Swamp Boats

Swamp boat owned by Arcule Slaney, St. Lawrence. Photo courtesy of Lisa Loder.

Do you have memories of swamps boats on the Burin Peninsula? Do you have a swamps model? Do you know of a swamps boats stored in a stage and long forgotten? Our Folklorist needs your help! We will be travelling to the Burin Peninsula next week to collect memories, photos or other items related to these boats. 

To share your photos or memories, please call Crystal at (709) 699-9570 or email folklore.wbmnl@gmail.com.

Lloyd Boone

Lloyd Boone, Point of Bay, 2016

Born in Cottrell’s Cove, Notre Dame Bay, Lloyd Boone moved to Point of Bay in 1977 when he married Cybil Philpott. He learned how to build boats from from his father-in-law, Wilfred Philpott, a carpenter and farmer who learned how to build from his father, Stanley. “In ’76 I started. That was my first boat. [Cybil’s] father showed me how to build it … it was a speed boat.”

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Sam King

Sam King holds a mould for the dory bottom that has been in his family for four generations.

“I was only about fifteen, I’d say, when I built the first dory with my father,” said Sam King. His father, Gabriel, was a carpenter in North Creston and built and repaired dories for others. “We never had it built before a fella wanted to buy it,” he said.

Now retired from the Marystown fish plant, Sam has built around fifteen boats. He was working on a dory at the time of our visit to his home in Epworth in 2016. “A fella wanted me to build it… well, I didn’t know if I was going to do it or not. He was two years after me to do. I finally decided I would build it,” he said. “It’s a hobby, that’s all… You gotta do something when you’re used to working all your life.”

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Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan was born in Benoit’s Cove in the Bay of Islands in 1937. “I lived just up past where the church is at,” he explained, “Everyone had their houses close to the water in them time, eh? I spent all my evenings down here, there used to a store over there. There’s still a store there now…” Read more

Calvin LeDrew

Calvin LeDrew, Purcell’s Harbour

“Wherever you went, you either walked or rowed on Change Islands. Everybody had a punt,” said Calvin LeDrew. Born in 1942, his father Harry was a fisherman and boat builder from Change Islands, and his mother, Lucy (White) was originally from Comfort Cove. Calvin moved to Purcell’s Harbour on South Twillingate Island in the 1970s and spent his life working as a fisherman. “I’ve been at everything clear of the shrimp, I was never at that. Cod, turbot, lobster, mackerel, herring, squid… whatever you could make a dollar at,” he said.
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Sherwin Saunders

St. Lunaire

Sherwin Saunders was born in Main Brook, on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula, in 1950. Around the age of nine, he moved to St. Lunaire with his parents, Fred and Olive. “Dad used to fish summertime and he used to work in the woods wintertime with Bowater. I would have been nine or ten years old when we moved here [St. Lunaire] permanently,” said Sherwin.

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Alf Manuel

Accessible only by boat until 1974, Twillingate Island has been home to skilled boat builders for generations.

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Alf Manuel

“Mr. Young – across the tickle – Don Young, he just lived over across the way there, he was building boats, and one or two of his brothers built boats. They were the closest ones to me that were in the business of boat building,” Alf recalls, “But there were lots of other people around. There was Mr. Watkins, over across there, he built speed boats. Good speed boats. And of course, the Pardys of Little Harbour. They’ve been building them since… well, I don’t think they were involved in the ark but they go back pretty far,” he laughs.

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Roy Jenkins

Roy Jenkins sits in his newly finished motorboat, 2013.

Roy Jenkins has been building boats in Twillingate for more than 30 years. Born in nearby Tizzard’s Harbour, Roy moved to Twillingate in the late 1970s. “This is where my mother was born… here on this land,” he said standing outside the shed where he builds his boats.

Over the years, Roy has built mostly speed boats. He estimates that he’s produced around ten or eleven, but no two were ever alike. “Every one was on a different mould,” he said, “and there was changes to each one.” Some of the moulds were adapted from those used by other local builders, including Max Hussey, while others Roy made himself.

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Motorboat built by Ray Boone

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WBMNL Folklorist Crystal Braye interviewing Ray Boone at his home in Summerford.

“Well, ever since I was a boy, I see a crooked stick I’d cut it,” answered Ray Boone when asked about getting into boat building. He was around fourteen years old when he built his first boat with his brother, Ron, who was just a year older. “It was a big challenge to take on that… the first one,” Ray noted. The boat, a rodney, was built by the boys for their father to use fishing for lobster.

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Frank Combden’s Punt

p20161015_joe-batts-arm_frank-combden-33As a boy growing up Barr’d Islands on Fogo in the 1950s, Frank Combden learned how to build boats as part of a way of life. He watched as his father, George, and others built their fishing vessels and started building his own as a teenager. We met Frank in his shed where he described his process for building a 14’ row punt.

