Ern Hodder

Ern Hodder
Ern Hodder at his home in Gander Bay

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.

“It would take two days to get from Gander Bay to Glenwood,” Ern says, “You’d have to pole all the way with no motor. It was hard work.”

“You’d usually go as far as third pond, where there used to be a camp there for people to stay. You’d usually get that far the first day, and the next day you’d make it to Glenwood. But coming out [to Gander Bay], you could do it in a day because you had the current with you and you could get along pretty good with no motor most places.”  Two Days to Glenwood

Ern started building Gander Bay Boats when he was in his thirties and built one almost every year until the age of seventy. “I would usually use the boat for one summer and then in the fall I would sell that one and build a new one for next year,” he says.

Using the same mould each time, Ern’s boats were 1.3 metres (53 inches) wide and 7.5 metres (24.5 feet) long. “I think everyone agrees that’s about the right length,” he says. Ern places the first mould 2.3 metres (7.5 feet) from the stem and places the third mould the same distance from the sternpost. The middle mould is placed in the centre and then she’s battened out and ribbed with steamed juniper. Like other boat builders in the area, Ern switched to spruce planking when fir trees became damaged by invasive insects. “Fir is easier to work with than spruce, it’s a softer wood,” says Ern.

Once she’s planked, Ern uses a mop for caulking. “One mop does a boat,” Ern says, when unravelled each strand is 5-6 feet long. She’s finished with a coat of white paint on the hull and a brown interior. “In my early days you might see a different colour, but I’d say for the last forty years you won’t see nothing but brown and white,” Ern says.

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