Nigel Royall’s Broads gun punt

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These shots are of a 18ft by 53in gun Norfolk punt named Shoveler made by Nigel Royall, of Royall’s Boatyard at Hoveton on the Norfolk Broads, and fitted with a rig from a Coypu. My thanks go to Nigel for his permission to use them.

As a boatyard operator hiring boats to holiday-makers, Nigel’s had a few dealings with gun punts over the years and finally decided to make his own; he’s put a long post about the project on the Royall’s Boatyard weblog.

As he points out, in the old days most Broadsmen could only afford one boat, so a gun punt was not just used for wild fowling in winter. For example, they it might be used for eel picking or transporting a marshman to or from the dykes where he was employed in dredging and clearing dykes – which is called dydling and fying in Norfolk.

Nigel also explains that gun punts were open until 1824 when a Colonel Hawker introduced his new half-decked design and that the punt has hardly changed since then. Slightly different types developed at Hickling and on the River Ant and Breydon Water, but they all tended to be around 18ft with a beam of between 3ft up to 4ft, with the larger beams on the tidal water of Breydon.

They all had a long foredeck, a short aft deck and narrow side decks with low combings and 9in high sides, and they drew about 1½in of water. Where they varied was in the details of the big punt guns, such as their bore, whether they were muzzle or breach loading, and how they were restrained.

Nigel tells me that he has recently recreated eel picking, and sculling and firing a punt gun from another gun punt for a local amateur film maker, and says he was intrigued to see how it handled with an eleven foot sculling oar and a large gun on board.

My hearfelt thanks go to HBBR member Ian Ruston for tipping me off about this story, and Nigel’s entertaining and interesting weblog.

PS Check out the Nigel’s post about  the Broads pleasure wherry Solace.

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The astonishing details of ‘Egyptian’-style Broads wherry yacht Hathor

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Wherry yacht Hathor (pronounced Har-Tor) is an astonishing craft. Built by Daniel Hall of Reedham in Norfolk for members of the local Colman family famous for manufacturing dried mustard in 1905, she’s highly decorated in the then-fashionable Egyptian style – and might just give modern-day boatbuilders a few ideas about decorations for their own projects.

She’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, but check with the Wherry Yacht Charitable Trust, as I understand she’s currently in for a refit.

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Zoe – princess of the Broads hire fleet

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Zoe sails by

A few of the Norfolk Broads boats available for hire are celebrities in their own right, and one of my favourites is the 1897-built 27-footer Zoe, which is available from the Broads Yachting Company at Horning.

Originally named Jubilee because she was built for hire in the year of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, Zoe’s amazing working life has spanned six English monarchs. I’d guess that she’s almost certainly the oldest yacht in the hire fleet, and I understand she’s the only one with a counter stern.

I’m told she’s quite small inside – even though she’s 27ft long, she only has berths for two – but she’s nevertheless in great demand. One of the staff at the yard told me that she’s almost always in hire, even at times when the other boats are less busy. I guess the reasons are partly her age and cute looks – but also that she has an optional topsail and is advertised as being suitable only for experienced sailors.

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