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.”
He was around the age of twelve when he built his first boat, which he described as a “three corner boat.” Boyd was using the boat one day when he came across someone in trouble. “I was going up to get some cods heads,” Boyd told me, “and there was a girl there, and if I never came along at the same time, she would have drowned.”
Right Place, Right Time
In the mid-1960s, Boyd built his first speed boat, a style of boat that was becoming more popular throughout Newfoundland at that time. He travelled to Hare Bay to get the mould, and returned to Trinity with the shape of the forehook, midship bend, afterhook and counter. After using the boat for more than thirty years, Boyd built a replacement in 2006. “She was a good boat. Sturdy boat,” said Boyd’s wife Rosalind, “She was a good shaped boat and she used to hit the waves good. I used to be afraid in all other boats but I was never afraid in boats that he built.”
Boyd used fir for the planks, cut about 3/4 of an inch thick, with spruce timbers measuring an 1 1/2 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches thick. Spruce was also used for the gunnels and keel. She was sealed between the planks with oakum. “You had to shape the plank,” Boyd explained, “you had to take a few shavings off on the outside to make the outside wide so you can put two threads of oakum in, and the inside of the plank would come down tight, one on the other.”
Building a Boat
Although Boyd did not pursue a career in the fisheries, he did some fishing before the introduction of licenses and regulations and continued to use his boats to fish recreationally for enough fish to feed the family. Boyd worked as a carpenter and ran a farm with Rosalind where they grew potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnip, some savoury and green peas for commercial sale until 2003. When Boyd retired from carpentry, their son Eric took over the business, now specializing in heritage windows and doors.
Boyd’s Biggest Lobster
Boyd passed away peacefully at Bonavista College Hospital on July 19, 2016.
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Sad to see another wonderful soul pass on. Thank you Chrystal and WBMNL for the preservation of some information about these boatbuilders.