I Dream of a House Punt

It’s a wonderful happenstance when a dream about boating meets its match in a beautiful design for a boat, and after what must be hundreds or even thousands of hours of quiet reflection across more than a decade, it’s finally happened to me.   Though I’ve courted countless others I’ve actually finally fallen for a little boat I’ve come to call H.W. Taunt.

I plan to build her someday.

I have no idea who built or designed her, though I do know her owner for some period around 1885.  He was a bit of a dandy, rumored to be a ladies man, and clearly known to be a gifted photographer with a penchant for the Thames, a certain Henry Taunt, born in 1842.   In the only picture I’ve seen of her, he’s placed an enormous camera on top of the roof, along with signs proudly proclaiming “H.W. Taunt and Co. Oxford”.


A version of the picture I colorized.

I can only guess at her dimensions,  though it is clear she is narrow of beam for her length.   She looks to be less wide than he is tall, which, unless Mr. Taunt as huge for his era, would make her no more than 5 feet from port to starboard.   She has a generous, if not spacious, front cockpit and a modest rear deck on each end of a neat little cabin with three sliding windows.   I’d give her length as 22 feet, with a cabin that runs for a dozen feet, plus one or two more.

In the picture above I’ve given her some color, though the only hue I am certain of is the black of her hull, and perhaps around her windows, though that seems a bit at odds with the jaunty attire of her owner and his wife.

Speaking of which, his wife looks rather frail and twisted in this shot, and certainly seems tiny.  Given the avocation of her husband it is a bit of a surprise that her eyes are closed in this one important shot. She reminds me a bit of those pictures of dead children from long ago, when the only photograph they ever had taken was of them posed in death.  Can’t be, but that’s the look she gives.   In the unlikely event I’ve guessed right, his demeanor would surely imply he’d been the one to kill her!


This little house punt, for that’s a name that fits best, is clearly meant for calm waters.   A wave over the bow or a careless jetski wake placed just so across her length, and she’d flounder.  That’s the only aspect that’s given me pause, for while Mr. and Mrs. Taunt could not even imagine the horror of a jet ski, they are not unknown in my waters.  Uncommon, but not quite rare, I am sorry to say.

I imagine weekend retreats in this one, time away from the rush about life that has become so common.  There’d be iced tea, with blackberry cobbler, along with sandwiches, probably the sort with cream cheese and sliced cucumber.  That would be lunch, with dinner a steaming pot pie filled with finely chopped vegetables, cage free chicken, sprigs of fresh rosemary all topped with a delicate flaky crust.  Refreshment provided by cool cider, with a slice of ginger and fresh blueberries.

I read quite a bit while aboard, leaving technology locked in a drawer for most of the day.   There’d be a few river classics, such as Tom Sawyer, and tales of gentlemen adventurers off to meet their doom, their hearts filled with wanderlust mixed in equal parts with ignorance of the true conditions of their quest.

There most certainly would be friends, though not many, given her size.   For a daytrip you could squeeze in four, though that would assume the men on the front deck while the women play cards and talk inside.   For weekends, she’s a single couple boat, with just enough room inside for two bench sofas that convert into a single queen sized bed, a modest kitchen, and just enough room for a discreetly private powder room.

More to come.

Incomplete drawings of my version of the H.W. Taunt.

taunt better side

taunt better frames

taunt better

Originally posted 2016-06-19 19:18:14.

A website about Shantyboats and affordable living on the water. More than 800 stories to date, and growing.