Born 1864 and married at 24, Thomas Head lived in Joe Batt’s Arm on the north coast of Fogo Island, Newfoundland. Thomas was a fisherman all his life but, to eke out a living with his wife Phoebe, he would likely have turned his hand to many other things in the course of a year.
The distinction between a punt and a rodney, or if there is even a distinction to be made, is often debated among boat builders and enthusiasts.
Both punts and rodneys are small (under 25 feet) work boats with keel and rounded bottoms. Used in the inshore and coastal fisheries, the design of these boats varies between communities and builders.
For some, the terms “punt” and “rodney” may be used interchangeably to refer to the same boat. For others, a rodney is smaller than a punt. Sometimes the shape of the counter, or transom, is a defining feature.
What do “punt” and “rodney” mean to you?
“My first boat was what we call a rodney – a small boat about 12 feet long. We used to tow her behind the trap boats.” – Tom Abbott, Summerville
“A rodney is a little narrower, I think. And they’re a little more, what you call ‘cranky’… but the crankier they are the easier they are to row.” – Ray Boone, Summerford
“As I was told, a rodney is 14-16 feet. Once you go over that, 16-19 feet, it would be a punt. A punt is little bit bigger than a rodney.” – Stewart Sturge, Salvage
“I usually think of a rodney as something thats light, easy to row, easy to launch, usually with a little rocker in the keel, and cranky as ever could be… They’re fast, easy to row and light to handle, whereas a punt is more of a heavier, wider, not-so-graceful looking thing that was used for fishing and handling around salmon nets and everything.”
Displacement boats are designed to minimize resistance when travelling forward through the water, whereas planing boats are designed to travel on top of the water. Prior to the use of engines, all boats were built with displacement hull forms.
As the power available in outboard motors increased, and planing became a possibility, the traditional boat builder was presented a design challenge. In the traditional process, David Taylor suggests in Boat Building in Winterton, “there were right ways and wrong ways of building and designing a boat [based on past experience] but no governing principles. Decisions were made according to custom and originality in decision making was not particularly encouraged”.
By Jerome Canning
The three-piece mould is an old method for designing and building boats. A lot of the first boats to come off our beaches and take to the fishing waters were boats built with these curved sticks of wood. The method was widely used in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1800s. Moulds still survive in some communities; but mostly as items saved from the old boat sheds of our past builders.
Samuel Andrews built this four-oared punt in Winterton during the 1930s-1940s. It measures 15’6” long and was used during the winter for hunting seals and sea-birds. Built with thin planking and a smaller frame, it was designed to be lightweight and maneuverable through the ice.
While the difference between a punt and rodney varies throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, in Winterton, the two are remarkably similar with only a few slight distinctions.
Samuel Andrews was born in Scilly Cove, now known as Winterton, in September of 1877. Known by most as “Uncle Sammy” Andrews, he and his wife Jedidiah had four children: Rachael, Wilson, Sarah, and Nehemiah.
Samuel was a fisherman and like many others in the industry, he would keep busy year-round to provide food and income for his family. In addition to fishing, Uncle Sammy hunted small game, cut timber, went sealing, caught sea birds, and cultivated land according to the seasons.
One method of boat design used by wooden boat builders in Newfoundland can be traced to a method of design employed by English shipwrights in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Known as “whole-moulding,” this method was brought by those who settled in Newfoundland during the same period.
David A. Taylor describes the three-piece mould method used by boatbuilders in Winterton, Trinity Bay. Similar to whole-moulding, Taylor describes these moulds as, “a wooden, three-piece adjustable template used to draw the shapes of the three principle timber pairs”.
One of three methods of design Taylor observed among Winterton builders during his research in the 1970s, the three-pieces were referred to collectively as “moulds”.