The Upriver Adventure

Our trusty vessel as we first envisaged it.

The weather was perfect - overcast with a light breeze.

The boat was perfect (or so we thought) - two inflatable canoes lashed together with a bamboo pole sticking up from the middle.

All that remained were the sailors, and they were pretty perfect too. Two experienced seamen, who had sailed all the way from Athens to Israel. They have sailing in their blood - both of them hailing from the country that just won the America’s Cup.

Today was definitely going to be a day to remember.

After a light lunch, the intrepid explorers set off!

Or more precisely, one explorer set off. Laura didn’t want to hop in until I had thoroughly tested the vessel and made sure it wasn’t going to capsize.

We put the boat together, lashing everything as tight as possible, went to pick it up, and realised that we still had to get it under the washing line, and over a wall. A hurried de-construction and re-construction later, we were on the ramp, and I was pushing off into the water, Laura cheering me on from the bank…

And now a brief interlude, to discuss the difficulties of keeping a mast upright. Front to back is not too difficult - a rope from bow to stern via the top of the mast does the trick quite nicely. Side to side, however, is quite another story.

Suffice it to say that at this point, the mast slipped sideways and we barely managed to abort the launch before I was swept away to my certain demise.

Uh Oh!

We then went through some rapid prototyping of different ways that we could keep a mast upright, which led to the discarding of one canoe (they were different sizes, which made life very difficult). A few knots later and we had rigged a beautiful looking little vessel.

That's looking much more like a real boat!

This time the launch went as planned. I got out onto the water, put my two rudders down (two because we were trying to negate our lack of centerboard), and drifted outwards onto the river. The first gust of wind, guess what happened? The mast fell over sideways. As I was inexorably pushed towards the edge of the weir (no centerboard, remember?), Laura’s shouts of encouragement turned into hoots of laughter.

Eventually I managed to salvage the situation by freeing a rudder and paddling back upstream, while holding the mast up on one shoulder.

A little bit more experimentation, and we hit upon our final design. This one was like the last one, but with additional horizontal reinforcement. I convinced Laura to join me in this one (“We need more weight at the front!”), and we set off!

Our original design. Our improved design! Sailing! Finally!

This time, we were met with the scourge of all sea-goers - we were becalmed! the wind had totally stopped, even when I paddled us out into the river!

With a grumble we turned for shore and de-constructed everything. Now that we had the right design, nothing could go wrong next time, could it?

Tags: The Big TripEurope