A Rising Tide Lifts all Wooden Boats

 

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This boat was donated to the museum for display by the family of the deceased builder.

It’s been a summer with more obligations and commitments than we’ve had in a few years so with the exception of our very regular trips to Fogo Island (www.findfogoisland.com is my new blog specific to Fogo Island) we haven’t travelled around the province as much as we often do. When the opportunity arose for a day trip, I had Winterton as my destination.

I’ve been following the Facebook page of the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador for a year. When members start posting technical questions, descriptions or advice, it is very much ‘Greek’ to me but the visuals are great on this page.

A combination of local boat builders showing their work or problem solving together and of finds of photographs, articles or even works of art depicting wooden boats, the Facebook page is excellent. With no boat background or knowledge, I contribute where I can sharing an update on the Fogo Island Punt race or a photograph of punts or an occasional post from one of my blogs.

With a forecast of 31 humidex (when we’ve been getting highs of 17 or 18 degrees Celsius) we hit the road in the trusty air conditioned Civic with Winterton as a destination.  Lingering a bit too long at Bread Box and some other interesting and unusual delays had us on the road around noon, I think. It wasn’t until we hit the fog and then followed a Department of Highway Paint crew at 20 km an hour for ages that we realized we hadn’t really planned this day well.

With fingers crossed, we jumped out of the car at 3:55 to find out they were open until…..5:00! Woohoo!

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We were greeted by a lovely cashier who took our $7 admission and explained we had the options of self-guided or a guided tour. She indicated that there was a guide available and we took advantage of the opportunity as we’ve done a few times this summer to hear the information from an expert. Our expert for today was Drake and he really knew his information and delivered it superbly.

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Whenever possible, take the time to do a tour in Newfoundland museums. Summer jobs give important training to students but also, many of these students have background knowledge that visitors would miss by going ‘self guided’. Drake was excellent.

The museum actually starts pre-wooden boats with skin and bark kayaks, canoes and other vessels used by ancient and native peoples. The detail and quality of the exhibits was quickly evident as was our guide’s strong knowledge of the information.

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This history of wooden boats can’t be told without the history of the fishery and therefore Newfoundland and Labrador as foundation. The story boards, static displays and artifacts have a chronological order when viewed with the guide. Progress and changes in both fishing an boat design as technology changes is evident as you move from one period to another, with the move, for example from mast and sail to the Acadia engines.

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In addition to the boat building emphasis, the museum has a new exhibit, specific to fishing stages and the roles they played. Focused on the Winterton area, family stages and enterprises are featured with excellent photographs and maps to support the importance of the fishing industry to the area and the various roles played by merchants, fishermen, women and children in the production of salt fish.

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Part of the Stage exhibit explaining the salt fish industry and roles of family members in the fishing industry.

Upstairs is a beautiful community museum that provided interpretation on the education and religious aspects of the community as well as agriculture.

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We managed to arrive on a day when Jerome Canning, the Master Boat Builder was not on site. The most fascinating aspect of this museum is the fact that boat building demonstrations and workshops are lead here. We did meet the apprentice and had an excellent explanation of the boat shed.

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I knew from Facebook that they had recently completed a punt that was raffled for the Townie vs Baymen Punt race in St. John’s. What I learned on our tour is that that particular punt was a Frank Lane punt (meaning built by Frank Lane of Fogo Island) that had been used for a number of years as a teaching tool. The punt had been planked and had planks removed repeatedly so participants in workshops could learn the skill. The other boats in various stages of the building are for the same purpose.

The Frank Lane punt was rebuilt this year and raffled. In the Newfoundland tradition of preserving, maintaining and repairing, this new punt was actually an old punt, reborn.

Since our visit I’ve told everyone I’ve met to go to Winterton. It’s an hour off the highway from Whitbourne and as part of a tour of the Baccalieu Trail or a destination, it is an attraction for tourists and residents alike.

 

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