A New Role for an Old Punt, by Emily Holt

By: Emily Wright Holt

Volume 17, Issue 6, June 2022

The old red punt was always a part of my memories of my summer home, Long Point, on Grindstone Island. Daddy (WDC Wright) bought the cottage in 1923, and it seems that the boat came with it. The sturdy punt was used for the next 90 plus years.

Captain Henry Thibault rows WDC Wright and friend. Long Point on Grindstone Island is in the background. [Photo courtesy Emily Holt]

The punt was the boat for moving everything from rocks to outboard motors, managing boathouse repairs from the water, and entertaining generations of adults and small folks just “messing about in boats”, rocking in big waves, catching minnows, fishing for perch, sailing small craft, or shooting off water rockets. Drops of copper bottom paint revealed its role as a low-profile craft, sliding easily under the old Workboat raised in the boathouse.

The ladies enjoy an evening row, 1931 [Photo courtesy Emily Holt[]

From time to time, she was coated with a new layer of red paint. Always red. For a while, she sported the name The Belle of Buttercup Bight, a reference to the small bay where kids rowed among the ducks and rocks named for faraway places like Africa, Iceland, and Antarctica.  Rocks which bore the red marks of the punt’s visits.

Anna Larson, fourth generation of the Wright family, enjoys the old Red Punt with a friend in 1999. 

Pulled up on the beach, the punt collected all matter of driftwood, interesting rocks, shells, and lost bumpers. Once, just once, the old punt sank under the weight of a multitude of large rocks loaded by grandchildren.

Generations of children and grandchildren learned to row in this boat, and no one was concerned about bumping the dock on landing. A heavy craft, one sweep with the long oars propelled the boat a long way, except in heavy wind when it was a struggle to return to the dock.

Over the years, rotten boards were replaced, including both ends, the seat, the sides, the keel, and the bottom . . . in other words, every board was probably replaced at some time!  Each year the boat was one of the first to be launched, spending its first few days soaking up the St. Lawrence, as it readied for another year of service. A few years ago, the old punt just refused to tighten up. Constant bailing was required, and inspection showed that she suffered from rot, which would require an entire rebuild.

Emmett Smith carefully recreated our beloved punt in oak and yellow pine. [Photo courtesy Hold family]

The difficult decision was made to retire the old punt, but plans were made to build a new one on the same lines. Emmett Smith took measurements and carefully recreated our beloved punt in oak and yellow pine, painted red, and outfitted with original hardware. Christened in 2018, she continues to serve in her capacities as a working craft, while entertaining another generation of grandkids.

But what about the beloved old punt?  No one could bear the thought of a punt bonfire. She looked so good out of the water! So that’s where she is. Prominently installed on the front lawn, the old red punt is now a deluxe sandbox. She enjoys views of The River and delights in the laughter of youngsters, who build cakes and castles on her seat and flat ends. A worthy role for a River craft in retirement!

By Emily Holt

Emily Wright Holt first came to Grindstone Island in 1926. A graduate of Wheelock College in Boston, Emily married fellow islander F. Sheppard Holt in 1949. Emily continues to spend every summer at Long Point on Grindstone Island and celebrated her 96th birthday this year.
Emily wrote some of her other memories for us last year in February 2021 in Emily Holt Remembers.

[Editor's Note:  We thank Caroline Holt Larson for submitting this, another memory, of the beloved Red Punt on Grindstone Island. We were first introduced to The Red Punt in February 2021 when Carolyn's cousins Tom Robbins and his sister Sarah Coate, wrote and illustrated "The Little Red Punt." This second episode is equally delightful and reminds us all that Thousand Islands memories last forever.]

Posted in: Volume 17, Issue 6, June 2022, History, People, Places, Sports

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