I have now been sailing the duck punt for several months and have mastered the skill needed to truly enjoy the boat in any wind condition. Without the stability of a rudder and centerboard the key to control is really learning to balance your fore and aft position in the boat along with proper sail trim. It takes some practice but once you have it it becomes quite intuitive . The duck punt is fun to sail, inexpensive, and easy to build. My Ebihen 15 took two years to build, but this duck punt was turned out in 4 weeks; with a vacation in the middle. With a proper rack on your car you can transport her easily. My duck punt was built for lightness, weighing in at 87 lbs. I used low cost sandply plywood from HomeDepot for the hull, and cedar fencing for the frames and gunwales. A few left over oak and douglas fir pieces from the building of “Alice Gale” where used in critical spots for strength and toughness. I sheathed the hull exterior with 4 0z cloth. I painted the whole boat with inexpensive porch paint. The sails and spars can be purchased on the internet either new or used. You can also build your own spars and sails if you want. The duck punt makes a great first boat to build, and even a better second, third, or 10th boat.
I had a wonderful sail yesterday with the Duck Punt. With more practice and tips from other duck punters I have mastered the skills necessary to really enjoy and control the Duck Punt. Moving my weight forward has helped to balance the boat and I can get more bite when heading up while running downwind. The current does play a part in my overall control but now I have a feel for what is needed.
As Dylan Winter and others have said it the past, “You need to build one of these”; they are that much fun!!!!
I titled this post as “Whoosh” as this best describes the feeling you have when the wind is just right. You only need a zephyr of a breeze to move the boat on calm water. Here at the river I need a bit more to press through the current, but many days the wind is over 8 and I will be able to sail up current.
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.