Showing posts with label boats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label boats. Show all posts

Friday, March 10, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep069 Building Boats and Building Community

Jim Dempsey is the President of the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. Jim has been around boats and the ocean all of his life. As a boy, he spent his summers on the beach where he always had a boat to row. After studying marine biology and oceanography at university, he was fortunate to be employed in his field for over forty years. He has worked along the entire British Columbia coast, in the Canadian Arctic, and from Sable Island to Hudson's Bay on the east coast. For Jim, the Wooden Boat Museum has provided a chance to realize a dream to build wooden boats. This experience has been enhanced by the people he has met, the places he has visited, and the stories he has heard. In this interview we talk all about the wooden boat museum, their past conferences, the work of conserving boatbuilding skills, and their current educational and outreach programs.

Listen on the Digital Archive:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Johnny Poker - A Boat Hauling Song

I’m currently typing the notes from the Asset Mapping workshop Dale led in Champney’s West and I came across the song Johnny Poker.  It is noted as a traditional song that people would sing when they pulled boats up.  Sometimes people would pull back on the boat so they could hear the Johnny Poker song.

The version which is written in the notes is:
“To my jolly poker
We will start this heavy joker
Haul boy haul” [everybody pulls]

The notes say there are 4-5 versions of the song.  I did a quick search and came across a version by Stuffed Squid set to music.  I’ve added the video here and you can check out the page with the lyrics and some background information here.

Do you know a version of Johnny Poker? Let us know in the comments or send an email to


Monday, October 20, 2014

Mayday Mayday!

Chart image from:
For a new and upcoming exhibit at the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse in Gros Morne National Park, Parks Canada is hoping to hear your memories and stories about the use of traditional distress signals in emergency situations. Have there been any shipwrecks or other emergencies in your community? How did people communicate that their boats were in distress? What local stories are attached? 

Shirley Alyward from Parks Canada provided this quote as an example:   
"Mr Gordon Caines of Norris Point put out a sweater with its arms halfway up his ship pole that indicated to the Young family on shore that a boat was in distress."

Shirley would love to hear from you. She can be contacted by email at:

Thank you, and as always, stay safe!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fog and Folklore in Twillingate, Newfoundland

This summer, folklorist Crystal Braye of the Wooden Boat Museum of NL and Lois Bragg of the Marine Institute are travelling around the island measuring and documenting wooden boats, and recording the work of traditional Newfoundland boatbuilders. As part of the outreach work of the museum, the ICH office is partnering with them to deliver a series of workshops on intangible cultural heritage and oral history along the way.

Yesterday was the first of our oral history workshops, held at the lighthouse in Twillingate. The workshop space was fantastic, with probably the best view of any workshop I've ever given, looking out at hundreds of icebergs and bergy bits. The workshop room was also conveniently placed above the fog horn, shown above, which punctuated our meeting as the fog rolled in and out throughout the afternoon.

We heard great stories, and local residents helped us identify a mystery woman in one of our oral history collections: broadcaster Hiram Silk had interviewed a Twillingate woman in the 1980s, but had identified her only as "Miss Anstey." We listened to the interview, and people were quick to name her as Mary Anstey, or "Aunt Polly" Anstey, to differentiate her from another Mary Anstey in the community.  You can listen to that interview with Mary "Polly" Anstey on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative

Lois and Crystal are shown below, taking the lines of a wooden boat outside the lighthouse at Twillingate. They are going to be working in the Twillingate area till July, and then moving on to Trinity. If you know of boat builders or wooden boats in those areas, they would love to track them down. Drop me a line at and I'll put you in touch.  The next workshops in our series are in Trinity on July 15th and 16th. More info on those workshops here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wooden Boat Heritage Workshops in Trinity this July

This July, the Trinity Historical Society & Wooden Boat Museum of NL are partnering with us at the Intangible Cultural Heritage office to offer 2 workshops in Trinity.

Session One: Lifting Lines Workshop
Tuesday, July 15
Parish Hall, Trinity   

Naval architect Bruce Whitelaw will teach participants the process for recording the hull shape and construction details of traditional wooden boats.

Session Two: Interview Techniques Workshop Wednesday, July 16
Parish Hall

Join folklorist Dale Jarvis from the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador to learn digital recording and interview techniques for collecting local oral histories.

During the following week, interested participants will have the opportunity to join WBMNL’s Documentation Team in collecting boat lines, construction details, and oral histories in Trinity and the surrounding area.

