Brian Pearson spotted this beautiful 1939 Herbert Woods-built Norfolk punt for sale on eBay.
At 22ft length over all, she is carvel-built and bears the number 43, and is named Curlew.
Curlew was owned and raced by Herbert Woods in 1943 and then sucessfully raced by many notable local sailors, so she has an interesting history – and in fact even has a tropy named after her. Read her history here.
The seller says he saved the boat along with another when they had to come out of barn storage at short notice, and there was a high chance that they would have been broken up and burnt, and intends to sell Curlew to someone who will get her back on the water where she belongs. I hope he’s successful!
The geezer in the hat and the little green boat is Norfolk boatyard proprieter Nigel Royall; in these pictures he’s demonstrating the use of an old-fashioned gun punt with a 3ft beam and a small Norfolk Broads marshman’s punt or eel punt for a local film maker. Here’s what he had to say about the adventure:
‘How nice to hear from you, I have often looked at bits and pieces on your web site.
‘Last week I recreated eel picking and sculling and firing a punt gun to fowl for a local amature film maker and we will put some photographs of this on our own website shortly.
‘It was most ‘interesting’ to see how my little gun punt Plover handled with an 11ft sculling oar and a rather large cannon balanced on her bows!
‘We are also slowly restoring a very old River Ant gun punt that is on long term loan to us from the Museum of the Broads that I hope to eventually refloat, again photos should arrive soon.
I’d like to see that recoil in action from a suitable distance and direction!
For an earlier post about Nigel’s adventures with gun punts click here. Also, for a piece about eel fishing in the old days, click here.
PS – There’s been some discussion about these photos at the Wooden Boat forum, which has prompted Nigel to send us some interesting remarks. To read what he has to say, click here: Wooden Boat forum contribution.
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Gunning punts at the Museum of the Broads. The smaller boat is styled after
a gun punt but is too small for the purpose.
Intending to pick up on another recent theme from Chris Partridge’s Rowing for Pleasure weblog, I took some photos of gunning punts at another of my favourite small boating museums, the splendid Museum of the Broads at Stalham.
So imagine my surprise when I found he has only today put up a series of photos virtually identical to mine. Ah well… Great minds and all that. I trust he won’t be offended if I put mine up also.
The folklorist, antiquarian and scholar Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould lived at Mersea in Essex for ten years, and Hervey Benham quotes Baring-Gould describing the business of gunning like this:
‘At a former period wild-fowl shooting was largely practised by the [Mersea] islanders, who had their punts painted grey… In these shallow boats they lay for many hours at night and contracted both ague and rheumatism. My impression was that generations afflicted with these complaints acquired in the marshes had lowered the physique and mental development of the islanders. When the east wind blew the wild ducks and geese came in flocks near the coast where they were surrounded and shot.’
Call me a pessimist, but I can’t help thinking this tactic of surrounding and shooting the birds must have led to some nasty incidents in which some of the boatmen must also have been injured.
In a way, gunning punts are still used in Norfolk on a regular basis – for they were adopted for racing and developed into the scary Norfolk Punt, a high-powered sailing racing machine still sailed regularly on Barton Broad. But that’s another story that I’d like to tell one day.
PS There’s an interesting postscript to Chris’s Rowing for Pleasure post on gunning here.