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

Punt or Rodney?

The distinction between a punt and a rodney, or if there is even a distinction to be made, is often debated among boat builders and enthusiasts.

Both punts and rodneys are small (under 25 feet) work boats with keel and rounded bottoms. Used in the inshore and coastal fisheries, the design of these boats varies between communities and builders.

For some, the terms “punt” and “rodney” may be used interchangeably to refer to the same boat. For others, a rodney is smaller than a punt. Sometimes the shape of the counter, or transom, is a defining feature.

What do “punt” and “rodney” mean to you?

“My first boat was what we call a rodney –  a small boat about 12 feet long. We used to tow her behind the trap boats.” – Tom Abbott, Summerville


“A rodney is a little narrower, I think. And they’re a little more, what you call ‘cranky’… but the crankier they are the easier they are to row.” – Ray Boone, Summerford


“As I was told, a rodney is 14-16 feet. Once you go over that, 16-19 feet, it would be a punt. A punt is little bit bigger than a rodney.” – Stewart Sturge, Salvage

Stewart Sturge, Salvage


“With a rodney, the timber is slighter, the plank is thinner, and she’s lighter… A punt is heavier.” – Jack Casey, Conche 
 “Same thing. Some people call it a punt and some people call it a rodney… Same shape outside probably just [the punt is] bigger scale.” – Harry Pardy, Little Harbour, Twillingate

“What they call a punt is a little bigger than a rodney. A punt they used to use years ago for towing behind the trap boat. A rodney they used for sealing and gunning and stuff like that.” – Noah Patey, St. Lunaire-Griquet

“I usually think of a rodney as something thats light, easy to row, easy to launch, usually with a little rocker in the keel, and cranky as ever could be… They’re fast, easy to row and light to handle, whereas a punt is more of a heavier, wider, not-so-graceful looking thing that was used for fishing and handling around salmon nets and everything.”


Calvie Meadus

Calvert Meadus was born in Loreburn, Trinity Bay on December 23, 1927. As a boy Calvie recalls watching his father Keid, Uncle Lige [Elijah] Price, and others as they built boats, using a three piece mould to shape every frame before assembling onto the keel.

Learning the Craft

“There was an old fella down there, Uncle Lige Price, he used to be in always building boats. That’s all he done, most all his lifetime. I used to watch him, and then I thought I’d build a boat too. When I started I was fifteen, I wasn’t yet sixteen. I was sixteen before I got her finished.”

First Boat

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Earl Feltham

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Earl Feltham spent four seasons as marine engineer on Labrador fishing schooner the Sherman Zwicker

Earl Feltham was born on Deer Island in 1937. His father Ephraim, was a fisherman and a carpenter. In 1953, when Earl was 16 years old, Ephraim and his wife Suzy moved their family to Glovertown.
Earl went on to St. John’s where he attended the College of Fisheries (now the Marine Institute) and spent six seasons working on vessels along the Labrador coast.

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Sam Feltham’s Punt

SAM-FELTHAM-LINES-PLAN-1024x724[Download a PDF of this Drawing]

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Unable to acquire an appropriate knee for the stern, Sam imporvised with the materials he had available.

Sam Feltham learned how to build boats on Deer Island using cut timbers, but has been using steamed laths since moving to Glovertown in 1954. This punt, completed in August 2012, is just one of more than 100 boats built by Sam over the years. While Sam would normally cut his own wood, he finds it increasingly difficult to find suitable timbers. For this punt, Sam used store-bought spruce.

Typically, says Sam, “we would cut a knee in the woods – a flaring knee, with an angle about 18 degrees – for the stern.”

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Sam Feltham

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Deer Island

In a small fishing community where everyone built their own boats, learning how to build was part of growing up for a young boy. “You’d go from one stage to the other,” says Sam, “listen to what they were telling you and watching them work. That’s the way I got my training.”

Sam Feltham was born on Deer Island in Bonavista Bay on March 3, 1928. He built his first boat on his mother’s kitchen table at fourteen years old.

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Jack Casey: Building with Moulds

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Michael Casey’s initials found on a rising board in the set of moulds passed down to Jack Casey.