To register contact Jim Miller at (709) 464-3599 or Crystal Braye at (709) 699-9570.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Boatbuilder and tradition bearer Henry Vokey to receive honorary doctorate of laws

The Corner Brook session of fall convocation of Memorial University will take place at the Arts and Culture Centre on Friday, Oct. 4. Master boat builder Henry Vokey will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Henry Vokey has been surrounded by boats his entire life. He began building boats at age 12 when he constructed a six-foot model in the now-resettled outport village of Little Harbour in Smith Sound, Trinity Bay. At age 25 he began to take a serious interest in building boats as a means of survival and, after moving to Trinity in 1964, his business flourished.

During the 1970s Henry Vokey and Sons Shipbuilding employed close to 40 people. He has been active in the construction of more than 1,000 seafaring wooden vessels ranging from a 12-foot rodney to 65-foot draggers. The varieties include trap skiffs, sailboats, dories, schooners and numerous small-scale models.

Through the years there have been many changes where boat building is concerned, most notably the introduction of steel and Fibreglas models of fishing vessels. Despite these changes, Mr. Vokey remained determined to do as he always had done: he had spent so many years working with wood and had no desire to change to any other material.

In 2008 Mr. Vokey announced he would build one last schooner. He started in 2009 and the 44-foot double-masted wooden schooner named Leah Caroline was launched three years later in Trinity Bay. Named after his great-granddaughter Leah and his late wife Caroline, the schooner is still enjoyed by Mr. Vokey and his friends and family.

In 2007 Mr. Vokey received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2008 he was awarded honorary life membership in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Wooden Boat Museum and in 2012 was inducted into the Atlantic Canada Marine Industries Hall of Fame.

A significant contributor to the cultural traditions of our province, Henry Vokey will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree during the Corner Brook session of convocation at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 4.

Thanks to Jim Wellman, Editor, Navigator Magazine, and Beverley King, Project Manager, Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, for sending this note my way. - Dale

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Make and Break Festival, Heritage Plaques, UNESCO and Bay Roberts

It has been a busy few months for the ICH office at the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HFNL), and we are gearing up for a very busy summer.  In this edition of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update, there are a few big announcements, including the accreditation of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador by UNESCO, and the launch of our 2012 Folklife Festival, which this year will take place in Bonavista on August 4th, with a celebration of Newfoundland’s iconic make and break boat engine. We also go looking for supernatural stories and local songs in Bay Roberts, and gather information about HFNL's historic plaque program.

Download the newsletter in pdf format.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Attention all Newfoundland Make & Break Engine Enthusiasts

Joelle Carey, our public folklore intern for this summer, has been hard at work spreading the word about our Make and Break Flotilla and Parts Swap in Bonavista this August.

You can check out the new Newfoundland Make and Break Engine Enthusiasts page on Facebook, and check out the interview she did with Ted Blades on CBC radio about the project. If you know of a working engine, email her at 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Make and Break Engines: Running the Past Into the Future

- The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador -
- recognizes iconic marine engines in 2012 Provincial Folklife Festival - 

There is a sound that was once ubiquitous to the waters in Newfoundland that has sparked the interest of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HFNL). Putt-putt; putt-putt – the sound of Make and Break engines once filled the skies from dawn to dusk as busy fisherman worked to sustain their families and their island.

This summer HFNL wants to restore the interest that Newfoundlanders once had in these rhythmic engines. A series of oral history interviews, to be conducted throughout the island, will lead up to the 2012 Provincial Folklife Festival in Bonavista, which will focus on the iconic marine engines. Events for the festival will be held on Saturday, August 4 in Bonavista, as part of the town’s inaugural Church Street Festival.

Joelle Carey is a public folklore intern with HFNL and a graduate student in Memorial University’s Department of Folklore.

“By working on this project we hope to promote the marine history of the province,” says Carey. “It’s a great opportunity to get people talking about these engines that are such an important part of life in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The oral history project will take the form of interviews conducted by Carey throughout the summer months. These interviews, along with pictures of the motors found, will then be added to Memorial University’s Digital Archives Initiative. This archive will be accessible to the public online.

The Heritage Foundation has secured the partnership of Parks Canada through association with Ryan Premises National Historic Site in Bonavista.

“Through the many conversations I have had in organizing this event, I am repeatedly inspired by the glazed-eyes that come over people and the small smiles that appear on their faces as they recall their particular fond memories of times spent on or near the water,” says Pat Carroll, with Parks Canada.

