During a visit to Newfoundland’s west coast last spring, my colleague and I were directed to Benoit’s Cove to talk to the McCarthys about their experiences building and using dories in the Bay of Islands.
Earlier this year, WBMNL Folklorists Crystal Braye and I travelled to the West Coast in search of the Bay of Islands dory and her builders. As we turned off the Trans-Canada Highway and drove along Route 450, the unique orange and green dories could be seen scattered along the coastline. We continued to the end of the road and found ourselves at a wharf in Little Port in the midst of lobster season. After explaining the purpose of our visit to the nearby locals, there was one name that came up repeatedly: Sam Sheppard.
When 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.
Built 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.”
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.”