From Pulling Shots to Planing Wood: Local Baristas Learn Boatbuilding

(Illustration: Erin Philp)

Some of your favourite local baristas and bakers from Nº 9 Coffee and their friends have been cooking up a new type of project in Mahone Bay this past month.

Through a workshop with Mike Gray, local boatbuilder extraordinaire, seven local residents and myself – of varying skill levels – learned the ins and outs of hand tools while building a Chamberlain skiff dory. 

“I think that one belonged to Fred Rhuland,” says Mike, pointing to a plane being used to square the edge of the next plank. The name catches my attention, reminding me that what we’re doing is part of a bigger legacy.

Boatbuilding, and specifically small craft, has a long-standing tradition in this area. Birchbark canoes, Lunenburg dories, Tancook whalers are all vernacular craft – their histories and constructions are deeply intertwined with the water and the people living around it.

Each morning the small make-shift boatshed on Main St. was filled with the energy of a group eager to cut, plane and plank. Slowly, with the patient guidance of a master builder, we started to make sense of the lofted lines on the wall, translating the lines and numbers into a jig that we eventually built the boat around. 

This dory will soon join the countless other small vessels that dot the shoreline of Nova Scotia each summer. Inbal Newman, local artist, will integrate the boat into a storytelling project later this year. Stay tuned for a community boat launch event as Mahone Bay gains another boat and eight enthusiastic builders. 


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