“The Ryan Premises National Historic Site of Canada is honoured to be a part of this event,” says Carroll, “and to have a role in the celebration and rejuvenation of one of the resounding traditions of Newfoundland and Labrador, Atlantic Canada and of the whole of Canada.”

The festival events will take place in Bonavista on August 4 and will include a Make and Break flotilla and a parts swap.

HFNL would like to hear from anyone with memories or an interest in Make and Break engines. If you are interested in getting involved by sharing your stories or if you have an engine, please email or call, toll free, 1-888-739-1892 ext. 5.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Putt-Putt-Putt-Putt: Looking for memories of "Make and Break" Engines

There is a distinct sound that can be heard on the waters around Newfoundland and Labrador, putt-putt, putt-putt; the sounds of an antique “make and break” engine cuts through the air. At one time this sound was ubiquitous to small fishing communities throughout the province, but now the rhythmic chugging of the make and break is to be cherished when heard.

Make and break inboard motors were among the first technological advances to help revolutionize fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador. They allowed fishermen to save their strength for fishing, not wasting it on paddling or hauling sails as they had done before. Most often installed in trap skiffs, the hull was first cut to accommodate water intake and output, which helped cool the engine. The large motor was then bolted to the inside of the boat, usually in a motor house, with the propeller advancing through the stern, driving the vessel forward. These dependable, sturdy, single cylinder, gasoline engines have been called many names, and while make and break is the most common, putt-putt engine, one-liners, or pik-a-puk, are all used to describe the same type of engine.

Do you, or someone you know, have a make and break engine? If so, we would love to hear from you! The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador is looking for running engines and stories from their owners. If you have an engine or a memory to share, please email or call, toll free, 1-888-739-1892 ext. 5.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Intangible Cultural Heritage Podcast - A Good Boat!

In the late 1970s an American folklorist, David Taylor, conducted a series of interviews in the Trinity Bay area while researching his Memorial University folklore thesis, "Boatbuilding in Winterton: The Design, Construction and Use of Inshore Fishing Boats in a Newfoundland Community".

In "A Good Boat!" - the first intangible cultural heritage podcast - we present short clips of two of those interviews.

The first, dating from March 22, 1979 is part of Dr. Taylor’s interview with Mr. Lionel Pearcey, who was born December 8, 1918, in Winterton, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. Mr. Pearcey lived most of his life in Winterton, although he would spend time away from home working in mines, as a fisher, and as a carpenter. In the interview, Mr. Pearcey discusses different types of boats, and explains the difference between a speedboat and a trap boat.

The second clip, recorded in Winterton on August 15, 1979, is part of an interview with Mr. Herbert Harnum. Mr Harnum was born November 30, 1919 in Winterton, where he worked as a fisherman with his family. In this clip, Mr. Harnum describes the qualities of a good boat.

To listen to David Taylor’s full interviews with Mr Harnum, Mr Pearcey, and other traditional Newfoundland boatbuilders, visit Memorial University’s Digital Archive Initiative online at

Friday, September 23, 2011

A few quick pics of Henry Vokey's schooner, Trinity, Newfoundland

I'm here in Trinity for the Wooden Boat Museum of NL conference and AGM. It's been a while since I was in Trinity, so it is great to see the fantastic progress Mr. Henry Vokey, master  boatbuilder, has made on his schooner. Last time I was out this way, it looked like this.

Now, she looks gorgeous. A few quick pictures below.

Here is an interview with Mr Vokey one year ago.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday's Folklore Photo: Norman Currie and Bull Bird, Britannia Newfoundland

I've got a lot a great photos that I've been amassing over the past three years of the intangible cultural heritage project, and it seems a shame to not share some of them. So, with that in mind, I'm going to start a new weekly folklore photo posting, and put a new photo up each week.

This week is a favourite, of Uncle Norman Currie with his boat model, Bull Bird, shown here at the dock in Britannia, Random Island.  I'm not sure of the date on this one, but Uncle Norm passed away a few years ago, and this was one of his last model projects.

One of my favourite stories about him was one I heard from Jim Roy, his nephew-in-law. Apparently, Uncle Norm had an old boat that he had made, with an inboard motor of some type. The propeller shaft had snapped, and when he was told it would cost him $100 to have it welded, Uncle Norm took a cheaper and slightly more ingenious route. He got someone with an angle grinder to smooth off the end of the shaft, then cut a foot off the stern of the boat, and rebuilt it a foot further up, shortening the boat, and allowing the shorter propeller shaft to protrude the correct distance from the back of the boat. Apparently, it worked, and the boat was reportedly even more stable than it had been before the alteration.

