Saturday, May 9, 2015

WOE and DUCKPUNTING (or, Dory Dan Bailing His Punt)


Intrepid Readers and Mates, ahoy. I unfortunately announce the passing of Count Gregoire de Frontenac, adventurer, philosophe, and beloved brother-in-law.  He now sails the night skies into the oblivion of which we must all follow.

He always hated this portrait

You may remember Count Gregoire from the breathlessly exciting Amateur Hour installment: BILTREK2012 (legendary) and a short follow up featuring his futuristic Ship of Tubes and Plastic Bags in Count Gregoire de Frontenac Goes On Adventure. I for one will certainly miss Count Gregoire quite deeply. And so, with him in my heart and mind, I decided to go DUCKPUNTING!  (trumpets!)

YES DUCKPUNTING! Duckpunting makes all things straight and good, and I decided what a better day to go duckpunting than the day before the memorial event! A sailing-memorial of sorts, if you will. So with Count Gregoire in heart and mind I sped down the interstate to our favorite Stereotypical New England Character, Cap'n Dory Dan! I had big plans and visions in my head of duckpunting, streaming a black pennant, putting MRS MUMBLES into distress, disorder, and discombobulation for a mourning photo op, and making a libation-ous offering to Poseidon for the safe passage of Count Gregoire across the Oceans of Tyme. (thyme?)

As I pulled into Dory Dan's homestead, I realized I forgot the black pennant.  No big deal, we can still put MRS MUMBLES into mourning and make libation-ous offerings. Dory Dan was deep in his duckpunt, fixing the broken mast step and thwart from our last punting day the autumn prior.  The air was thick with the smell of linseed oil and turps and freshly sawn pine.

It's always 1882 at Dory Dan's
Soon, we were down at the ramp and we found ourself looking at a very low river, with a very swift upcoming tide, and a stiff southerly breeze, also piping up the river.  Dan decided to row (smart) I decided to sail (cheap gratification) and after two crossings of the river I thought I had made good on the wind, but due to the current found myself right back at the boat ramp. SOoooo, I struck the rig and popped out the oars, and rowed after Dan, who now had made significant passage south downriver.

I soon passed Dan, because his plank-on-frame duckpunt had been in his hot dry shed for the past three weeks. For you non-nautical types, that means his planks were dry, and not swollen shut and so every joint was like a faucet allowing water to enter the hull. Dan was bailing his duckpunt and flipping her on her side to empty the small ocean inside. I found this quaint, then quickly realized this was going to be the theme of the day.

Dory Dan rowing into a little creek I pulled into
YAR there be water in them bilges!
Dan emptying his duckpunt. Notice the dory-built construction style of his duckpunt.
The planks overlap the stem too!
Dan was quite humored by all the bailing he had to do, but was looking for less exposed areas to row, as a boat with several pounds of water in it equals no fun. We scoped out the creek and decided to cut a large corner off our route by taking the creek and then we'd row around the next point for lunch. There was a little less current and much less wind down low below the marshbanks.

Shortcut across the marsh
We soon arrived at our lunch spot and declared it good.  However, the tide was absolutely roaring up, and the sandbar was quickly underwater, the wind was whipping, and we were continuously retreating up the banks.  I realized I was not going to be able to put MRS MUMBLES into mourning with her spars all ahoo unless I wanted to court some sort of damage or real-deal discombobulation, so instead I hastily poured a libation to Poseidon, while desperately holding on to my punt. Soon after serving the libations, we had a moment of silence, which lasted about as short of a moment as you can think, and we beat a hasty retreat up the bank.  Dory Dan left his duckpunt solidly in the water so it would "take-up a bit during lunch" because he's an eternal optimist and I'm a willing friend who will listen to such daydreams.

After lunch, Dory Dan did some more bailing.

OH Poseidon, watch after Count Gregoire with your aquatic-y goodness (Hi Neighbor!)

