Saturday, 28 January 2012
A last word on punts
Today, most punts are hire boats for the hordes of tourists in Oxford and Cambridge, but I think the classic punt would make perhaps the perfect canal boat.
Rowing is difficult and tedious on canals because they are narrow and winding, so the sculler must look behind almost continually and the spread of the oars makes navigation difficult when a narrowboat approaches.
A punter, on the other hand, looks forward and the boat is so narrow it can squeak past any barge. The water is not deep, there are no unexpected holes in the bottom, and a speed close to the speed limit of 4mph can be maintained with little effort. The huge internal space makes camping a pleasure.
The only possible drawback is that the bottom of every canal was sealed by a process called 'puddling', lining the bottom with mud. Does that make punting difficult? There was a punt hire business on the Regent's Canal in east London but it didn't last long - was this because there is no market for punting in the land of the Cockney or was it because punters were getting their poles stuck in the mud all the time? Please let me know, otherwise I might be building a punt for canal cruising soon. Paul Fisher does some nice plans....