Birth of a “Pack Rat”
by Scott Widmier

I caught the boat building syndrome when I built “Suits Us”, a 14' Stevenson’s designed Pocket Cruiser, 3 years ago. Since then I have built “30 Grit”, a modified summer breeze, and a one sheet kids kayak of my own design. I am also serving as the current president of the BYYB group dedicated to building and sailing boats of the Stevenson designs.

I would like to tell everyone about my latest creation, a modified Flying Mouse I call “Pack Rat”. I built “Pack Rat” in about 2 weeks of evenings and have already used her once despite not having finished the interior (fairing and painting the interior). How is this possible given that I live in Ohio and spent Christmas in Kansas both of which either have frozen lakes or barely thawed? No, I am not a member of the polar sailors club. I actually used my modified flying mouse as a car-top carrier.

The whole crazy notion started when I added up all of the stuff (2 adults, 2 kids, 1 dog and a lot of suitcases and gifts) we would betaking to Kansas City for Christmas in our Volvo station wagon and came up short on space. I thought about purchasing a Sears or Walmart carrier (or borrowing my neighbors) but didn't like the non-aerodynamic looks of the carrier and was concerned about getting blow around (or going through a lot of gas). I looked into the fancy coffin-like carriers but they were well beyond my limited budget especially since I might only be using it once a year at most. Then it hit me, those fancy carriers look a little like upside down boats and I know how to build boats! Besides, if it looks like a boat it can act like a boat when the luggage is unloaded at the destination. Furthermore, I would never be caught boat less as long as I needed extra luggage space! So, I decided to design a dual-purpose car-top carrier/ sailboat.

Well, I started looking at designs for inspiration but found most had shear at the gunwales which wasn't compatible with a flat bottom (deck) for a cartop carrier. Then I remembered an article I read in Duckworks about a design for a "mouse" boat. I visited this site and saw some completed mouseboats on top of cars and decided this was the perfect plan with some modifications. Besides, I had never built a V bottom boat. For those of you unfamiliar with these boats of the rodentia persuasion, they were started by Gavin Atkin to get the most boat out of one sheet of plywood. They are originally 8 foot V bottom garveys. You can visit the mouseboats group or do a search in Duckworks for several great articles on these wonderful little boats.

I decided to go with the greater freeboard of the flying mouse both for more packing area (most large suitcases need at least 10" or more) and greater freeboard for heeling when sailing. I built the bottom using stitch and glue (very hard in an unheated garage) and 1/4" luan. I ended up using two solid midship frames because the hull needed these structural members for shape and stiffness. I also gave the bow a greater angle for aerodynamics. I thought about cutting down the interior frames but realized that when the deck was on these spaces could provide fairly watertight floatation.

I installed exterior rub rails on the gunwales and cut two separate decks out of 1/4 inch luan, one that would fit inside the hull and one that would completely deck over the hull. I then sandwiched 1” wood, for stiffeners, and Styrofoam between the two decks so that the whole assembly would fit down into the hull creating (with the addition of weather stripping) a watertight seam. I cut the cockpit out of the deck so that the resulting plug fills the cockpit opening in the deck but only when the deck is upside down (being used as the bottom of the cartop carrier). I spaced two U bolts through the deck to correspond to the rooftop rack on my Volvo wagon (two was all that was needed) making sure to go through parts of the deck that had the 1" wood stiffeners between deck layers.

I made fasteners for the deck out of leather belts with buckles used for the bow and the transom (more fastening pressure) and straps with holes that slipped over bolts for the sides. I also attached two hasps through which I could run locks (one for each side). I found that with one sides locking hasp closed and leather strap fastened, I could prop up the other side for loading. The only problems I had was a curl that somehow got built into the forward part of the deck (a lot of pressure on the fastening belt gets rid of this) and the fact that the deck is fairly heavy.