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.

Eric learned how to build boats from his father. “I helped built this one,” he said pointing at the largest of the three half models sitting on the table beside the handplanes. “She was twenty eight feet long. She was big enough to sleep aboard. We had a house on her. She was decked.”

Across the road, on the slipway next to Eric’s stage sits his first motorboat, built in 2013. “I’ve got a 4 HP Atlantic in that one,” he tells me as we approach.

19′ motorboat built by Eric Bourden in 2013, Bayview, Twillingate.

“I’ll tell you now, I did something that I’ve never seen anyone do… She’s got different timbers from here back to the engine house,” he says, explaining that he used a combination of cut timber and steamed juniper laths.

Eric used a mould borrowed from fellow Twillingate boat builder, Jack Lane, for the three main frames: forehook, midship bend and afterhook. Her spruce keel was cut by Eric in Gander Bay and she’s planked with spruce.

“The counter came from Labrador. My father picked up a big stick coming up the Labrador one year. They sawed it – they used to have an old ‘pit saw’ they called it – and they sawed it. And that’s where I got ‘em. He never used it as a piece of plank and I got enough for the counter out of it. Canadian Spruce it was.”

Timbers and Laths

Timber and Laths

Inside the stage, is Eric’s 13’ punt, built in 1982. He remembers laying the last plank when he heard the news about the Ocean Ranger sinking the previous night.

Punt used by Eric to row around New World Island in 2009 and to Exploits in 2012.

In 2009, Eric rowed this punt around New World Island – a distance of eighty-six kilometres. “I had one night out, near the causeway on the outer run… I got up early the next morning and started off for Twillingate. The wind came eastern and I had a hard row from Moreton’s Harbour down to Wester’ Head. It was hard rowing.”

In 2012, Eric rowed to Exploit’s from his home in Bayview. He rigged the punt with floats, assured that if she filled full of water, she wouldn’t sink. After spending the night in Exploits, Eric said, “I got up in the morning – I only had one night there – and I walked out on the bank and I said, ‘Oh my goodness, I think the wind is eastern… I won’t be going at this today.’ I had food enough, I made sure of that, you know? And when I went out a little farther I saw the sky… the wind was southwest, so I had a cold lunch in a hurry. I sailed right to Moreton’s Harbour… Boy, was it ever nice coming down the run with the little sail up..”

For more about Eric Bourden:

Butt, Howard. “Around the World in Two Days- New World Island, That Is.” Editorial. The Pilot [Lewisporte] 16 Sept. 2009.

Hildebrand, Jim. “Labour of Love.” Editorial. The Pilot [Lewisporte] 21 August. 2013.

Share on social media:

One thought on “Eric Bourden

  • May 25, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Really great stories. The allure of the traditional motorboat is hard to explain….it’s such a big piece of who we are as Newfoundlanders.
    I had 2 Skiff’s as a boy growing up in Glovertown & would love to have another either through a purchase or having one built.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *