Returning after a cold.

I hadn’t had a cold in around 2 years but have now endured 2 in quick succession. It started last Friday and only yesterday did I feel well enough to return to my regular exercise regime. I can only presume that my resistance to colds has been reduced by not having to fight one in so long. It also suggests that all the mask wearing and social distancing, which has largely ended, truly has stopped us passing infections around. I have, of course, continued to walk our dog, Freddie, every day but I don’t really think of dog walking as exercise. It isn’t very aerobic and doesn’t stress the muscles though if I take him into the hills for a longer walk it would undoubtedly be of some fitness benefit. I waited until today because we were due lovely weather, which we are now enjoying. I had already decided to use my pedal powered boat rather than ride a mountain bike, partly because we’ve had very heavy rain leading to lots of mud but also because I’ve modified the boat since last time on the water and wanted to know if the changes had worked.

I’ve been developing the boat since I first sailed it in March and had it working well from mid July. It wasn’t perfect, though. At first the pedals rotated in a notchy kind of way. I cured this with more rigid rods connecting the pedals to the paddlewheel which drives the boat forwards.

An earlier incarnation with stiffened connecting rods at the place where I usually launch onto the canal.

I then found that the boat went well but it was impossible to turn the pedals at a cycling speed. I could only manage around 30 rpm so fitted a chain and sprockets to reduce the gearing so that 2 pedal turns now turned the paddlewheel just once.

I’ve used an old MTB rear mech. as a chain tensioner.

After a successful test I had only one remaining issue which was that the harder I pedalled the more water was flung into the hull. I made a new cowl from corrugated plastic intended as a protective floor covering.

Not the prettiest thing I’ve beheld.

So today, in delightful sunshine, I ventured down to the canal and pedalled to the Cowling slipway where I turned round. I heard the other day that such slipways are not so much for launching boats but to are for horses to be able to get out if they fall in the water. Horses were used to pull the boats in the past but it sounds a little fanciful to me. I worked quite hard on my way past my starting point and up to Frederick’s ice cream parlour. The pedals now turn with a silky smoothness and it’s easy to maintain 60 rpm. In fact this was the first time I listened to music whilst sailing and could time my pedal turns with the rhythm on some songs. I turned for home and kept a good pace up but feeling down in the back of the hull I was surprised to find some water ingress. It isn’t a leak because I could feel cold splashes and see where water had landed on the woodwork, flicked up from the paddlewheel. I’ll try a different cowl at some point though a couple of litres of water per hour inside the hull isn’t the end of the world. On a longer trip the problem may be lessened by pedalling more gently. The boat is still more muscular than it is aerobic but it’s now a perfectly good alternative form of exercise to cycling. I don’t know how much longer it will seem prudent to sail a home made boat as the weather cools down but today I was wearing a T shirt so there may still be some trips to enjoy. It remains a fascinating project and has cost me less than £300 for a vast amount of interest and fun.


  1. Wow!!! What a cool boat!!! Love how you modified it — it sounds like so much fun! I’ve always wanted to try out a paddle boat — they have them for rent, here, at a few lakes in the area. Next season, I’m definitely going to give it a try! So happy to have come across your blog — I’m an avid cyclist, too! Thank you for following along on my sailing journey with my lil’ sailboat, Sunny — I’ll be posting about my bike rides, too — looking forward to reading more about your adventures!


    1. kirkmtb says:

      Hi Chelle, I’m glad you like my boat. It’s light so it’s easy to pedal but a lot of the paddle boats you hire are heavy things. I was talking to a friend last night and after a beer too many we talked about doing the 127 miles of our canal in a week! I hope we can do it next summer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, Andrew! Thanks so much for replying to my comments! That would be SO cool if you decide to do the 127 mile journey!!! I was just talking with a sailor friend of mine about wanting to do what we call The Great Loop in the the U.S. with my boat — here’s a link that will tell you about the route that it covers — It would be incredible!


  2. Fred Rosse says:

    Excellent design you have there! I have an 11 foot long “canoe”, the hull is a copy of a 20 foot long sidewheel steamboat I built years ago. (see “”) I am currently converting this small boat into sidewheel propulsion, petal powered. I need the sidewheel shaft aft of the bicycle petal’s shaft, and will use the connecting rod type drive from the petal shaft to the paddle wheel shaft. Note that if you use articulated paddles, the proper design speed is higher, the wheel diameter is smaller, and propulsion efficiency is better. Perhaps this arrangement will allow an acceptable design without reduction sprockets.


    1. kirkmtb says:

      Hello Fred. One thing to note with the connecting rods is that they need to be set at 90 degrees to each other. If you set them at 180 degrees you’ll have dead spots where both rods are at the end of their travel and can not turn the wheel. Is there somewhere I can follow your progress?


      1. Fred Rosse says:

        Sorry for the late reply. Most of my work is covered on name fredrosse hopefully soon my website will be up Beckersville Steam Engineering Co. Thanks for your interest.


  3. tennis4789 says:

    Love the design & lines of your boat. Very classy looking.


    1. kirkmtb says:

      Thanks. It’s really quite simple and made from a single aluminium sheet with plywood transom. Today would have been great to start my boating year but I had other things to do.


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