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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Max Hussey

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Max Hussey

“We were fairly well isolated in Herring Neck. We thought this was the world here when we were growing up. Twillingate was big- you know, to make a trip to Twillingate would take a day almost to get there,” Max Hussey recalled.

Located on the northeastern side of New World Island in Notre Dame Bay, Herring Neck is composed of a number of communities including Ship Island, where Max was raised in the 1950s.

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Lance Short

Lance Short
Lance Short

“You see, to we, a boat is only a boat. That’s all. It’s just nuttin’” Lance Short told us over tea and desserts served by his wife Pat. It was a chilly, damp October day and the crackle of the fire in the kitchen stove can be heard on the interview recording.

I first met Lance during boat documentation research in Trinity Bight in summer of 2014. We arrived at his home in New Bonaventure and explained our interest in speaking to him about boat building. Though he denied being a boat builder, he eventually admitted to building about twenty boats.

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Moon Phase Harvesting

TimberOn Deer Island, Bonavista Bay, it was common practice for boat builders to harvest their timber according to phases of the moon.

“Everything is governed by the moon,” says boat builder Sam Feltham, “You wouldn’t cut timber when the moon was wasted; you would cut on a new moon. If you cut it after a full moon the wood shrinks faster.”

Jack Casey from Conche, on Newfoundland’s northern peninsula, also abides by the cycle of the moon when cutting wood for his boats.

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Salmon Fishing on the Gander River

Gander River in Appleton
The Gander River in Appleton

Known for its wild Atlantic salmon, the Gander River hosts thousands of tourists from all over the world each season. Located in central Newfoundland, the Gander River is the third largest river on the island and is internationally recognized as a world-class sports hunting and angling destination. The river flows through Gander Lake and past the towns of Appleton and Glenwood before draining into the Atlantic Ocean at Gander Bay.

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Tips and Techniques from Gander River Boat Builders

Timber

Juniper (Tamarack) is a strong softwood that grows mostly in wet swampy areas and is the preferred timber for the ribs of the Gander River Boat. Builders heat thin strips of juniper in steam or boiling water to make it pliable to bend the wood to the desired shape.

“I usually put about half a gallon of Javex in the water with it. That makes the juniper pretty soft.” – Eugene Saunders, Glenwood

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Ern Hodder

Ern Hodder
Ern Hodder at his home in Gander Bay

Ernest Hodder was born to Archibald and Clara in Davidsville, Gander Bay in 1933. The oldest of seven children, Ern followed in his father’s path working as a guide on the Gander River in the summer and spending the winters working in lumber camps. “I enjoy it out on the river. If you’re getting paid for something you love that’s the way to go.”

“In my father’s early day, there was no outboard motor. They had canoes that were the same on both ends.” Born in 1905, Ern’s father Arch was almost forty-years-old when he got his first 3 horsepower outboard motor.

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Eugene Saunders

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Eugene Saunders with his Gander River Boat built in Glenwood over winter 2012-13.

Eugene was born in 1944 on Indian Islands, Notre Dame Bay to Frank and Netta Saunders. When he was three years old, his family moved to Glenwood where Frank, a blacksmith, worked with Anglo-Newfoundland Development (AND) Company.

Eugene grew up in Glenwood alongside the Gander River and learned how to build boats at a young age. “It always enthused me building boats. I used to go out to my uncle Nat Gillingham’s when I was growing up. They were boat builders,” Eugene says.

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Basil Gillingham

Basil Gillingham with his Gander River Boat at Gander Bay
Basil Gillingham with his Gander River Boat at Gander Bay

Basil Gillingham was born in 1940 in George’s Point, Gander Bay and spent fifty years guiding on the Gander River. He learned how build boats at a young age by watching his father Leslie Gilllingham.

In Leslie’s earlier days, these boats were double-ended and propelled primarily by a black spruce pole. “To get Gander you’d have to pole up the river and then get the train from Glenwood,” says Basil, “and it would take you three days.” Today, the trip from Gander Bay to the town of Gander can be done in less an hour by car.

Basil built his first Gander Bay Boat when he was 16-years-old and has built over 100 of them since. “There were a lot of boats built here in Gander Bay, and a lot of people built them. Older people now, a lot of them are gone, and there don’t be many built anymore.”

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