A quant is a pole that is used to propel a barge or punt boat through the shallow waters while
punting in Cambridge. The barge quant has a cap at the top and a prong or teeth resembling a
pitchfork at the bottom. This stops the pole from sinking into the mud. A quant used for
Cambridge punting is usually around four meters or thirteen feet long and is generally made of
hollow metal or wood. This way, it can always float even if it is left in the water. Depending on
the size of the punt, a longer quant might be required to propel it. In earlier days, these poles
were essential to drive yachts when there were no engines or if the wind was not strong
enough. Sailors for large vessels relied on quant poles that were at least twenty-six feet long.
Aside from propelling a Cambridge punt, the quant is used to steer the boats by acting as a
rudder. The rudder is a primary control surface that helps boats move through the water. The
chauffeur using the quant can quickly stick it behind the punt to safely control and navigate the
direction it moves. There is also a common saying, “I wouldn’t touch that thing with a barge
pole,” or “I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole,” which usually referred to a long pole that
is meant to tread through dirty slush and mud at the bottom of a river.
How to Use A Quant
The main reason quants are used for punting is to propel the boat from the rear or front deck.
The angle that the chauffeur holds the quant depends on how deep the water is and how fast
they want to travel. For tour groups, they will go relatively slow because punting in Cambridge
is a relaxing trip for you to see the sights around the university, so you might notice that they
are not holding the quant at a steeper level, which is meant for deep waters. This is because the
bottom of the quant should be able to reach the bed of the canal, and a shallower angle is
needed for speed. Your chauffeur might hold it relatively straight because they do not want to
go all fast and furious with families and children on board.
Your Cambridge punting chauffeur will drive the quant downward and then push it slightly
back, which propels the punt. On larger boats, the chauffeur will walk along the side of the punt
and brace against the quant to drive forward at the speed they are walking in. For reversing,
the quant needs to be pushed forwards and then pulled out of the water. Your chauffeur will
place their hand over it and then pull up, as though they are climbing up and down the pole.
While punting in Cambridge, the chauffeur will usually stand at the back for most of the rider
and then slide their quant in the water at a forward angle. This will glide the punt loosely in the
direction they want it to go. They will then push the quant just past a vertical angle, sloping it
downwards from front to the back of your punt, and then push on the quant to propel forward.
At the end of this stroke, the quant gets twisted with a downward roll of their wrist to break it
free from the bottom and then retrieve it by throwing their hands forward, getting ready for
the next stroke. You will notice how smooth and rhythmic this style is, which is the best form to
give you a safe yet adventurous ride that will satisfy all your Cambridge tourist needs.