Frank uses a three piece mould to get the shape for the three main frames of the boat: the forehook, midship bend, and afthook. The three sticks are aligned according to sirmarks which indicate what section of the boat is being determined.

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Eric Bourden

Eric Bourden showing his handplane that once belonged to his grandfather.
Eric Bourden showing a handplane that once belonged to his grandfather.

“These are some of the tools I use,” Eric Bourden said standing behind a table of handplanes. “I used them… My great-grandfather probably used them. I know my grandfather did, and father.” In his shed, Eric show me relics from generations of Bourdens in Bayview, Twillingate. Some of the handplanes he estimates to be 150 years old.

Josiah Bourden, Eric’s great-grandfather, moved from Durrell on the northern coast of South Twillingate Island to Bayview (Maunel’s Cove), a distance of about five kilometers over land. His grandfather, John Bourden, was an inshore fisherman, and his father, Andrew Bourden, spent his life as a schooner captain sailing out of Twillingate. Born to Andrew and Sophia (nee Jenkins) in 1935, Eric made a living fishing for lobster, doing carpentry work and operating a school bus. Read more

St. Lewis (Fox Harbour), Labrador

Photo Credit: Axel Drainville
St. Lewis, Labrador/ Photo Credit: Axel Drainville

St. Lewis, formerly known as Fox Harbour, was one of the earliest locations recorded by Europeans on maps of the New World. Depicted as Ilha de Frey Luis by Portuguese explorers on 1502 charts of Labrador’s coastline, the area’s sheltered harbour with access to fishing grounds and migrating seals made it an ideal location for both migratory European fishers and native Inuit inhabitants. In the eighteenth century, Europeans began to settle permanently and the community became a vibrant fishing centre on the southwest coast of Labrador.

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Harry Pardy

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Harry Pardy with his models for sale in Little Harbour

Born and raised in Little Harbour, Twillingate, Harry Pardy learned how to build boats from his uncle Harold. “First when I started it was all done by hand. Hand plane, hand saw, ax, drawing knife, spokeshave, hand drill and all that stuff. There was no electricity then.” Following in line with generations of boat builders, Harry built his first boat, a flat, in 1942.

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Boyd Coleridge

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Boyd Coleridge

Robert Boyd Coleridge was born February 28, 1928 in Trinity, Newfoundland. He learned how to build boats from his grandfather, George Henry Christian, who repaired schooners for Ryan Brothers Limited. Boyd built at least seven boats over his lifetime, including row boats, motor boats, and speed boats. “You’d have to look for special trees for timber,” said Boyd, “with all different crooks in them.”

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Joe Goudie

Joe Goudie at his canoe shop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Joe Goudie at his canoe shop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

“I can’t remember not using them,” said Joe about canoes, “either being a little passenger in them or paddling them myself.” Born in 1939 into a family of trappers in Mud Lake, Labrador, Joseph Goudie grew up around canoes. His father, Jim, and brother, Horace, would paddle for five weeks each fall to reach their trap line. Leaving the canoe behind, they would snowshoe for twenty-two days home to Mud Lake, towing a toboggan of pelts.

Family of Trappers…

“He had to build a canoe every year, as did a lot of other trappers,” said Joe, “They used mostly white spruce and covered it with canvas and then painted it… They were probably not as fussy as I am because it was only going to be one trip right? Paddle it in the country and leave it.”

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Calvie Meadus’ Motor Boat

Calvie Meadus_Motor Boat

[Download PDF of this Drawing]

Built in 1989 by Calvie Meadus, fisherman and boat builder from St. Jones Within, Trinity Bay, this motorboat measures 19’6” long and just over 6’ beam. “She is quite substantial for a motorboat her length with big flaring on her bows and a wide counter,” says her current owner, Kevin Price. “That gives you a better boat in the wind,” Calvie explained.

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Vernon Petten: Longliners

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Vernon Petten, Port de Grave

C.B: “How did you learn how to build boats?”

V.P: “I’ll tell ya now… you just never had to be afraid to start.”

“Ill tell ya now…”


When the Pettens needed a new larger fishing boat, Henry Petten began to consider who they would hire to build her. “We’ll do it ourselves,” said his son Vernon.

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Vernon Petten

Hibb's Cove, Port de Grave, 1960s
Hibb’s Cove, Port de Grave, 1960s; Credit: Dave Quinton

“When I started fishing first, there was one fish in the water. That was cod,” said Vernon Petten, fisherman and boat builder from Port de Grave, Conception Bay.

“We’ve been at this through thick and thin. My father, my grandfather, great-grandfather down.”

Vern started fishing when he was old enough to get aboard the boat. He was only five years old when he accompanied his grandfather, John William Petten, on his last trip out.

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