P092712_Jack-Casey-29When building boats, Jack Casey uses a set of moulds that once belonged to his grandfather, Michael Casey. When Michael Casey arrived in Conche in 1850, he made a set of moulds which he used to build his fishing boats. Passed down to his son Michael Patrick, and from there to Jack, these moulds were used to build rodneys and punts for 160 years.

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Jack Casey

Jack Casey
Jack Casey

John (Jack) Thomas Casey was born on July 2, 1922 in Conche, a small fishing community on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula. One of eight children born to Michael and Nora Casey, Jack started working in the lumber woods at only seven years old and was fishing with his father by the age of thirteen.

The Casey family, including Jack’s grandfather Michael Casey, moved up the coast from St. John’s to Conche in 1850 to be closer to the Labrador fishing grounds. Jack spent all his life in Conche, earning his living as a fisherman in the summer and working in the woods in the winter.

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Max Pollard’s Punt

MAX-POLLARD-LINES-1024x724[Download a PDF of this Drawing]

P092712_Max-Pollard-35Built in Pasadena in 2008, Max Pollard constructed this punt for his daughter with timber cut in his own backyard. Used at Old Man’s Pond, Max made repairs in 2012 which included replacing a number of rotting timbers and the top two counter boards.

Puzzled by the disbursement of the rot, Max can only speculate on the cause. “I don’t know if freshwater makes that much difference to the wood, but she’s very rotten – in only four years.”

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Max Pollard

Max Pollard
Max Pollard

Max Pollard was born in 1930 in Harbour Deep, a fishing and logging community on Newfoundland’s northern peninsula. One of eight children, Max began fishing with his father when he was 10 years old.

“My father had a motor boat that we’d use for fishing, about 23′ long,” says Max. “We were using hand and line then – baited hooks,” he adds. Max left school at the age of 12 to work with his father, fishing in the summer and logging in the winter. “It was year-round,” he says, “I didn’t stop.”

Boats were built in the spring of the year in Harbour Deep, “every fisherman would build their own” – sometimes with a helping hand – “because no one could afford to buy one anyway.”

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Learning the Three Piece Mould

By Jerome Canning

The three-piece mould is an old method for designing and building boats. A lot of the first boats to come off our beaches and take to the fishing waters were boats built with these curved sticks of wood. The method was widely used in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1800s. Moulds still survive in some communities; but mostly as items saved from the old boat sheds of our past builders.

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Samuel Andrews’ Four-Oared Punt

SAMUEL-ANDREWS-LINES-1024x724[Download a PDF of this Drawing]

Sculling the Four-Oared Punt
Sculling the Four-Oared Punt

Samuel Andrews built this four-oared punt in Winterton during the 1930s-1940s. It measures 15’6” long and was used during the winter for hunting seals and sea-birds. Built with thin planking and a smaller frame, it was designed to be lightweight and maneuverable through the ice.

While the difference between a punt and rodney varies throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, in Winterton, the two are remarkably similar with only a few slight distinctions.

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Samuel Andrews

Samuel "Uncle Sammy" Andrews
Samuel “Uncle Sammy” Andrews

Samuel Andrews was born in Scilly Cove, now known as Winterton, in September of 1877. Known by most as “Uncle Sammy” Andrews, he and his wife Jedidiah had four children: Rachael, Wilson, Sarah, and Nehemiah.

Samuel was a fisherman and like many others in the industry, he would keep busy year-round to provide food and income for his family. In addition to fishing, Uncle Sammy hunted small game, cut timber, went sealing, caught sea birds, and cultivated land according to the seasons.

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Three-Piece Mould

taylor-mouldDavid A. Taylor describes the three-piece mould method used by boatbuilders in Winterton, Trinity Bay. Similar to whole-moulding, Taylor describes these moulds as, “a wooden, three-piece adjustable template used to draw the shapes of the three principle timber pairs”.

One of three methods of design Taylor observed among Winterton builders during his research in the 1970s, the three-pieces were referred to collectively as “moulds”.

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