I’d love to be out on my mountain bike today but it’s snowing so I probably won’t get out. At least I have something else to do in terms of building my new boat. I built my first boat 2 years ago and naturally, as a cyclist, wanted it to be pedal powered. The dinghy met with my aims and I sailed many times on our local canal, the 127.25 mile long Leeds/Liverpool, but my aims changed. I wanted sail power or at least sail assistance which, whilst of little use on the canal with it’s ever changing winds, would allow me to sail for longer distances on larger bodies of water. I sold my dinghy but unfortunately it will only be painted over and used for decoration in a nautically themed garden.
Before building a boat it’s recommended that you write a Statement of Requirements, so here goes.
My boat must fit easily into my garage.
I must be able to move it by hand to the canal, about half a mile away,
It must be pedal powered and capable of cruising at a good walking speed.
It will have a sail option and be able to sail towards as well as with the wind.
It will not fill with water at any time.
I couldn’t adapt my dinghy because it could not fulfill the last condition. It was never designed with sail power in mind so a completely new vessel would have to be built. A catamaran seems like the best idea because it will be a stable platform with the ability to build the pedal power system between the hulls. This will make the whole boat shorter, which is useful for storage. To aid this further I’m making the hulls in 2 sections which can be separated with a transverse division. This will leave the boat as an approximately 4 foot cube which can easily be pulled along on its inbuilt wheels. Assembly at the water’s edge will only require 4 bolts to be fixed in place. To make it unsinkable in any circumstances I’ve decided to fill the hulls not with sealed in air but with foam, which I’ll waterproof with a brush on coating so that it can never soak up any water. So how do you go about turning such an idea into reality?
The first thing to do is to make a detailed plan. I’ve been thinking about this for most of the last 2 years and have gradually honed my ideas into a plan which is mainly stored in my head! I’ve made some sketches as reminders so I don’t forget the details and as soon as I disposed of the dinghy I bought the metal from which I’d build the new craft. I chose metal rather than the more traditional wood or glass fibre because I’m used to working with metal and knew that I could keep the boat light, which is important when you’re pulling it around manually. The first part which I wanted to build was one of the 4 hull sections. Each would be made from a 1,250 mm square sheet of aluminium, folded into shape.
I’d need a massive press or brake to fold the metal, which I could never realistically have access to, so instead I clamped the metal between pieces of steel and used a hammer. Aluminium is quite forgiving because if you dent it you can hammer the dents flat later. So far I’ve made 2 hull sections and marked out a third. I’ve also started on the steel structure which will piece the hull sections together. Aluminium and steel, when touching each other, can corrode electrolytically so I’ll use rubber spacers between the 2 materials.
It will probably take me around 6 more weeks before the first test on the water. Initially I’ll only be interested in the pedal powered side of things with the hope that the slender hulls will make it much easier to maintain speed than was the case with the dinghy. Wish me luck.