I’ve mentioned before that I have been building a boat. As a mountain biker I wanted it to be pedal powered so I designed a treadle system to transfer leg power to the water. Treadles seemed better than rotating pedals in a boat because my legs would stay lower, aiding stability. Yesterday I finished working on the boat and took delivery of a life jacket so I was ready for launching and testing. I’m not a nervous person but the thought of plunging into an icy canal if it all went wrong had been plaguing me throughout my build. I felt sick with nerves which is something I don’t recall ever feeling before. I just needed to be brave, bite the bullet and grab the bull by the horns.
I pulled the boat down to Hogg’s Lane and up to the canal bank, struggling towards the end with the rather inadequate trolley. That was the first thing which would need to be modified. I went through my carefully considered drill and floated the boat onto the water as a disinterested walker passed by. I plunged a spike into the ground which secured a rope from the side of the boat or gunwale to give it a nautical slant. I put one foot into the bottom of the boat, stepped the other leg onboard and lowered my self down onto the seat. I was floating and importantly the hull showed no sign of leakage. That was the first of 3 test which I needed to perform on this initial test. After watertightness I needed to assess steering and propulsion.
I’ve chosen a flapping foil or fishtail propulsion system. The foil moves vertically up and down, adjusting its angle at the top and bottom of each stroke to move like a fish tail. I treadled gently and moved painfully slowly. I was going forwards but it was taking virtually no effort. I also found that the pivot at the bottom of the treadles was too flimsy allowing them to move sideways and catch the wood. I knew straight away that I wasn’t going to be taking any celebratory photos on the water and just needed to get back to the bank. I don’t know if the rudder would have worked at a higher speed but at this speed it wasn’t working so I used my emergency paddle to turn around and get me back to where I could get out. 3 walkers arrived and offered to help but I said I’d like to try it on my own. It was easy to get onto the bank and at no point felt unstable. On the water the boat felt secure enough though I’m really not used to the sensation of being afloat in a tiny vessel. I dragged the boat out, again unassisted and chatted with the 3 men, one of whom was an engineer and curious about my propulsion system.
I was slightly deflated that I’d only achieved one out of three objectives but I know what I need to do. First I’ll improve my wheels. I’ll make my treadle mounting more sturdy. I’m going to change the rudder completely and have larger rudders at each side of the transom. I’ll build a much larger fishtail and try adjusting the angle at which it attacks the water to get some power in and hopefully speed out