two class 4 boats finishing that year.  Still have this one.  You can see my adventure in the Everglades Challenge at: 


30 Grit: quick build flat bottom skiff

bowsideBuilt this 12′ flat-bottomed skiff based upon David Beede’s Summer Breeze when I learned my wife’s family reunion was by Lake Fontana in North Carolina.  Made the transom a bit deeper to take the weight of an outboard.  Rigged it with a lug rig and learned the disadvantages of having a daggerboard trunk in the rowing thwart.  Never had a dry pair of pants on that boat!  Gave it to my neighbor.


Little Gem, a Bateau.com C12

boatshow1I built this boat wanting something with a bit more shape to the bottom than the Pocket Cruiser.  It also helped me refine my skills with stitch and glue that I started with Pack Rat. Again, I didn’t really stick with the plans going with a daggerboard instead of centerboard, different seating arrangement, and a gaff sail.  I also tried graphite in the epoxy as my final coat with a tan interior making the boat color similar to that of little gem donuts hence the name.  This boat did turn out to be a little gem taking me safely through lots of sailing experiences.

Stripper1I sailed it for a long while as an open boat but then got infected by the look of Catboats.  So, I ended up modifying this boat to catboat form by moving the mast forward, adding a deck, and putting in a lot of brightwork.  These modifications weren’t all done at once but over time.  I brought Little Gem with me on the IMG_2819_editedmove from Ohio to Georgia and, once there, experienced the shoal waters in Florida which encouraged me to switch to a centerboard rather than daggerboard.

What I had after all the modifications was a small cruising boat with a sleeping platform forward with storage under, a dodger creating a dry cabin, and a IMG_2817_editedroomy cockpit.  I used this boat in the first ever Florida 120, which I founded.  This is a cruise in company in the Pensacola area of Florida.  I also attended the Cedar Keys messabout where Matt Layden encouraged me to use this boat in the Everglades Challenge.  During the 2011 Everglades Challenge I found the boat was more able than the skipper and I ended up beaching in high wind and waves and calling it quits.  Now, with more coastal experience under my belt, I know I should have taken a break then continued and I would have done fine. 200329_184633494912750_100000983016253_443684_7733989_n


Pack Rat: An attempt at a cartop carrier boat.

PICT0036The second boat I built was an 8′ V bottom pram/scow shaped boat that I built modified to use as a cartop carrier.  The boat was based upon Gavin Atkin’s Flying Mouse but modifed by yours truly so that I could use it as a cartop carrier.  Never got the watertight seal between the deck and the hull quite right and ended up bonding the two making a permanent boat.  PICT0014Had a nice built in seat, push-pull steering and a lug rig.  One of the most comfortable boats to sail despite its small size.  Also, the photo of my wife and daughter in the boat won a photo contest at Duckworks.  I gave this to my fatherkidmouse1-in-law.kidmouse2