Jock River Solo Paddling Punt
by Wm R Watt - Ottawa, Canada

Late one winter an 11x2x1 punt was built for the annual Jock River canoe race. The Jock is a small river in Ottawa completely navigable only during spring runoff.

Here we are waiting for the race to start. More photos of the race can be found on the website.

I got the punt out of the starting gate in the third batch so it was not the last boat to cross the finish line. Short boats generally finish last.

During construction 25 pound weights were used to hold the bottom down while it was fastened to the chines, as shown in the above reenactment.

The punt was built in a second storey bedroom and launched off a stepladder using a couple of 10 foot boards for a ramp.

The punt was built as a cheap substitute for a solo canoe. One 4x8 sheet of plywood was cut into 2 feet for the bottom leaving twice 1 foot for the sides. Another 4x3 foot scrap was cut the same and butt joined to make the boat 11 feet long. Triangles measuring 6" x 18" were cut off the corners and rounded with a sander to pull in the ends. The boat is held together with wood screws and polyurethane construction adhesive (LePage's Bulldog brand PL Premium in the caulking tube). It weighs 35 pounds and draws about one inch of water, ideal for exploring shallow rivers and lifting over obstructions.

The challenge is to get a shallow flat bottom boat to paddle straight. Note how the red kneeling pad is set over to one side to sink the chine into the water. That provides the "bite" that makes the boat paddle straight. In very shallow water one knee is shifted over to the other side to flatten the boat and reduce the draft.

A simple removable sailing rig was added. The mast fits into a bulkhead which slides into slots. The bulkhead keeps the sideways force of the mast from distorting the boat's shape. The other piece is a backrest. For simplicity there is no rudder. The boat is steered by adjusting the sail and shifting the sailor's weight side to side. For hard turns the paddle is shoved into the water. Notice the small black spirit level fastened to the inside of the gunwale opposite the daggerboard. The level shows when the boat is not in trim so the sailor can adjust his weight to keep it in trim. For fussy sailors, every little bit of speed counts.

Both the sail and the daggerboard are off another boat. All three small sailboats I made use the same daggerboard. Colour me lazy. When the boat heels over going upwind the chine provides enough bite to go straight, same as when paddling. It took a while to find the balance point to mount the daggerboard. I spent a long time moving it back and forth on the hull before finding the "sweet" spot. When going downwind the hull is flat and slews around a lot, broaching in every little gust. A rudder would help here but next season I'm going to try trailing a line off the stern to dampen the motion. Even when sailing upwind the boat is very sensitive to wind shifts. I had to a mount a telltale on the bow transom to get a sufficiently good reading of the wind to make headway. Sailing the punt takes concentration.

The punt spends the winters sleeping in my basement.