Monday 11 February 2013

Ponto, Pontoon, Punt

Like many words for boats, punt seems to denote something different wherever you go. The word has traveled a goodish way from its roots as the Latin word ponto, meaning ferry boat.
Inland, punts are almost always the familiar flat bottomed, square ended boxes that used to be boats that worked a living, mostly ferrying and fishing. Now they mean lazy summer days with straw boaters, parasols and strawberries.
In Chichester and Portsmouth harbour it is mainly used for gun punts. On the Norfolk Broads they have gun punts but also those fast and frightening sailing punts. But these punts are still very low draft and flattish bottoms.
And, of course, ponto also morphed into pontoon.
On the coast, however, the word punt got completely detached from the flat bottom design and came to mean any small boat used for harbour work or launched off a beach.
In St Ives, the group that revived the Jumbo fishing lugger is on the verge of launching the first St Ives punt built in many years.
The picture to the right (borrowed from that excellent blog 70.8%) shows an original St Ives punt being 'scullied' towards the second new Jumbo, William Paynter, last year.
The new punt is being launched on March 9 with a day of watery activities.
The builder, Jonny Nance, is offering a unique opportunity to get your name on the boat. For a donation, he will carve your name (or a loved-one's) in mirror-writing under one of the thwarts so you will be able to read it by putting a mirror in the bilges. A really nice idea - details here.


Anonymous said...

Falmouth quay punts too...

Chris Partridge said...

And the River Fal oyster punt.