Most of the weight of the body is now supported on the left leg, but as the pull of the two hands brings the pole to the body, it twists on the spine for axis, and the weight of the body swings on to the right leg in the course of the turn, while the stroke is completed by the arms being pushed towards the stern of the punt, the right arm being almost straight at the finish of the stroke.
It is important to apply even and continuous pressure during the entire stroke, continuing this to the finish; for upon the after shove-the part of the stroke performed with the arms after the turn of the body-not only much of the speed, but the keeping of a straight course greatly depends.
During the pull of the stroke the right foot
Waiting for a passenger. The passenger should be seated up towards the bows, facing the punter and on the same side so as to make the punt keel over slightly travels backwards over the floor of the punt, and comes to rest on it as the hands pass the body, and as the latter turns, and the stroke is being completed by pushing the arms out to their fullest extent in the direction of the stern, the right knee bends, thus giving both additional power and length to the stroke.
The length of the backward step taken by the right foot must be such that the punter can recover an upright position with ease and without the slightest jerk, ready for the next stroke.
Picking up the pole correctly is a most important point.
Directly the after shove finishes, the left hand swiftly draws the pole with a throwing movement through the right hand, which in its turn catches it, and the left hand then lifts it completely out of the water, the right helping to steady it in a vertical position ready for the next stroke. In order to return it to the water for a full shove it must be sent down sharply-not merely dropped-by the left hand, sliding swiftly through the right, which is raised as high and as far forward as possible ready to grasp it directly it strikes bottom, and the next stroke begins.
Steering a Punt
It is the steering of a punt which proves such a special stumbling-block to the beginner.
The lighter the punt and the nearer to the middle of it the punter is able to stand, the easier it is to steer, and for this reason it is best to practise quite alone in the boat until the principles which guide its control have been thoroughly mastered.
Later on, when a passenger is carried, always put her up towards the bows, facing the punter, and sitting on the same side as that from which the punter is punting, to help make a keel. When even a single passenger is carried the punter must retreat at least a few feet towards the stern of the boat in order to preserve the general balance, and when there are two or more sitters, punting must perforce be performed from just in front of the locker.
After a very few shoves with the pole it becomes clear to the punter that no one stroke constantly repeated will take the boat in a straight line from one point in the river to another a couple of hundred yards further down. In order to induce the punt to keep a straight course, instead of progressing in a series of zig-zags, or even turning round and round in mid-stream, each stroke must be slightly varied to suit the immediate need.
The fact that the propelling force in punting is entirely applied at one side has a natural tendency to drive the boat away from the side on which the pole is being used. If, when punting down the left-hand side of the river, the punt's nose shows a pronounced tendency to run into the bank, more pressure must be exercised, and the punt gently "pinched" with the pole, during the after part of the stroke.
If, however, the nose of the punt insists upon swinging out into midstream, the hands on the pole while passing the body must describe a slight outward curve, instead of passing in a straight line across the chest. This will serve to draw the nose of the boat into the bank, and so straighten her again.
At first the punter will much exaggerate these two movements, but after a little practice they become second nature, and the punter will find herself able to steer a straight course by means of a gentle pressure on the side of the punt, or by the passage of the hands just inside or just outside the punt, without altering the time of her stroke or relaxing pressure.
When the steering of a punt can be performed down stream, try punting up stream, then, but not before then, when a certain amount of speed in punting has been acquired, it will be necessary to master the art of suddenly stopping the boat in an emergency to avoid collisions with other craft. This is very easily performed by shooting the iron end of the pole forward in a slanting position, and bringing a reverse of the usual pushing movement to bear on it with both hands held rather far apart.
The usual way to turn a punt is to "swing" her round. When going down stream, in order to turn round hold the pole with the iron end in the water at right angles to the punt, which will swing round towards it. If the impetus is not sufficient to turn her completely round, give a shove or two on the bottom of the river in the usual way, and when the head of the boat is facing up stream, steady her by dropping the pole rather wide and drawing it inwards, to prevent her from swinging round again.
The best kit for punting consists of a very plainly made linen blouse and skirt (such as are shown in the frontispiece of this part of Every Woman's Encyclopaedia), the blouse cut so as to allow absolute freedom to the arms, indiarubber-soled shoes, to prevent their slipping during the punting stroke, and a rather stiff-brimmed but shady hat trimmed with a wreath of green leaves or a big ribbon bow to match the colour of the dress. Rings must be discarded, for if worn while punting they blister the hands, and all jewellery is out of place on the river. Needless to say, elaborately trimmed muslin frocks should all be avoided, except for occasions such as Eights Week or Henley Regatta, when garden party attire is often worn.
To turn, hold the pole at right angles to the punt, which will swing round towards it. If the impetus is insufficient, a shove or two on the bottom, of the river will achieve the desired result