Putt Putts and a Passing Fad
16 August 2019
When I was a nipper and too young to get a full time crewing job, after sailing my model yacht on the boat pond for an hour or so I'd often wander along the prom to go and see what mischief a nine year old could get up to. It was Largs in the sixties, a small seaside town for the infirm, populated, to my young eyes, by people who must have been over a hundred years old. It hasn't changed much. Anne was brought up there. Anne and her three sisters but even "the Rich girls" as they were commonly known, couldn't put a dent in the age demographic.
Back on the prom, if you had a shilling, which I seldom did, that was a weeks salary at my school holiday pig farm job, you could hire a "putt-putt" for an hour, a twelve foot, wooden, clinker built dinghy fitted with a single cylinder petrol engine which made a distinctive "putt-putt" noise - which became the generic term for the vessel to all the punters and NEDS, (non educated delinquents) who came down to Largs from Glasgow for the day.
The putt-putts, which would nowadays feature at classic wooden boat shows and cost twenty grand new, would be driven around the bay by all and sundry, no skills, no life jackets and from the NEDS, no payment as they'd keep the boat out all day then ditch it on a faraway beach when the petrol ran out.
Which is what we worry about here. Navigating around here is just like a giant Largs Bay in the sixties. With sunshine. Putt-putts everywhere, all out fishing in relatively large seas, relative if you're in a hollowed out log, with only an additional ten inch plank gunwhale stopping you from getting swamped and a single cylinder putt-putt nineteen whatever engine to get you the ten to twenty miles back to shore. These intrepid fishermen set out shortly after the four fifteen morning call to prayer and for an hour, there's a stream of them putt putting past us on their way out to sea. There's not much sleeping goes on between four fifteen and six.
Once out in the briny, they fish somewhere close to a rectangular bamboo FAD, a fish attracting device, or as we know them, a BAD BOY. A Bow Attracting Device. The damn things are everywhere. Most anchored anywhere out to maybe two hundred metres, others in deep ocean, which sometimes isn't necessarily that far from land, drifting with the tides. It's all very local and part of the cultural experience. It's just a bit nerve wracking when you're surfing at fourteen knots in the pitch black.