Invitations have now gone out and it finally seems official – we’re building schooners on the Lunenburg waterfront!
Of course there was a day when that would not have seemed a particularly big deal. In the early 20th century, Lunenburg was home to Canada’s largest offshore fishing fleet – dozens of black-hulled schooners filled the harbour, creating what was often referred to as a ‘forest of spars.’ Meanwhile at the water’s edge, shipyards rang with the sounds of caulking irons.
But that was then.
Eventually steam trawlers replaced the sailing vessels and before long, these were made of steel, not wood. The fishery changed rapidly ‘til the cod were nearly wiped out. We still process fish here but a lot of it is bought in huge frozen blocks from Russia or China.
The shipwright's skills lived on in projects like the replicas of the famed Schooner Bluenose, the HMS Bounty and Rose, though all of these ships were launched by 1970. After that there were some private yachts and refit projects. Local shipwrights even rebuilt the fire-ravaged St. John’s Church. But aside from the small boats produced at places like the wonderful Lunenburg Dory Shop, there’s been no significant wooden vessel building on this harbour for a long, long time.
Anyone keeping a watchful eye knows there’s been more than dory-building going on at The Dory Shop these last several weeks as Master Builder Dave Westergaard, assisted by some keen young ship’s carpenters, prepared the boatyard for construction and began cutting the massive timbers that will form the keels of these new vessels.
And yes, I did say two. We will be building not one but twin 48’ wooden schooners in the best of Maritime traditions. They will be simple and elegant, fast and able and their building will help to bring this waterfront alive.