Tim Bush builds a Mersea Duck Punt

Minnesotan Tim Bush has got in touch to tell us about the Mersea Duck Punt that he’s recently built. He is clearly very pleased with it.

Here’s what Tim has to say:

‘A few years back you had featured some articles on the Mersea Duck Punts. Having recently built and sailed one I have some experiences you might find of interest.

‘All hype aside these really are brilliant little boats. I built mine to the John Milgate plans with a few changes.

‘I used 6mm plywood throughout and then glassed the hull exterior in 6 oz cloth. The bow and stern posts I made from one Christmas-tree shaped piece as I have built other boats this way. I added fore and aft air boxes, also 6mm ply. 

‘The rig uses an older set of Opti aluminum mast and spars, with a new sail.

‘I think the air boxes are good idea. They give you a chance to self-rescue and over the years I’ve come to appreciate the value of dry storage. A dry change of clothes. A dry tent. Dry shoes. Dry lunch.

‘Ready to float the boat weighs 135#. Easily trailered by most any car. A handful to roof top carry unless you have a loading system.

‘Setup and launching are very simple. Place the mast into the hole. Unroll the sail and peak the sprit. The quickness to get underway and load back on the trailer is one thing that makes the punt or other simple boats so useful.

‘I have a GRP daysailer that is a good boat, but it only makes it on the water a few times a year as it takes 1+ hours to prepare to sail and another 1+ hour to take down. It also requires a paved landing and waiting for ones turn to use it. Usually when I have time to sail it is after work with only an hour or two before the wind dies for the day. The punt only needs a few inches of water, so it needs minimal access. This opens many more waters it can go on.

‘I have read that the Duck Punt is the sailing equivalent of riding a bicycle, but I think it’s more like the sailing equivalent of flying a hang glider. You lean and movie fore and aft to balance.

‘You lean to lee to set the chine to achieve the required ‘lateral resistance or ‘effective board area’ and move fore and aft to set the location of the lateral resistance.

‘I suspect people who report finding the punt uncontrollable – or later added a lee board and rudder – may also have added a seat. But fixed ballast does not work well in these punts. For example, if you watch videos or browse pictures of punters you often see them with a leg draped over gunwale. This is not an affectation: the leg is comfortable, but it also lets you easily fine tune the boats balance and heading.

‘The steering oar I have yet to master. Placeing the oar in the water changes the lateral area and thus seating position.

‘Small course corrections can be achieved with a turn of the wrist. Larger changes in direction I can do, but not gracefully.

‘With more hours in the boat, I am hopeful I can become close to the ease of steering the Mersea punters show on videos. The Opti sail works wonderfully and could not be simpler to use and the boat will move in lighter wind than most boats.

‘At sundown, though’ I do have repeat a mantra of “thou shall not add a jib to the Duck Punt“.

‘The boat also rows well. I made rope loops to retain the oars on the thole pins. Fold the loop over the oar in a U shape and drop the ends over the pins. The hull width limits the oar length to about 5ft 6in, which is adequate for the job.

‘When the water by me is a liquid again I will try making some short (5” to 6” per side) outriggers to fit in the thole pin holes and to accept oarlocks. Then I will try longer oars.

‘Paddling the boat with a canoe paddle works well when there is not enough room for oars. A kneeling position seems best. A kayak paddle also works but can be hard on your knuckles when you rap them on the sides. Tracking is fair when paddling. Cross winds will tire you out though.

‘There are no tides where I am, so no tidal flats. There are numerous lakes and streams. Some are shallow and most all are surrounded with heavy woods. Submerged logs and branches, rocks, lily pads, and reeds make many unsuitable for a sailboat with a board and rudder, but the punt just glides along. I am more worried about the sprit hitting an overhanging branch than grounding.

‘All in all, I am very pleased with the punt. You should try one.’

I should! Thanks for a great account Tim! Fair winds, and I hope we can look forward to a video or two some time!

5 thoughts on “Tim Bush builds a Mersea Duck Punt”

  1. I’ve been enamored with them since I discovered some of the UK punts on YouTube. Here in the SC lowcountry, our coastal waters are miles and miles creeks, shallow bays, and estuaries with plenty of mud flats. Where is Tim located? If I’m anywhere nearby, I’d be happy to get some drone video.

  2. Great piece Gavin,
    But who is Tim Bush, (related to Fabian Bush who builds boats in Essex?), and what is his frozen river?
    Google “duck punts on the strood” to see a great short film on youtub if you’ve not already.
    Best wishes,

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