In Little Harbour, Twillingate, Hedley Pardy grew up surrounded by boats. “Everybody built boats out of necessity… You were fishing, you couldn’t afford to buy a boat, you had to build it.” Coming from a long line of reputable boat builders, Hedley learned how to build boats from his father, Harold. “Seemed like it came natural I don’t know… He wasn’t there all the time with me, but I guess from watching him build boats over the years.”
Using moulds passed down from their father, Hedley built mostly speed boats and one twenty-six foot trap skiff with his late brother, Hebert. “You use a mould to cut your three bend: forehook, midhsip bend, and afterhook we call them. And your counter of course. And the stem, well, it could be all different shapes depending on the piece of wood you’ve got, you know? But we try to get it half decent looking: not too upright.”
Hedley always used to cut his own timber frames, harvested from the roots of trees. “I can remember going with my dad over in the woods. Go down around Cobb’s Arm or over on some of the islands around Port Albert… Get some timbers for a boat for next year and get your firewood. You’d be gone a couple of nights probably.”
Hedley spent twenty-five years working in the fishery, harvesting cod, lobster, capelin, herring, mackerel and crab with his brother Hebert. “We had cod traps out. So we used a skiff for that… Just two of us, even with the cod trap, just the two of us… We managed, but it was a lot of hard work… You needed four guys really, but we managed anyways. The fishery was just about over when we started then, and it seemed like it was going down all the time… ‘99 we stopped. Moratorium was…‘92 I think it started, but we kept on at the crab for a few years.”
Jack Lane was born in Englee, on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula, in 1934. As a boy, he remembered spending time with Gideon Lane as he built boats next door to their family home. “Most everybody in Englee built their own boats. If they wanted a boat they built it.” In his youth, Jack lived in Exploits, Twillingate, and St. John’s before eventually returning to Twillingate to settle in 1965.
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.”
“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. Read more →
Accessible only by boat until 1974, Twillingate Island has been home to skilled boat builders for generations.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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 →
“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.
Born 1864 and married at 24, Thomas Head lived in Joe Batt’s Arm on the north coast of Fogo Island, Newfoundland. Thomas was a fisherman all his life but, to eke out a living with his wife Phoebe, he would likely have turned his hand to many other things in the course of a year.
In June of 1892 John William Dorey was born in the community of Kyars Cove on Black Island, Notre Dame Bay. A fisherman all his life, John built boats as a means to supplement his income and constructed the motorboat featured here in the 1950’s.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
In 2013, the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador travelled to Glenwood, Appleton, and Gander Bay to learn about the unique Gander River Boat. Designed and modified by generations of boat builders, these boats are specially crafted for the rapids and shallow waters of the Gander River.
Once necessary for travel between the coast and inland settlements, Gander River Boats are now used for recreational salmon fishing and travel to cabins and outfitter camps along the river.