Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shouldn't we have a punting license, or insurance?

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Dan was the first brave one
One of the regular things we do with guests is take a punt tour of the colleges along the river Cam. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat pushed with a long pole, much like the gondolas in Venice. On a beautiful Cambridge day, a guided punt tour is a relaxing way to learn some history and see the beautiful "Backs" of the colleges, the buildings and gardens off-limits to non-students unless you pay a fee. It can also be like watching a demolition derby.

That's because while people can pay for a guided punt, as we usually do, one can also just rent the boat and try to direct it yourself. It's harder than it looks, especially to keep going straight--and even experienced chauffeurs will occasionally lose their pole as it  can get stuck in the mud. On a busy weekend, the narrow river is clogged with boats crashing into each, bridges and the shore. It's fun to take pictures and KT likes to quip that she's seen marriages end on the river as spouses fight over inadequate punting skill.

On a nice day, the river can get quite crowded with punters who may or may not be able to drive their boat in a straight line.
Of course, we've never ourselves dared to take up the long pole--until a few weeks ago, when our DC friends Dan, Lisa and their daughter Anya visited. We started on a punt tour with a few other people but they hopped off half-way through the round-trip tour--they didn't want to walk back to the turning point apparently. So we and the rather laidback guide had the punt to ourselves and he soon asked if Dan wanted to try chauffeuring it. He was game and did a fine job for about 5-10 minutes, before asking if I wanted to try. No, I was desperately thinking, but I squeaked out a "sure"--I couldn't wimp out in front of the ladies. It was a great fun, and I kept the punt moving relatively straight, albeit slowly. KT then took her turn, which was short as we were coming up on a congested part of the river. I'm not sure we'll chauffeur our next punting tour but at least we can say we finally punted ourselves.  --JT
KT navigating the Cam.

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