WoodenBoat Tweakers Disease – alarmingly early Duck Punt related onset

As many of you may know here at the Institute of Boat Psychology at the University of Botolph Claydon have long been working on the problem of PNM - Poly Navicular Morbus


For some years now we have been aware of the growth of WTD - WoodenBoat Tweakers Disease.

I am sure you have seen examples of the afflicted - they buy or aquire some plans - maybe from Welsford or Bolger - and then tweak the things until they do not work. They often then take to the web to bad mouth the designer.

Up un til now the main sufferers have been late on set cases - people who have built a couple of boats and then start tweaking

My glamorous deputy head Dr Lavinia Fillet

has come a cross a most alarming case.

As you know we run courses here at the insitute where we have a 90 per cent cure rate for PNM sufferers.

We get them to build and simplest boat in the World - the West mersea Duck punt - people go home with their punt on the roof and sell or burn  all the other crappy unused and unloved  boats they have hanging around the yard.

the one week course allows them to go from first cut to first sail in a week.

However, this week we have been in communication with a young Dutchman who professed to be intersted in exploring some dykes.

He wanted the Duck punt plans which are freely available from our official website for those who wish to try a bit of self medication


the essence of his communication with us as a warning to you to be on your guard

- there is a new strain of WTD around - it is highly infectious and it can infect even those who have not yet built a boat

"I initially found your website after googling for "duck punts" as I'm thinking of making one myself.  From the videos it looks like you based yours on the West Mersea plans but modified the design to be lighter?  Like you I plan to transport mine on a roofrack on a small car, so any hints on how you made yours lighter would be most appreciated."

At the insitute we get amny, many such letters every week - we have a a four  woman team of boat therpists  on hand to answer these important emails


our initial reply from the lovely Dr Fillet was as follows



Have you built a boat before?


If not, don’t worry – it is easy

 forget the big ladderback  frame and use the flow mo curves  on the website somewhere

 and stitch and glue

 I would use 6mm ply – in a big sheet it seems stupidly light but is small panels it is fine – and it is cheap

 Use extrerior grade – fek marine ply

 Make the seat and mast step the way Professor Winter did – it worked well, very cheap light 2 x 1

 It just slots in and will not move

 And you can take it out.

Buy a paddle just like KTL  it has a wide blade

 Buy an ebay kayak paddle

  – which is the best way when you are going straight into the wind – say up a canal – then you want to be higher so you sit on the mast step and paddle the boat backwards.

 It is in the films

 Use cheapo polyester grp – this is a quick and dirty boat – easy to repair – you want the epoxy and chopped mat across the edges – they will get knocked

 For the gunwale use door trim – it is cheap and is rounded on one side – looks great

You need an inner and an outer

 Take lots of pix and professor Winter might blog about you

The mind set you should have is that this is a boat to sail and be abused – it is a pointy box

 no less no more

If you want to make a work of art then build a canoe

 If you want to sail in four inches of water where no man has ever sailed before then get a punt and find out about those dykes

 One bloke built one in 18 hours – he is a chippie and used glue and screw

 Do it man

 It will be the best  little boat you ever built

 Shit in the wrong place – bloody brilliant in the right place

 Yours Dr Lavinia

Yesterday she came into my office in tears.  She needed some severe comnforting I can tell you - jolly good that I have a large desk.

Once she had regained her composure she showed me the Dutchman's  response

Hi Dylan,

Thanks for the pointers.  I've not built a boat before but my dad is a joiner/carpenter so I should have plenty of help and advice should I need it.

I was also thinking of shortening the design from the ~16ft West Mersea design to something more like a.k.a. CreekSailor did for his second duck punt build.  How long is yours?

Best wishes,

the Dutchman

Well I was clearly upset too now. One so young, who has never built a boat, he plans on building the simplest and best little boat ever conceived - one that has been developed over nearly 200 years and he wants to shorten it by 20 per cent.

Goodness knows what other things he is planning - his father and this Creeksailor fellow appear to encouraging him

Well, I fired up the Potheadforkandle (TM) 2 million hits now) opened a bottle of scotch and assembled the team to thrash things out amongst ourselves.

After several hours we came up with this response

My advice

Keep it as light as you can

Stick to the dimensions which have been refined the past two Centuries

this is designed around the dimensions of a man

we have not changed in shape - tweak it at your peril

They  need to float high in the water  for the shallow sailing

 But when you heel them you need that long chine

 Otherwise they will slip sideways

 Are there any films of this creeksailor fellow beating it to windward

 If 12 feet was better then the west mersea blokes would be shortening theirs

 But don’t compromise the  sailing abilities of this amazing machine

 Why not build one  rough and to the right size and then decide if the second one will be different

We did get a response from the Dutchman

"Hi Professor,

Not aware of any videos of the 12footer sailing, but I understand it is more "lively" than the 16footer.  I think the idea of it was to make it significantly lighter so he could carry it much further on his own.

I guess if you keep the build light enough then there is less incentive to shorten the boat to save on weight.

Won't be starting this until after Christmas but i'll let you know how I get on.

All the best - and hope you still manage to get in plenty of winter sailing despite Katie L being way up north!


 the Dutchman"

 I do so hope that we have done a good thing and have set him back on the right path



This is about Duck Punt films, Dylan Winter's Blog, Sailing around Britain.

4 Responses to “WoodenBoat Tweakers Disease – alarmingly early Duck Punt related onset”

  1. 16 November, 2013 at 7:25 am[email protected] says:

    Magnificent! All of it. Keep having fun.

  2. 18 November, 2013 at 7:53 pmJulian says:

    Dear The Dutchman,
    12 feet? Nooooo! don’t do it please. These boats are long , smooth sailing, and look cool. If you take away four feet, it will spoil those sleek lines. As the Professor points out you’re going to sit lower in the water to. Now I’m a big bloke, and mine just skims over the water nicely. Hang a leg overboard and it digs that chine in just right, its all set up just nicely. Don’t get me wrong, these boats are a heavy item even from 6mm ply. But I’m going to build one from 4mm ply to save weight. Bung all the gaps and with decorators calk, slap floor paint all over it. I took no finish over mine at all, but it still looks okay. I didn’t use the ladder rack to build it on and as long as you set your ply out right you just don’t need it. Good luck with th

  3. 18 November, 2013 at 7:55 pmJulian says:

    Good luck with the build. Keep us posted please ?

  4. 16 August, 2017 at 5:31 pmgheorghe tolan says:

    Well, it seems I came over this page too late: I already did it. My punt is 12 feet, 3 inches long and 32 inches wide. Works fine for me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjcJzE-8Q5U but if it would be to build another one I would go with the full size one. Maybe in three parts for easier handling on land

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