Today started bright, sunny and still. After walking our dog I thought it was a good day to sail my pedal powered dinghy, perhaps for the last time this year. I towed the boat to the Leeds/Liverpool canal and set off northwards. I wanted to complete the longer than normal trip which I’d abandoned on my last sail, due to strong winds. The wind had picked up by the time I set off and was behind me on the 0.7 miles section until my first turn. As I turned the wind caught me and I only just had room to complete the turn.
There are lots of leaves floating on the water in the autumn and I think I could feel some resistance to my movement. It could also have been that I’d picked up some weed on the rudder so I stopped and tried to reverse, facing onto the wind. The boat was uncontrollable and spun round so I had to do another 180 degree turn to get back on course. I’d started gently enough but was now working hard. I stopped very briefly a couple of times to stretch my back, which could ideally use some support from the overly simple seat. I continued southwards to the ice cream parlour for my final turn but before that had a short chat with a fellow canal user in a kayak. He praised my boat, asked me what exactly it was and was amazed when I revealed that I’d built it myself.
I started to fatigue on the last leg and wondered if I’d picked up more weed so did a short reverse. This time, with the wind blowing on the stern, I kept control easily enough. I slowed from the final bridge for the last hundred yards or so to relax my leg muscles. I climbed out only to find both calf muscles cramping savagely. I think it was just the unusual movement which was required to climb onto the canal bank which caused the problem. I had no option but to roll onto the ground and allow my tight muscles to relax. Some passing walkers looked bemused but kept silent.
With my calves relaxed I pulled the boat out of the water, had a good drink and pulled the boat home. On the way up the gentle hill towards our house I felt muscular exhaustion from the gluteus maximus to the toes. Pedal boating is excellent exercise for muscle strength though it’s never as aerobic as cycling, which I think is due to the slower rate at which I can turn the pedals.
I may get another sail or two in before the unseasonally good weather ends but in an ideal world I wouldn’t mind this being my last ever sail in my boat, “Perseverance”! The reason for this is that I’ve learnt so much during the design, construction and use of my boat that I can imagine a better boating future. I already have a design largely ready to build. This time the boat would be a catamaran, still pedal powered but with sail assistance. I experienced, on this trip and my last, just how the wind acts on my boat and I’d love to be able to harness this power to sail much longer distances. I could still use the boat under pedal power on the canal but hoist a sail when the wind was favourable. I could also take the boat to a lake for some real sailing, still with the option to pedal. I don’t have the space for 2 boats so will try to sell Perseverance in the spring. In fact I tried my best to persuade a passing father to buy the boat for his fascinated son as it sat on the water at the end of today’s excursion. It was all to no avail but surely someone would be willing to give me the value of the materials I used to build what is a fully resolved boat? I can only hope.