We launch our Phil Bolger Auray punt

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Our new Auray punt tender on the lake behind Jim and Eileen’s house

We finally launched our new Phil Bolger-designed Auray punt tender with the help of our good friends Jim and Eileen Van Den Bos yesterday.

Thanks Jim and Eileen, and many thanks also for the dinner!

A collaborative effort between Julie, myself and Jim, it was made to plans included in an early chapter of his book Boats With an Open Mind, published by International Marine, and bearing in mind that tenders have hard lives, it is built using 3/8in marine ply rather than 1/4in material. DIY boat builders may also be interested to know that the oars we’re using are the ones described by R D Culler and by Jim Michalak, who has published plans for them online. I can confirm that they’re quite easy to make (though you’ll want a power planer) and work every bit as well as Jim says.

Bolger based his design on the Auray punt on a description by Claude Worth in his book Yacht Cruising, which was written in the early years of the 20th century. Worth, who observed fishermen’s boats when cruising the southern coast of Brittany thought that one particular type, which he dubbed the Auray punt, would make a good tender. Awareness of the boat type redoubled in the 1990s, when Bolger wrote about the type in Boats with an Open Mind and included his design.

One reason for Bolger’s interest in this type of boat no doubt arises from the fact that it is a traditional boat that conforms closely to his well known ‘seas of peas’ analogy relating to the design of chine boats – many of Bolger’s designs including the Micro and his flat-bottomed sharpies share the shape of the Auray punt in an elongated form.

So how does this little boat perform? On flat water with one person on board, I can say it feels light and effortless to row until it reaches hull speed on its short water line. Three-up it seems to reach its design displacement, at which it rows rather more steadily but is very well behaved. Two up, it does exactly what you’d expect with a sharply rockered hull form…

I think it will make a handsome tender, particularly if I remember to put something heavy near the bows whenever there’s someone in the stern.

The only caution I would offer is that if you find a copy of the book and decided to build the boat, make a model first!

For more on the Auray punt and Worth’s description at intheboatshed.net, click here.

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Just feet from our launch site, a moorhen resolutely sits on her floating nest made from reeds

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Hannu Vartiala’s website changes address

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Hannu’s coracle. His site offers plans for a range of
small boats derived from traditional types

Hannu Vartiala has just let me know that he has moved his website to a new address – so I’d like to take this opportunity to direct intheboatshed.net readers over there for a happy few minutes.

It’s true that Hannu’s chosen boatbuilding material isn’t mainstream for intheboatshed.net, but those of you who yearn to build a small boat and are happy to do so in plywood may well find his plans interesting, for as well as the coracle pictured above, he has included some interesting boatbuilding plans and material on flat-bottomed swamp boats, drawings for a useful-looking 12ft flat-bottomed skiff, various variants on the Auray punt theme including Chapman’s Ekstock boat, and a couple of light-weight plywood dories. Well worth a look, I’d say.

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Claude Worth on Auray boats, Auray punts, and yacht dinghies in general

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Worth on Auray punt dingies and fishing boats

Claude Worth’s drawing of the Auray punt

The Auray fisherman’s dinghy used described by Claude Worth early last century is one of the dinghy forms most fancied by amateur builders. It has also attracted the attentions of several notable small boat designers, including Murray Isles and the mighty Phil Bolger.

Worth called it a punt, probably because it had a scow bow and stern, and I’m sure that then as now a large part of its appeal is the simplicity of its construction. Sadly, however, he doesn’t seem to have recorded the name used by the local fishermen of the time.

Intheboatshed.net readers might like to see Worth’s original description, and to read his thoughts on yacht dinghies generally. These pages come from the 1926 edition of his splendid book Yacht Cruising.

A little less than a century later, I had the great luck to go to the Douarnenez maritime festival, where I saw a small Auray punt in action, albeit in rather un-testing conditions. See the photos at the bottom of this post, which show a simple, load carrying box piloted by the most piratical-looking Breton I’ve had the privilege to see – but sadly I still don’t know the proper name for these boats.

There are two sets of plans for modern boats derived from the Auray punt in my book Ultrasimple Boatbuilding: one’s a simple rowing and small outboard boat, while the other is a multipurpose 8ft dinghy with a sailing option designed by the splendid Murray Isles.

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Worth on Auray punt dingies and fishing boats Worth on Auray punt dingies and fishing boats Worth on Auray punt dingies and fishing boats

Worth on Auray punt dingies and fishing boats Worth on Auray punt dingies and fishing boats

Auray punt photographed at Douarnenez, 2002 Auray punt photographed at Douarnenez, 2002