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Hunting boats

In England, the punt was developed as a hunting boat. To propel it, you stand at the back stern end*, drop a very long pole into the water, and push off on the bottom. It's done standing up.

In the Venetian lagoon, the sandolo s'ciopón (a kind of sandolo) was developed as a hunting boat. The boat is rowed with a pair of long oars. It's done standing up.

What is it about hunting boats which means that standing up to propel it has an advantage over sitting down?

* Which end consitutes the back stern varies depending on whether you're of the Cambridge or Oxford persuasion.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 8th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC)
Two things: hunting things above or on the water is aided by standing up so that you can see further; spearing things below the water is aided by standing up so that you can look down at a steeper angle, avoiding being dazzled by reflected light and confused by refraction.
Sep. 9th, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
I like your thought on the angle of incidence. It's good for navigating, anyways. (You can't really hunt and propel at the same time, and both the Carpaccio painting mentioned below and the ancient Egyptian vessels highlyeccentric refers to below don't show anyone trying to multi-task that way, much as it's the way I'd initially thought about the problem.)
Sep. 8th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC)
Is it where the expression 'punter' derives?
Sep. 9th, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)
Nope, the general use of "punter" today comes from rugby/gambling—but argh, I can't get into the OED right now to figure out if those two things (the boat, and the gambling term) are related.
Sep. 9th, 2007 11:14 am (UTC)
OED definitions of punter:

1. A player who ‘punts’ or plays against the bank at certain card-games: see PUNT v.1
2. transf. A small professional backer of horses. Also, one who gambles in stocks and shares, or on football pools.
3. slang. A name for a member of various classes of criminal, esp. one who assists in the commission of a crime (see quots.).
4. slang. The victim of a swindler or confidence trickster.
5. colloq. A customer or client; a member of an audience or spectator; spec., the client of a prostitute.

Going on to PUNT v.1

[ad. F. ponter, in same sense (in Dict. Acad. 1718); according to Hatz.-Darm., of unknown origin. Cf. PUNT n.2]
a. intr. At certain card-games, as basset, faro, and baccarat: To lay a stake against the bank. (earliest use is 1706)
b. slang and colloq. To bet upon a horse, etc.
c. to punt around, in police slang: to patrol. Also as n. in phr. to have a punt around.

Going on to PUNT n.2

[ad. F. ponte (in both senses), 1718 in Dict. Acad., or Sp. punto point.
The connexion of the two senses is obscure and disputed. Littré treats them as the same word, and refers both to Sp. punto. But Hatz.-Darm. treats the two senses as distinct words, taking ponte ‘point’ as ad. Sp. punto, but ponte ‘the player against the bank’ as a deriv. of ponter, PUNT v.1, app. unconnected with punto, and of unknown origin. English writers have in general identified them.]
In the game of faro: A point.

The OED's comments on punt in the sense of vehicle is interesting:

[OE. punt (in 10-11th c. glossaries), ad. L. ponto a kind of Gallic transport (Caes. B.C. III. 29), also a floating bridge, a pontoon (Gellius a 175, Ausonius, Digest); in later sense referred to L. pons, pontem bridge. Cf. also MDu. ponte, Du. pont fem., ‘ferry-boat, pontoon’, MLG. punte, punto, LG. pünte, pünto ferry-boat, mud-boat, repr. the same L. word.
OE. punt was, from its vocalization, prob. an ancient word, representing a survival of the Latin word in Britain; but it may have been only in local use, in which also it seems to have continued during the ME. period, though no example has yet been noted. But punt-boat is found in the Maldon (Essex) Records of date 1500 as a current word, and it is noteworthy that the literary use begins with Phil. Holland, a native of that county, who in his translations uses it, evidently as a familiar term, to render various L. words, e.g. linter, navis, ratis, alveus, arbor cavata.]
Sep. 9th, 2007 11:15 am (UTC)
OED confirms what eulistes wrote. Punter is from punt in the sense of laying a bet, which comes from punt, or "point" in card games.
Sep. 8th, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
i dunno, but it makes me think of the picture of Tuhtankahmun apparently surfing on the Nile with his spear in hand.
Sep. 9th, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
I wonder if that'll be in the forthcoming exhibit at the O2?
Sep. 10th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC)
i don't know. what's the O2?
Sep. 10th, 2007 08:03 am (UTC)
There's no reason you should know what the O2 is actually. It used to be called the Millennium Dome in London and was recently taken over the phone operator O2. It's now an entertainment multiplex, with large and small concert venues, a movie multiplex, lots of chain restaurants, and, starting in November, an exhibit area which will start off by hosting a large exhibit about Tutankamen.
Sep. 10th, 2007 09:29 am (UTC)
wow, that is cool.
Sep. 8th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
The s'ciopon was a hunting sandolo, but surely the sandolo itself was and is just a generic flatbottomed boat, more used for transportation than for killing ducks or whatever. Of course if you're a more experienced than I am you can row it alla vallesana, i.e, with two oars; but I've been told that that method was originally used by women bringing produce to market. The women who did so are far more talented than I. That hunting was done with rower(s) with single oars is clear in the Carpaccio painting in the Getty.

Your point, though, is that people stood to row when hunting. In the Venetian lagoon, at least, you stand to row, whether to kill things or just to go from one place to another. I have no experience with punting. I once tried to convince a beautiful young girl to accompany me on a punting expedition in oxford or maybe cambridge, but alas she declined.
Sep. 9th, 2007 11:26 am (UTC)
I know I've been punting before, and had thought at least one of them with you, although apparently not. At least once with the Oxford summer program and once in Durham.

