Lessons in punting

Summer in Cambridge, and the punting season is in full swing.

You can either have a guided tour by a professional punter (quite likely a student) or take a punt out yourself. The price of each goes ever upwards.

Listening to a guided tour as his punt glided towards Garret Hostel Bridge, I heard him say something like Tit Hall defined pirates in maritime law or something. Don’t quote me on that, and do take everything the guides tell you with a pinch of salt.

On the other side of Garret Hostel Bridge, a pro punter and a tourist approach each other.

Note that the pro is standing at the back of his punt (right, in the photo) on the stern deck. To propel the punt, all he needs to do is drop the pole in the water behind him and push. Because he’s standing right at the back, he can also use the pole as a rudder to steer the punt along the river. This is the correct way to punt in Cambridge.* He’s moving upstream.

Note that the tourist is standing inside the punt, which is pointing upstream. However, she’s trying to propel it downstream backwards. Because of her poor positioning, if she drops the pole in the water on her right, the punt travels to her left, and vice versa. Therefore, to steer, she must swap the pole from one side of the punt to the other, which takes time and more effort than is necessary. This is not the right way to punt anywhere.

In the photo, the tourist has pushed her punt to the left, and is swapping the pole over to her left-hand side to push it away from the bank that the punt is curving towards. The pro should really have spotted this and steered his punt to his own left, out of the way.

The tourist pushed her punt to her right in time to avoid the river bank, but the pro didn’t avoid clipping her punt’s bow (at the back).

No one fell in the river on this occasion.

* I gather that in Oxford, they stand on the bow deck and propel the boat backwards. I don’t know why, especially as there’s more room to stand on the stern deck.

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