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