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…”
During our 2016 interview, Mike described what it was like growing up in the community. “Our school was just up on the hill there… ” he said, “We used to have to go light the fire. We each had our turn. Once a month my turn was up. I had a sleigh with handlebars on it, a ‘country sleigh’ they call it, to carry the kindling and birch.” After school he went down to the cove to help process herring, “I was probably nine or ten years old,” he recalled.
According to Mike, the first dories built with outboard engines in the Bay of Islands were on Woods Island. “They had the row dories, and when the outboard motors come up… they chopped her off to make her square… On Woods Island it started the first… Speed Dories, they called them.” He recalled Pat McCarthy being amongst the first to build one. “The first fella that built one, I got him to build me one,” Mike said, “His relative, Jerry McCarthy, he was a cracker jack at the dories too. That’s who learned me.”
Bay of Islands Dories
“I’m gonna tell ya, it’s a job to beat them dories! You wouldn’t believe it. The only thing now, when you’re butting wind, they pound hard because they got a flat bottom. But for getting around, they’re a wonderful rig for hauling lobster traps.”
At sixteen years old, Mike went to work at the Pulp and Paper Mill in Corner Brook where he worked for forty-two years. He also spent some time fishing lobster and cod in the Bay of Islands. Over the years, Mike has lent a hand to other building dories and has built seven of his own since retiring in 1995.