Duck Punt, first sail

I finally had a week free for a visit to the river.   The Duck Punt was transported on top of the car and launched into our backwater lagoon.   The first evening there was no wind so I had the opportunity to get a feel for the boat.   It paddles very easily and will move with the slightest breath of air too.   I wasn’t sure that I had mastered directional control before bringing her in for the night.

The next day the wind was blowing 15 with gust to 30 mph.   My first try of sailing the river was against a strong current and a strong gusting wind blowing upstream  The punt was quickly overpowered from the wind and I couldn’t hold her in the channel and she basically ran straight downwind until running aground on the opposite shore from launch.     I did not have sufficient skill or strength to manage control in the strong wind and current.   I was able to sort of sail on a reach back across the river and crashed into the reeds back on the launch side of the river.  I took the sail down and was able to paddle upstream the 20 yards back to the lagoon.

The next day winds where a bit more manageable in the 10 to 15 range with only a few stronger gust to worry about.  I was finally able to attain a reasonable amount of control with the occasional loss of steering control when sailing downwind.  If  the punt is traveling directly downwind I sometimes would loose the ability to turn upwind.

These images where taken as I worked my way up channel.  Ground speed was 0 to 3 GPS mph against a 3 mph current.   I was either sailing nicely without any upstream gain or quickly jumping forward in the stronger gust that came along.    A few times the current would catch me during lulls and sling me quickly down river loosing all that I gained.   Over about 30 minutes  I was able to gain enough upriver progress to allow for a quick tack across the river and back to my starting place in the lagoon.   I was pretty tired from the effort and had a great time trying to sail the duck punt correctly.   I did a good job once in the lagoon and out of the current and had an easy time controlling direction.

My summary so far for the Duck Punt is that it is a great vehicle for exploring shallow waters and under the right conditions it is a lot of fun to sail.    Without more experience and in challenging conditions the duck punt also has a mind of its own.   At this time I would not sail it in a busy channel or around expensive property without gaining more experience.  I need to figure out how to gain control when the punt is not turning into the wind as expected and is being pushed to an undesirable location, like rocks, moored  boats, or other obstructions.   I seem to loose control when the punt is traveling directly down wind.   It may be due to sail trim, as I retrospectively noticed that I often needed to let the sail out to generate  weather helm.     Usually I can head up by easing the sail and/or leaning the punt more to lee.   I know that the chine angle is a key component, as the more I would lean the punt over the more she would turn.  I haven’t consistently picked up the technique of using the paddle as a rudder in these conditions yet if that is the answer.    So far I either run aground, or start paddling as quickly as possible rather then steering.    The punt will usually head up if I ease the sail out, but not always.   Also depending on strength of the wind, I could lean more  of the chine in the water to quicken the pace to weather, but again under certain wind, and sail trim conditions it made minimal difference and I would be pushed into the banks.     Upwind and reaching control is much easier as weather helm is consistent and control by paddle is easy.  So far paddling is required to tack as I ended up in irons otherwise.

I don’t want to leave the impression that I can’t control the punt at all.   Usually I had excellent control and could lean, trim, and paddle toward any direction I desired.  Once the punt is trimmed, she was easy to sail straight with just a slight adjustment twist of the paddle.  But, I do need to solve the issue of boat control when directional control seems to be lost.  I believe is will come with a few more hours of experience.  Stay tuned.


13 responses to “Duck Punt, first sail

  1. It is a challenging boat to sail – but it rewards good technique. You can see me crashing into the bank in one of my films

    I am now completely confident of getting the boat to go where I want it to go

    you might also consider working the edges of the river where the current is running slower – you will be amazed.

    How was it moving around on land

    what do you sit on when kayak padddling upwind

    you are kayak paddling to make progress when not sailing arent you?

    • Hi Dylan,

      I was only able to make up stream progress by sailing the slower running shallows along the bank of the river. On land it is extremely easy to move on my dolly. I just center the dolly and all the weight is taken off either end and I can spin, push, or pull in all directions. I have the punt hoisted on a few pulleys in the garage rafters when not using. I sit on a camping mattress pad that fits in the bottom of the boat. The kayak seat I fitted originally doesn’t work well in the punt. My butt is comfortable but I have to lay down a lot to tack and my abs are getting a workout. With more practice, I started to just catch the boom and lift it over my head when tacking. I haven’t sailed enough yet to get a feel for the best comfort. I will not be sailing for a few more weeks with the punt so if you happen to note your technique for turning from direct downwind to weather let me know. This is the only maneuver that is not guaranteed.

      • The difficulty of rounding up is a potentially dangerous scenario, you may be dealing with lee helm as a result of the boat not being quite balanced yet. You might try throwing some extra weight up front next time you are out and see what happens.
        Here is a fantastic article on balancing a sailing canoe and the effects on performance-
        And of course, this excellent article on how a sail’s center of effort effects performance.
        Fun reads anyway! 😉
        I hope it helps!

      • Good links Rusty,

        The interesting challenge and fun of controlling the Duck Punt is through weight shift, angle of attack, and paddle control as the boat has no rudder or leeboard. I am hoping a more forward position in the boat will give me the additional control I needed when the wind picks up. I only have about an hour of sail time so far under pretty heavy wind conditions, so I am looking forward to more time on the water with the punt and utilizing the great recommendations referenced. I am also looking forward to hearing and seeing your duck punt build. Keep me posted on how its going.

    • Dylan, you should do a little research on canoe paddling and the beautiful “J Stroke.” It might make your enjoyment of the punt even greater!
      I can’t wait to join the ranks of owners and sailers of the these boats!

  2. stick with it. this little boat really rewards good technique

    I was like you for the first outing or two but now I am confident of controlling it wherever I am – aprt from in big waves – in which case it is time to go ashore and wait for the wind to drop off. It handles strong winds well – but it needs flat water


  3. You do appear to be sitting much higher in the boat than the videos I have seen of the experts. It looks as though your weight is too far aft as well, the boat is not on her lines when you are sitting in the photos. Get on some flat water in 5 to 10, lie down in the boat, put her on her ear like she was designed and I bet you have better results.
    One question, can you get it on and off the car by yourself?


    • Hi Rusty,
      Thanks for the effort in responding to my concerns. The boat is lighter then the typical boat by about 40 lbs so it should float a bit higher. I too noticed the high bow and will experiment with different balance points as you expressed. These photo’s are on a down wind run so I was able to sit up and enjoy the ride. Also, I was pretty tired of lying flat by this point. I can load the boat on the car at 78 lbs, but don’t have too as it is permanently near its launch point on the river.

      • That makes sense, Stan. I bet the abs get in great shape sailing a punt!
        I am completely obsessed with building one, would you be willing to answer questions and/or offer advice on construction in private email? Having built one you could be an excellent resource to a novice builder like myself. Cheers and looking forward to more updates!


  4. You guys might call it heresy, but if it were mine I be tempted to try a leeboard that would simply hang over the gunwale. It could be switched from side to side or slid forward and back easily. Possibly even height adjustable by a pin for varying water depths. Might solve some of your tricky control problems. Good luck with her.

    • Hi Tim, I have learned from the experts from West Mersea that I need to get my weight forward for better control. The really cool thing about the punt is the ability to sail in inches of water. The use of a leeboard negates the design purpose and simplicity of the punt. The only reason I have some difficulty in sailing her is my inexperience. Like riding a bike for the first time, you might fall off a few times but once you get it, pure freedom.

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