Sunday, August 14, 2011

Narrow and Fast

photos by Chris Clarke
Gondoliers are watermen.
We live and work on and around the water.
I don't know a single gondolier who isn't also a surfer, sailor, swimmer, SCUBA diver, etc.
We exist above and below the surface.

I've often found myself talking about with other gondoliers about other types of boats - especially those that share similar traits with gondolas.
This brings me to the "punt".

No, we're not talking about football, although if you search the internet, you'll get overwhelmed with football-related links associated with the word.
I'm talking about the long flat-bottomed boats that are pushed along with a pole in places like Oxford and Cambridge.  You can also find them in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Denver, Colorado.
To read about my visit to the Denver operation a few years ago,

Just like gondolas, these vessels are used for passenger service, and just like gondolas, they are also used for racing and recreation.

Chris Clarke and I spoke a while back about these curious boats. 
I was eager to get his take, as he's from the UK and used to live right near a place where they pole them.

As you might have guessed, there are also different versions of the punt.  The ones that drunk (or soon to be drunk) college students take out are often wider than the ones for sport.  My guess is that the one above can be used for both, but I'm quick to confess that I'm no expert in punts.

My eyes are sharp enough though, to recognize something that can't take passengers at all.

It's safe to say that what we see here is a racing punt.
Chris Clarke tells me that this single-man punt is about 32' long x 14" wide.

Some of you out there have already drawn the same conclusion, I'm sure:
We're looking at the punt equivalent of a gondolino.

Four feet shy of a gondola (and probably twice the length of my car),
this is not a canoe.
at only two inches wider than a foot,
she's not quite a tightrope...but probably close to it.
But if you can keep your balance, and effectively place, push, retrieve, and place that pole...again and again and again,
then you can really get one of these things moving.

The single punter we're looking at definitely has the hang of it.
Chris Clarke tells me:
"the guy in the photos is a multiple punt racing champion and makes it look easy. It is not."


Thanks for the photos Chris.

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