Monday, July 13, 2020

A Beautiful Boat is a Cranky Boat: Wooden Boats and Snowshoes with Edwin Bishop #MakerMonday

For #MakerMonday we'll be profiling some of the people practicing traditional skills on the Baccalieu Trail.

Edwin Bishop of Heart's Delight-Islington learned how to build wooden boats from watching his father. Boat building skills were passed down through generations, and he has been building wooden boats since he was a teenager. He estimates he has built around 36 boats to date. Last year, he launched what he swore would be his last boat but he is already building another one for his granddaughter. As he says, "Sometimes I think I'm just crazy about boats."

Boats built by Edwin Bishop. Photo courtesy of Edwin Bishop.
The hardest part about building boats, Edwin says, is choosing the design. Each boat serves a different purpose, so depending on what you want to use your boat for will influence which design you choose. Edwin loves to build boats that can accommodate sails. He and his wife have taken many sailing trips in boats Edwin has built. Listen to Edwin's advice on what makes a good boat below!

I think what makes a good boat is the design. The shape of it and the design is what makes a good boat for me, right? I got a phrase that I use from my father that you probably heard before, too, "A beautiful boat is a cranky boat." Now, most people don't to have anything to do with a cranky boat because they figure they're not safe and so on, but for me, and I learned from my father, if you're going to build a boat make sure she can wear a set of sails, and make sure she's a little bit cranky because she'll be better as a sailboat. You know, the curves and the lines...I build all kinds of boats, but a round bottom boat for me is a real boat. The round bottom, a nice sheer curve on top, and when you look at her on the water she's round, and she's curved, and she's pretty. 
Edwin credits the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador for working tirelessly to preserve and pass on boat building knowledge, including his own. He said he has learned a lot from them, and is glad of the work they do bringing education about wooden boats to the younger generation.

He also makes traditional wooden snowshoes, steaming and bending the wood by hand and tying intricate knots. He began learning this skill because he needed to repair the snowshoes he owned. Once he got started, he found it was something he enjoyed. He does say that it is a complicated process, especially tying the knots. He recalls the first pair of snowshoes he made and how he woke up his wife and his visiting sister with his celebratory shouts when he successfully figured out how to tie the knots after working on them until the wee hours of the morning.

Moose hide snowshoes by Edwin Bishop. Photo courtesy of Edwin Bishop.
Edwin describes knowing how to build boats and make snowshoes as almost a spiritual experience. He says when he when he sees stuff coming out from his hands, it is like being given a gift, one that he is lucky to have. He also appreciates the way that these skills connect him, and also his grandchildren, to people who were living almost 100 years ago. He says being able to do the same thing that his father, and his grandfather did, is very important to him, and he hopes that others will continue to do the work to celebrate these skills and help future generations connect with them like he has.

Do you live on the Baccalieu Trail and practice a traditional skill or know someone who does? Fill out our survey!

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