I wanted to build a boat ever since I was about 10 years old. My Grandfather had an old boat building book on his bookshelf and I can remember a wooden pram style duck boat leaning up against the garage. When I approached my Grandfather, who was quite a wizard with wood, about building a boat, he said, “Ask your parents” who, of course thought I was much too young.
In my 20s I was able to sail an O’Day Swift wet sailor, by trial and error, after only reading about tacking. I was hooked for life on sailing.
In my 30s, living in New England, fortune smiled on me when I was able to take a few day trips with a friend that had a Contessa.
Now I’m retired, pushing 69, and finally got my wife’s permission to build a boat! I live in Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes, where it is almost a crime NOT to have a boat.
Designs have been researched and sketched for years, but at my age I wanted something I could car-top easily, and it had to sail and double as a fishing platform; it would be a bonus if I could paddle kayak style as well.
Found Dylan Winter’s website Keep Turning Left with wonderful information on West Mersea Duck Punts.
Duck Punts are small sailing boats, from the marshy areas of England, most often it seems, West Mersea. A small boat with a single sail, most commonly from an Optimist sailboat.
They have no center board or dagger board, and no rudder, instead they rely on the square edge of the hull heeled over to form a keel, and a paddle for steering. They are usually sailed lying or sitting in the bottom of the boat.
A utility boat from centuries of history, Duck Punts are considered the equivalent of a floating wheelbarrow, a way to get to market, haul your catch or produce to market, sneak up on ducks and geese for hunting, or to just get between islands in the marsh; only recently have they become a club and racing type of boat.
They are considered to be able to sail on very thin water, and are relatively fast for such a small sail. While sailing is what they are more known for, Duck Punts also are paddled or rowed as required.
Having previously researched teardrop trailers (stay with me here), I found the website Teardrops & Tiny Travel Trailers and information on lightweight foam construction. Within that site was a member posting as Rowerwet who mentioned that he was going to build a boat with the foam technique. He created an Instructable about building his design for a foam kayak named Sawfish.
The wonderfully versatile Sawfish design allowed me to create, with a few modifications, a foam version of the West Mersea Duck Punt. This article details my progress on the boat and the points that are different from the Sawfish Kayak.
Designing a Foam Duck Punt
Dylan Winter’s web site has downloadable plans for the traditional wood West Mersea Duck Punt; using the dimensions from these plans and after reviewing Rowerwet’s Sawfish building technique, I used my graphics program to lay out a foam duck punt design. I spent months trying different approaches and more months tweaking the design. This was all just design daydreaming because I had no idea if my wife would allow a “major” project since we live in a townhouse with a small double garage.
The drawings show the concept and the construction and cutting drawings, which I will endeavor to make available to those who may want to follow in my wake!
The photos show the stages of construction. I will not attempt to duplicate Rowerwet’s fine Instructable, because that will provide you with step by step construction techniques. I will make comments when I have modified items that may be different from Sawfish.
Building a Foam Duck Punt
In laying out the points for the hull curves, I first marked my centerline on the two 4′ x 8′ sheets of 2″ thick xps foam. Because I have a drywall square, I was able to mark the sheets with a Sharpie pen before joining them with Rowerwet’s Butterfly Scarf Joint, avoiding a chalk line that might disappear at the wrong time! I marked my stations per the measurements I found for the Duck Punt and used to create my design (after converting from metric to inches).
I also marked bulkheads and the point at which the rocker of the boat would be at its lowest.
Rowerwet’s instructions show marking the curve with bricks to hold a piece of pvc pipe. I used kabob skewers on either side of an 8′ piece of 1/4″ pvc lattice trim, which gave me a square edge to trace against. I simply moved the lattice between the skewers to get the full length. Note: since the lattice is 1/4″ thick, decide ahead of time which side you intend to trace.
Dustless cutting can be accomplished with a knife edge jigsaw blade made for cutting foam. I found Bosch and some other brands of blades on Amazon. I bought 4″ blades thinking that would be adequate for 2″ material. I believe 6″ blades would have worked better because the stroke of my jigsaw actually pulled the tip of the blade up into the foam, which I think caused it to wander and not cut square. I am not positive if a 6″ blade would cure the problem, but if I built another boat I would buy 6″ (they were almost the same price as 4″).
Rough stacked the pieces after cutting. It even looked like a boat at this point!
All foam to foam gluing was with Gorilla Glue. Glued the layers of the side pieces on to the trimmed out bottom of the hull. I had to buy “gravity clamps” (bricks) for about 40¢ a piece. I estimated I would need 56. Worked in the garage in humid weather because Gorilla Glue, Great Stuff and PL Premium 3X (PLP3X) adhesives all like humidity!
The rocker for the bottom of the hull was set using a piece of lumber 1-1/2″ high for the stern and two pieces at a total of 3″ high for the bow. The Duck Punt plans are a little vague on this so I went by measurements off the drawings as close as I could get using standard 2x lumber. As the layers get glued the curve locks into place.
Seven layers makes the foam punt 14″ high. The English Duck Punt is closer to 12″ but with a 2″ floor I wanted the inside of the boat to have the same depth as the original. Note that the aft deck extends out beyond the curve of the lower hull; the area under the deck sides will have a sculpted flare. If you do not want the flared sides or the transom, the boat can be constructed as a “double ender” similar to a canoe; the build would be much simpler this way, but I like the lines of the original duck punt.
The flare parts snug up to the aft deck and the transom. Because I wanted this boat to double as a small fishing craft, I made provisions for a board to mount a sturdy transom; if you are not interested in powering the boat (besides wind!), the top two or three layers of foam can be angled out like Rowerwet does with the aft of Sawfish.
Click HERE to download drawings for the Foam Duck Punt
Part One – Part Two – Part Three – Part Four