Thank you for the s'ciopon details. I've corrected the post accordingly. I considered delving into email to investigate photos of you rowing, but then I failed to.

I note that in the Carpaccio painting the rowers and the hunters are different people.
Sep. 27th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
I learnt to punt in Cambridge (standing at one end), then moved to Durham (technically choice of ends), and then Oxford (standing at the other end).
Most hunting tends to be along of the lines of trying to find the corkscrew!
Sep. 9th, 2007 12:12 am (UTC)
Presumably it's about increased range of visibility? Punts are very flat-bottomed too, so they can travel amongst reeds and boggy areas. Being able to see over the reeds would definitely be useful.
Sep. 9th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC)
What is it about hunting boats which means that standing up to propel it has an advantage over sitting down?

I can think of a couple reasons, actually. First, hunting boats often venture into shallower waters than other boats - if you're hunting waterfowl, it's not unlikely you could end up with just a couple feet of clearance under your bow as you venture into marshland. Boats where you stand to move them have an advantage in really shallow water. Two, a pole or a long oar disturbs the water less than a short oar. Three, if your boat-propeller is also an active hunter, it's easier for them to switch from pole to boat/gun than oars, stand up and switch.
Sep. 9th, 2007 11:19 am (UTC)
Good thoughts, although I wonder what on earth you'd do with the pole in a hurry. There's no where easy to put one on a modern punt, but then it's no longer adapted to hunting. Presumably hunting versions have a pole rest built in somewhere.
Sep. 9th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
I too think it is all about shallow marshy areas--that is where the game is.

For the same reason, Fish and Wildlife uses flat-bottommed boats with huge fans on themm to count birds--where the birds are, there is little water and lots of stuff to run aground on.
Sep. 9th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)
I think gillo and ladykathryn are right; I think I read something once about the recreational sport of punting having developed from the fishing boats in the Fens near Cambridge...

BTW, you just inspired me to do a post on punting. Thx!
Sep. 9th, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)
Excellent! I'm planning on doing a second one today myself since I was just in Oxford punting on Friday, which is why this was on my mind in the first place.
Sep. 9th, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
stern. stern. stern. not back. stern. or maybe, aft of the beam. but not back.
Sep. 9th, 2007 11:21 am (UTC)
You knew what I meant, and that's really all that matters in communication, right? I've fixed it though, since you are right, and I was being sloppy.
Sep. 9th, 2007 12:30 pm (UTC)
Of course I knew! But you are usually so precise about such things, oh woman who knows all kinds of scary technical terms and uses them properly!
Sep. 9th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
Wow! Really? Thank you. I'm such a strong believer in the importance of communication over actual word choice that I didn't realize I had such a high batting average in terms of good word choices.
Sep. 9th, 2007 10:51 am (UTC)
I've punted on both the Cam and the Cherwell (Oxford) though only for fun, not for hunting, I've also done sport rowing on the Thames. The main disadvantage of oars is that they stick out quite some way from the side of the boat, however the leverage this gives you enables you to go much faster. When hunting, you would need to be traversing narrow channels (for instance within reed banks or up side channels) and you would want to move slowly/quietly in order not to alarm the game. An alternative solution is of course the canoe, which is a narrow boat that can be propelled sitting down with a short vertical paddle. However, as pointed out above, this doesn't allow you to see over the tops of reeds. You also wouldn't be able to stand up/kneel to draw a large bow or fire a gun as you can in a stable vessel like a punt (and adding an outrigger increases the width). What it does give you is the ability to move in deeper, faster and choppier water, while the punt is restricted to shallow rivers and lakes.

Presumably the Venetian hunting boats needed to move in narrow channels but also in deeper water, so they used oars rather than poles (I suspect the oars can used to push off in shallow water, I've done this lots of times in rowing boats that get too close to the bank and get the oars caught in mud or foliage). I would guess that the blade of the sandolo oar is long and oval (like a canoe paddle) rather than the flat-ended oars used in rowing. Like the punt pole this wouldn't get caught in reeds (though you do have to be very careful of overhanging trees with a long pole!) Incidentally if a punt is moving slowly or is stationary, it's much more maneuverable than a rowing boat (it's basically a long thin raft so you can move it any direction you want) and there's no keel to catch the current to cause it to drift at unwanted times.
Sep. 9th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
The problem with using an oar to punt is that it tends to sink into the muck at the bottom of the lagoon. I've done it in an emergency, when lodged on a mudbank, but it's not efficient. I suppose I could have used the butt end of the oar, but then after getting off the bank I'd be fingering a muddy handle.

I'm sure you're right about maneuverability, and in many places a hunter would be able to use only a single oar. But according to at least one web site Owlfish was right about its traditionally being rowed with two (crossed) oars.

However you hunt, either someone rows you or else you put the oar/punt down to do any killing. In the s'ciopon the two activities are very distinct since the hunter lies down in the bottom of the boat to fire a wide-bore, cannon-like gun {s'ciopo) stuffed with whatever odd bits of metal can be found. You only get a single shot, but if a flock has landed right in front of you it's possible to waste them all. Naturally it's illegal now.
Sep. 9th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
Apropos of nothing, I had always assumed gondolas were poled like punts, and was floored to find when I actually got to Venice that they were rowed...

Since then, I also have seen several double-paddled gondolas, which are basically rowed like a rowing scull (that is, hand over hand), except with the rower standing up, and the boat moving forward. Don't ask me how that works.
Sep. 9th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC)
With a whole lot of practice. geesepalace above notes that it's a whole lot harder with two oars than one, and not something he's up to attempting yet with his s'ciopon.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )