The History of Big Alum Lake

Chapter 14

Information and pictures provided by John Puffer

Duck hunting boats are designed to maneuver in shallow water environments, Their slick, dish-shaped bottoms with no keels allow the boats to pass through timber laden swamps and narrow ditches and to glide through tangled grass or over ice.  The boat pictured above is a "Get There" Duck Boat, manufactured by W.H.Mullins of Salem, Ohio, and owned by John Puffer's family.

The boat was in the Puffer family for over fifty years.  John wrote, "It came to us as a forgotten piece of equipment tucked underneath a lake cottage we purchased in Sturbridge, Massachusetts way back in 1946."

The boat appears to be made of tin, and is fourteen feet long with a thirty-six inch beam.  It weighs seventy pounds and its original color was "Dead Grass."  Its date of manufacture is estimated to be around 1900.  One of the options available for the "Get There" boat was Allen's Bow Facing Oars.  A quote from a Mullins brochure:  "Invaluable in duck shooting as you see the bird the instant it leaves the water;  are perfectly silent as they are attached to the boat by ball and socket joint with attachments to take up lost motion.  No stiff necks, no lame backs, no running ashore or crashing into obstructions."

John noted, "The most interesting aspect about the boat is the oar system.  Each oar consists of a two-part wooden portion with a metal double-jointed elbowed section in the middle.  As you pull the oar handles, the oar paddle actually is pulled back as well, causing a forward motion of the boat.  Thus the rower travels in the same direction as he/she is facing, which is the opposite of a normal oar driven vessel."

The "Get There" Duck Boat is light-weight and durable. At either end is a large air chamber, which contributes to the buoyancy and stability of the boat.  The layout provides maximum storage capacity for dogs, decoys, and hunting equipment.  The chambers also are sufficient in size to float four men on the upturned boat should it happen to capsize.

In 2002, John traveled to Salem, Ohio with his duck boat and made an agreement with the Mullins Boat Club president that the Club would maintain it and display it at meets and other gatherings in order to share it with other interested folks.  In 2007, John transferred ownership to a gentleman from California who planned to restore the duck boat and use it in a period display as part of his RV history project.

Introduction, Chapters:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17