Howard Childs

Howard Childs, Lark Harbour

Howard was born to John and Elizabeth Childs in Lark Harbour in 1950. During our 2016 interview, he recalled what the community was like when he was a boy, “We got the road through here when I was growing up,” he said, “Used to to have to go to Corner Brook by boat… That would take pretty much all day to go to Corner Brook and back again.”

His father fished in the Bay of Islands, mostly for herring and cod, before moving on to other jobs. “He fished for a while, he then he carried the mail back and forth to Corner Brook, and then he got into the bus service going back for to Corner Brook, and then he got into carpentry work,” Howard said. He remembers having horses, as well as sheeps and cows, when he was growing up. “He depended on the horses because he used to carry the mail… In the wintertime he’d go on the ice and in the summertime it’d be the motor boat. When they couldn’t use a motor boat, they’d have to walk along the shore as far as Frenchman’s Cove. He done more stuff in his days than I done.”

Howard worked in carpentry and learned how to build boats from being around his father while he built. “My father, it seemed like he had a gift for it. He was only, I think, seventeen or eighteen when he built his first motor boat, and went from there,” Howard said. He couldn’t say how many, but knows his father built dories, motor boats and six longliners. His last boat was a forty foot longliner built in 1981.

John Childs

John Childs (Cape Island Boat)

“He learned on his own. Now let me tell you, the first boat he built, she wasn’t the prettiest boat around. But as they grew, he got it down, you know, pretty good…”

Howard starting building his own boats in the early 1990s, after his father passed away. “The last one he built… he said, ‘there’ll be no more boats built here,’ but a couple of years after he died, me and me brother [Eddie], we took it up to build one!” Howard estimates he’s built about twenty dories, but had to stop building due to health concerns. “I used to build a dory or two every winter, but this past three years I haven’t built neither one.” In addition to the dories, which he sold and traded, Howard has also built six longliners which were sold across the island.

Boat Building Lumber


“We use mostly plywood for the sides, and we use local plank from the building supplies. We used to cut years ago, go in the woods and get it ourselves, but we used to have a problem getting someone to saw it. Most all the mills were set up for 2″x4″s and 2″x6″s and they had to change everything to cut the plank for us. We go to the mills and by the 2″x10″ plank, sixteen feet long and put them through planners to make them our thickness.”





Andrew Riggs

Andy Riggs with second boat, 2016.

Although Andrew (Andy) Riggs grew up around boats, he didn’t start building any until the age of 73. Born in Port au Bras on the Burin Peninsula in 1941, Andy worked as a welder at the Marystown Shipyard. In 2005, he moved to Salmonier, Burin, where he began building boats. “I don’t know why I started at it all… I just wanted to see could I do it, is all. I just started to build her, that’s all. I came in here [the workshop] the winter and drew it on the floor and then I got some timbers in the woods… a lot of work to building a boat,” he said.

His first boat, launched in 2015, was a 27-foot trap skiff. Built from spruce and juniper, Andy harvested all the wood himself. “Everything come out of the woods…It’s a job to get timbers for them, eh? I’ve been all over the place… It’s a job to find the crooked ones,” he said. “Andrew spent hundreds of hours in the woods searching for the perfect trees,” said his sister Pauline. Named “Our Star” to honour the memory of his late granddaughter, the boat was outfitted with a 20-horsepower Lister engine and launched on July 4, 2015.” She’s a good stable boat, that one,” he said.

Boat Building

Building Boats

Andy’s second boat, a 24-foot motor boat, or motor punt, was launched in 2017. Under construction at time of our interview in 2016, Andrew said that “she’ll be just as good or better…She’s a different boat that one. More flatter on the bottom. The other one was more rounder.” She was outfitted with 4-horsepower Acadia engine and launched on July 22, 2017.


Austin Childs

Austin Childs – October 2016

Austin (Aus) Childs was born in Lark Harbour, Bay of Islands, in 1947. His father, Llewelyn, was a fisherman and fought in the Royal Navy in the First World War. “My mother [Mary Jane (nee Robinson)] looked after kids. There was thirteen of us so it was a full-time job,” said Aus.

Aus started fishing full-time by the age of twenty. He fished for lobster with his brother Ben and Gordon Wheeler in an area on the west coast known as the Wild Shore. For the duration of the lobster season (9-11 weeks), they stay in camp and fish from Eel Hole, south of the Port-au-Port Peninsula. “Stay for a week [at a time]. Probably come in for a night, or something like that,” he described.

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Lloyd Boone

Lloyd Boone, Point of Bay, 2016

Born in Cottrell’s Cove, Notre Dame Bay, Lloyd Boone moved to Point of Bay in 1977 when he married Cybil Philpott. He learned how to build boats from from his father-in-law, Wilfred Philpott, a carpenter and farmer who learned how to build from his father, Stanley. “In ’76 I started. That was my first boat. [Cybil’s] father showed me how to build it … it was a speed boat.”

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Mick McCarthy

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Mick McCarthy

Born on Woods Island, Michael McCarthy, better known as Mick, is a carpenter, boat builder and fisherman. He was nearly a teenager when his family resettled to Benoit’s Cove in the 1960s, as part of the Government’s Centralization Program. Mick learned how to build dories from his father, Ignatius, and built his first boat in the late-1960s, at the age of seventeen.

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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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Boat Building in La Poile Bay

Located on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, La Poile Bay runs northward for some nine miles from its entrance. As you continue into the harbor, the bay is divided into several smaller bays, including North Bay and East Bay, with Dolman’s Cove separating the two. North Bay and East Bay are both well protected, with East Bay being much easier to access and closer to the cod fishing grounds.

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North Bay

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Edwin Bishop’s Rodney

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Rodney under construction in Heart’s Delight, 2015

I first met Edwin Bishop in September of 2015. When I pulled into his driveway, I was greeted with an open garage door and the stem of a small boat barely visible in the sunlight. Freshly planked and without paint, it was a clever looking boat that revealed a particular attention to detail.

The inside rooms were painted a deep blue with white accents on each side. Edwin was working diligently in the back corner of the shed, but was eager to stop and chat about his project.
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