Tunnel Mite by Thomas Schnull, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

September 23, 2008

I think we might have purchased the last Glen-L Tunnel Mite framekit. My dad built the boat for my son over the course of the winter, starting in his basement and then shifting construction first to the garage as the weather warmed and finally to our cottage boathouse for installation of motor and steering. This was boat number four for my dad, who also built 20' and 26' sailboats over the years, but our first Glen-L design.

We live in Ontario and keep the boat on an island near Parry Sound on Georgian Bay, so we're subject to Canada's new 'Pleasure Craft Operator Card' boating regulations. These stipulate a written test to acquire the mandatory license required to operate a boat in Ontario, same requirements for kids and adults. The rules specify that up to age 12, kids can operate a boat with a 9.9hp motor on their own, from 12 up to 15 with a 40hp, and from 16 on any horsepower motor. That meant my 10 year old son -- once he passed the test -- would be operating the Tunnel Mite with a 9.9 for a couple of years, but it's not a bad thing to keep the speed down a little at first [30+ kmph still achievable, though!]

While the merits of operator cards are debatable, the positive aspect was that my son was very keen to drive the Tunnel Mite on his own, so he was highly motivated to study, and ended up learning quite a bit of useful stuff on boating regulations, 'rules of the road', navigation and safety. In time we may upgrade to a 25hp motor which, judging from others' experiences, might get us closer to 60 kmph. At that point we'll probably go the added step of installing a remote throttle, but for now we've kept things simple and just use the 9.9's tiller [with a short extension] to control speed. Not a big issue -- once underway it is usually "full speed ahead"!

Our cottage has a sand beach, so we bought a light weight dolly from Seitech to facilitate hauling in/out. Seitech was very cooperative and modified an existing dolly to accommodate the Tunnel Mite's dimensions. We added a reinforcing crossbar at the back to better support the boat's weight, and used the largest size tires. Very easy now to pull the Tunnel Mite by hand out of the water and up the beach.

We've ended up with a very special boat, built by my dad for his grandson, that we will treasure and enjoy for a long time. Even the guys at our local marina said it was refreshing to see a home-made boat that has some personal meaning, as opposed to yet another store-bought jet ski. And in my son's words, our Tunnel Mite is simply "awesome"!