Heard of a traditional boat type called the Wexford cot? Or seen footage of a gun punt in use? Neither had I until I caught up with Monday’s episode of Coast, a BBC-Open University series about our coasts that has been fascinating many people in this country for several years now.
The cot is a fairly basic double-ended flattie with rounded clinker sides developed for the shallow water of Wexford Harbour. These days they seem to be made with a small transom, presumably to take an outboard, but they’re traditionally rowed by two men with an oar each. I was strongly reminded of the Weston flatner, which is another flat-bottomed and round-sided boat type, and struck by the thought that Wexford and Weston aren’t so very far apart.
The gun punt footage mercifully saves squeamish people like me from having to look at any carnage in detail but it’s interesting to see the boats, which have just 10in of freeboard, being propelled and steered using a quant. More, it’s astonishing to see how little recoil the boats exhibit when the big gun mounted on their foredeck is fired.
The episode includes a nice interview with Larry Duggan, whose family has been building these boats for generations. Over at the Rowing for Pleasure weblog, Chris Partridge has picked up a Flickr photo set put up by Alan Duggan, which is well worth looking at.
If you’re in the UK and have access to the Internet, do try and catch it on the BBC iPlayer before it’s replaced by this coming Monday’s episode.
For a post about gun punts in the East of England including a splendid quotation from Victorian scholar and man of the cloth Sabine Baring-Gould, click here.