A great example of making do with what one has.

Thanks to Jim Roy, Lower Lance Cove, for the story and the photo.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Labrador kayaks old and new, and adventures with polar bears.

This morning, Peter Cowan, reporter and video journalist for CBC in Labrador, tweeted a link to this story, about Noah Nochasak's journey to Hebron in a handmade, traditional style kayak. It is well worth a listen, particularly the part about Nochasak's run-in with a polar bear.

As a sometimes kayaker, I was interested in Nochasak's construction of the kayak, which is built along traditional Inuit lines, but using nylon instead of skin as the covering. It is a good example of one of the basic tenets of intangible cultural heritage: that ICH comes from the past but is in a constant state of evolution.

Give the interview a listen here.

A few years ago, I got a "backstage" tour of the collection vaults at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec. In a darkened room full of boats from all across Canada, there was one treasure that stood out for me: a traditional Inuit skin kayak from Labrador. A few pics below:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Who wants to build a traditional Newfoundland punt?

Have you ever looked out at the ocean on a calm day and thought "wow I wish I had a boat". Then now is your opportunity to learn how to build a traditional Newfoundland punt.

The Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador will be offering a Boat Building Course in Winterton this summer from July 9th – August 27th. The course will consist of 8 workshops.

Workshop #1 The Backbone: Shaping the Stem and Keel
Workshop #2 The Backbone: Connecting the Stem to Keel
Workshop #3 The Backbone: Shaping the Counter
Workshop #4 The Backbone: Connecting the Counter to Keel
Workshop #5 Setup and Frames
Workshop #6 Planking – Putting on the Shear Plank
Workshop #7 Planking – Putting on the Garboard Plank
Workshop #8 Planking – Filling in the Hull

Workshop #1 will be begin on Saturday, July 9, 2011, and run each Saturday until August 27, 2011.

Cost per workshop is $60.00. Members receive a 10% discount.

Participants can register for the entire 8 weeks or individual sessions. For further information or to
register, please call 709-583-2070 or email Pre-registration is required.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Traditional Wooden Boats - Recording Our Heritage

The Wooden Boat Museum INVITES YOU TO HELP US preserve the traditional working boats of our Province.

Our two part program includes a ONE DAY CLASSROOM INTRODUCTION to the elements of field work followed by a
series of TWO DAY PRACTICAL EXERCISES fully documenting boats at selected sites around the Province.

Traditional Small Boats
Introduction - Regional working boats to be found around the coastline of our Province.
Kevin McAleese – Curator, The Rooms

Anatomy of a Boat
Seeing wooden boat structure with a critical eye. Characteristics and craftsmanship.
Aidan Penton – Master Boatbuilder, Fogo Island

Lifting Lines
A practical guide to capturing the shape or hull form of a boat in the field
Bruce Whitelaw – Naval Architect, WBMNL

Digital Photography
A practical guide to achieving museum quality digital photographs in the field.
Jerry Pocius – Research Professor, MUN

Tape Recorded Interviews
A practical guide to successful tape recorded interviews in the field.
Dale Jarvis – Folklorist, Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

St. John’s
Saturday, May 16
8:45 AM

Registration Fee
Lunch included

Industrial Seminar Room
Marine Institute
155 Ridge Road

for INFORMATION contact
Bruce Whitelaw
709 722 7337

Bev King (WBMNL)
709 583 2070

"The first day in St. John's is an introduction to field documentation and an opportunity to begin establishing a standard for capturing data on our traditional wooden boats in an orderly way," says Beverly King of the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. "The hope is to encourage people from around the Province to come together for a day. Then in the weeks to come there would be a further two days in "the field" practising the skills introduced."

"The sites of these practical sessions are to be determined by the participants of day one and the identification of boats to be documented," says King. "We intend to hold about a half dozen practical sessions dotted around the Province with only a subset of those attending the introduction participating in any one practical exercise. So, everyone gets the common introduction in St. John's and then goes back home and practices (with the assistance of a number of the presenters of day one who will travel out to the sites for a couple of days)."

Monday, April 13, 2009

ICH Update for April 2009 - Aboriginal Cultural Heritage

This month's edition of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update focusses on the province's aboriginal cultural heritage, and provides an overview of some of the recent projects started under Newfoundland and Labrador's Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Program of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. Some project include canoe making, oral history training, documentation of sealing traditions, and an Innu youth banner project. Also in this issue, notes from the Federation of Newfoundland Indians on Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge, and an invitation to the 2009 Miawpukek Traditional Powwow.

Download the newsletter here.