Duckpunt wallowing in the stream



super close-up picture of this available on request)
WELL. Now came the downwind sailing back to the boat ramp. This is where the pictures kind of come to an end, because it was all-hands-on-deck downwind duckpunt sailing at high speeds. We were hanging on with our teeth, oar clamped in our armpits, two hands to the mainsheets, and hoping for the best.  Nothing like the risk of hypothermia to really up the ante and the heart-rate. Duckpunts are fascinating creatures downwind, an adept sailor can heel the boat to windward and she will bear off the wind, or sheet in and bear up. It can even be hands-free. It works well, until the wind starts gusting to 20kts, and then you are in for a ride! But first:

More bailing.
We sailed back down the creeks we came up, often spinning out of control and hitting the banks. At one point I was gripping the boat for dear life on a full-on Nantucket Sleigh Ride, and turned back to hear a deep, primal hooting coming from Dory Dan. I fumbled the camera out as quick as I could as I watched him come roaring around the corner, bow in the air, water spilling in over his transom. We regrouped upriver to catch our breath and rest our arms.  Our muscles were killing us, duckpunting in strong breezes is full-body exercise.

Dan is just moving in this pic. I wish I had more to show of this. Incredible sailing.

Mud adorns our bows as evidence of multiple excursions from the planned routes into the marshbanks.

 As we were getting ready to push off, I dropped my painter.

I dropped my painter, with current and wind pushing MRS MUMBLES upriver and away from me at a great rate of speed.  I was marooned on a Massachusetts marsh that was quickly going to be covered in cold May ocean water. JEEPERS. And it was all my fault.

Dory Dan to the rescue! He jumped high, turned his punt around, and sailed like my life meant it in pursuit of MRS MUMBLES. He grabbed the punt with his oar, and then drifted/rowed the two boats to the marsh banks opposite me and across a large creek.  I, in full sea-boots, took off at a sprint yelling over my shoulder that I would find a crossing of the marsh creek. Now, these creeks are narrow, but deep, well over 6 feet. I could only swim across, which this time of year wasn't in the cards. So run I did, which including jumping over many smaller creeks, and falling in the mud.

Dan stopped bailing, and sailed off to catch MRS MUMBLES...
Red dashes = Me, exercising my heart and lungs, running to meet Dan and boats
Red arrow = Stranded
Green Arrow = Dory Dan with boats
Blue arrow = Point of Dawning Comprehension
After a good run across a muddy marsh in my boots, Dan rowed back over to my stranded location and picked me up. In Dory Dan fashion, he chuckled, "I was yellin' to you that the creek goes for a mile you're never going to cross it." (Picture a Huck Finn type of character admonishing some adult, but in New England). Back at the boats, we headed downwind following the creek and worked our way back to the boat ramp. We absolutely flew down the creek, working upriver.  The water was very smooth, and I did the balancing/heeling/sheeting steering technique thing, and it was wild and wooly and wonderful.  A few times the boat snapped in one direction or another and I had to scramble to keep her from capsizing, but we made it to the end of the creek in an explosion of hooting and hollering. Exhilarating! This was really high-class sailing.

My hero, Dan.

Bailing. Again. More bailing.

And we're off for home! Coming down the creek

Surf Cruisng!


Dory Dan inbound to the boat ramp. Yeah!

Just missing MRS MUMBLES

ASHORE! NO HYPO! I deem this day a success! 
Today was a fitting tribute to Count Gregoire de Frontenac. I didn't stream a black pennant. I didn't put MRS MUMBLES into a state of mourning and distress with her rig all ahoo. Honestly, most of the day was pandemonium so we certainly found ourselves in a distressed state by our own bumblings.  Dory Dan certainly contributed to the distress with his sailing-colander that he calls a duckpunt. At least Poseidon got his own, and MRS MUMBLES and I went duckpunting, and Dory Dan and I got to sail together and talk about Count Gregoire and others that have passed before us.

WE HAD FUN, and that honors Count Gregoire more than anything else we could have done.

Stay healthy, Intrepid Readers and thank you for reading.

Fair winds, friend and brother.


  1. I would give anything to see that smile again- in that healthy body. I miss you more than my heart can hold. Mom