It is thought that the West Coast pining punts, of the same
design as this boat, originated in Port Davey some time
prior to 1890. Mrs. McCullum, a historian and long time
resident of the southern districts, recalls "...the piners
built their own boats, they built them short and without
a keel so that they turned easily. They were very easy to
They were easily and cheaply built and, properly handled,
were fairly safe and reasonably fast with 2 rowers. It is
reliably reported that a local piner well known and still
living, rowed a punt single handed from his camp in the
lower Gordon to Strahan and back each weekend to play football.
Alfred "Attie" Doherty, a prolific boat builder on the
West Coast, was commissioned by the government of the day
to build seven 12' punts for the succour of shipwrecked
crews. His daughter, Mrs. lvy Priestly, recalled his pride
when he was paid 84 sovereigns for his efforts at the going
rate of £1 per boat foot. These boats were left, one
at each river along the coast, and it is a matter of conjecture
whether any of them ever saved a stranded sailor.
Most boats were built on a batten instead of a conventional
rabbetted keel. This was a suitable length of 3" x
1" timber tapered towards each end and chamfered on the
underside to accept the garboard strakes. The snub and transom
were attached using natural timber knees screwed or riveted
for strength and supporting the ends at the chosen angles.
The boat was then set up on a series of short posts in the
ground, or securely fastened to the floor if one enjoyed
the luxury of a shed. Timber props fastened to a beam overhead
secured the horizontal position of the batten, the ends
of the "keel" were then wedged up to adjust the required
spring which contributed to the manoeuverability of the
After two or three moulds were placed in position
and faired up, planking could begin. Planks were usually
screwed at the ends and, in some cases, the garboard strakes
received similar treatment. The planks were overlapped about
1" and given a generous coat of linseed oil, whiting and
Once planked, the knees in each corner of
the stern tuck were installed, a breast hook fitted to the
snub and the ribs steamed and fitted. The stringers or risers
and thwarts, which had one or two small knees at each end,
were next. This left only the gunwales and false keel which
Was fastened along the keel batten between the inner edges
of the garboard strakes. The addition of sole flooring (usually
6" x 1/2") lightly nailed to the ribs, finished the job.
Harry Grining was another boat builder on the West Coast.
He owned a boatshed on the wharf at Strahan where, aside
from other boats, he built the "Mayfair", a 1930's tourist
launch and the fishing boat "Olive" for Teddy McDermott.
In what was seen as a radical design, Harry also built a
large punt with a tunnel in the stern for use in the rapids
of the Gordon River. It was fitted with an inboard motor
and named "Helen". She was years before her time, being
built in 1938.
Being an innovative builder, Harry also introduced carvel
design punts. A number still survive today, they had a rounded
tuck and although he still used seven boards each side, these
punts were slightly wider and deeper than their clinker
built counterparts. They became popular about the beginning
of the Second World War when the demand for boat building
To satisfy the new demand, there were a number of men working
horse teams in the Gordon River area and large quantities
of chaff were needed up river. Once the need was recognized,
a punt capable of carrying a few extra bags of chaff per
trip became a distinct advantage. Harry's punts became
sought after and were used extensively throughout the area.
The punts in use
Many are the stories told of the West Coast punts and the
men who used them, of transporting sick or injured work
mates many miles, rowing day and night to find medical assistance.
Almost all of the accidents associated with the punts occurred
while they were being towed, especially in a following sea.
Many of them had a tendency to overtake the towing boat
and, in some cases, have been known to come aboard. A jute
bag hung over the stern was sometimes used to eliminate
the problem but attention to the length of the towline was
just as effective in most cases. The fact is, they were
designed for rowing and properly handled, they were superb.
Editor's note :
This article was taken from the Guild's display boards
at the 2003 Wooden Boat Festival. We have lost touch with the
author and we would like to acknowledge him or her. Please
Displayed here is
the fourteen foot piner's punt, "Tee Poo Kana", designed
by Adrian Dean and built by members of the Wooden Boat Guild
The lines drawing below is of the Guild's punt Gordon, an original Strahan punt that
was used at one stage by the Forestry Commission.