Wooden Boats to my Heart’s Content

Each of the “fingers” that extend from Newfoundland’s northern shore has its own personality.   Each has a scenic road that runs around its perimeter, all with their own “trail” name.   My next exploratory jaunt around one of these fingers is called the “Baccalieu Trail,” named for the small Baccalieu Island off the coast, most likely named after the Portuguese or Spanish word for cod.

But who can even remember “Baccalieu,” when you have such interesting town names along this trail!   There is Heart’s Desire, Heart’s Delight, Heart’s Content, Cupids, and Harbour Grace.   Add to that the village of Dildo and Conception Bay, and well, you just have to understand those were some long winter nights.  😉IMG_0592

Would you expect anything less than a candy-striped lighthouse from a town called "Heart's Content?"

Would you expect anything less than a candy-striped lighthouse from a town called “Heart’s Content?”

Built in 1901, it's made from iron. Electrified in 1930.

Built in 1901, it’s made from iron. Electrified in 1930.

Seaside towns typical of the Baccalieu Trail.

Seaside towns typical of the Baccalieu Trail.

Of these quaint little seaside villages with their intriguing names, the most noteworthy is Heart’s Content, site of the Provincial Historic Cable Station, where the first undersea cable ran to Valentia, Ireland.  This cable reduced the communication time down from ten days via ship, which was the case when President Lincoln was assassinated. The 2,300 nautical miles of underground cable now allowed transmission of a message and response within the same day.

Heart's Content Cable Station, now a Provincial Historic Site.

Heart’s Content Cable Station, now a Provincial Historic Site.

Western Union Telegraph Company headed up operations here.

Western Union Telegraph Company headed up operations here.

This looks like my brother's bedroom, circa 1969.

This looks just like my brother Don’s bedroom, circa 1969.

If you are a communications junkie, there's lots to see here.

If you are a communications junkie, there’s lots to see here.

With the money earned through cables sent, the town bought some pretty fancy fire fighting equipment.

With the money earned through cables sent, the town bought some pretty fancy fire fighting equipment.

If you want to reflect on the notion that “We’ve come a long way, baby!” consider the first attempt at telecommunications from Europe in 1858, Queen Victoria’s congratulatory telegram, sent to President James Buchanan. Her 98 word message took sixteen hours to transmit. This cable soon failed, and another improved cable was laid in its place eight years later.

Monument to both cables, the one in 1858 that failed, and the success in 1866.

Monument to both cables, the one in 1858 that failed, and the success in 1866.

This stretch of sidewalk at the memorial says, "Our shore end has just been laid, and a most perfect cable under God's blessing has completed telegraphic communication between Ireland and the continent of America."

This stretch of sidewalk at the memorial says, “Our shore end has just been laid, and a most perfect cable under God’s blessing has completed telegraphic communication between Ireland and the continent of America.”

This telegraph cable station put Heart’s Content on the map as a global communications hub, employing up to 200 workers in its heyday, transmitting and relaying messages across the North Atlantic.  It remained part of the Western Union Inc.’s international cable system until the facility was closed in 1965 after trans-ocean telephone cable and satellite communication made its technology obsolete.

Western Union Operator's House, built 1921, now a Registered Heritage Structure.

Western Union Operator’s House, built 1921, now a Registered Heritage Structure.

Scenic little waterfront park.

Scenic little waterfront park.

I just love this town's name, obviously. Can you imagine having "Heart's Content" as your postal address?

I just love this town’s name, obviously. Can you imagine having “Heart’s Content” as your postal address?

I don't understand why they leave the water running, tho...

I don’t understand why they leave the water running, tho…

But for my own heart’s content, it was all about Newfoundland’s Wooden Boat Museum.  After falling head over heels for wooden boat building, so much that I spent three days “embedded” in the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, WA last year, a stop at the museum was on my “must do” list.

Just up the road from Heart’s Content about eight miles is the town of Winterton, home of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wooden Boat Museum. The big, stately two story building seems a little out of place in this tiny town where the biggest parking lot is the Funeral Home. They had smokin’ wifi there in a rare location where I had no AT&T signal, so I parked overnight, having arrived after the museum closed. Definitely one of my more unusual boondocking spots, but in a small town without so much as a grocery store, no one seemed to mind. (I’ll try to resist the jokes like “People were dying to get in.”)

Newfoundland and Labrador's Wooden Boat Museum.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Wooden Boat Museum.

Beautiful, but seems to dwarf the town of less than 1,000.

Beautiful, but seems to dwarf the town of less than 1,000.

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Like the museum in Port Townsend, they engage in community boat building projects. This one was built by the LGBT community of St. John's.

Like the museum in Port Townsend, they engage in community boat building projects. This one was built by the LGBT community of St. John’s.

The museum features wooden boats that helped shape Newfoundland and Labrador’s history over the years, primarily (in order of size, smallest to largest,) punts, Rodneys, and the Grandy Dory. While the smaller wooden boats were used for inshore fishing by rowing from shore, the larger Grandy Dories were actually stacked or nested, one on top of the other on larger offshore fishing boats.

Many examples of wooden punts and dories.

Many examples of wooden punts and dories.

A codfish "jig." Note the weight looks like a capelin, small fish that is food source for cod.

A codfish “jig.” Note the weight looks like a capelin, small fish that is food source for cod. They still use these today, though after the cod moratorium of 1992, are only allowed one hook, not two.

A "killick," or handmade anchor using rocks and sticks, common in Newfoundland.

A “killick,” or handmade anchor using rocks and sticks, common in Newfoundland.

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"Make and Break" engines were among the first attempts at motorized boats introduced in 1901.

“Make and Break” engines were among the first attempts at motorized boats introduced in 1901.

Like Port Townsend, WA, Newfoundland and Labrador’s non-profit organization recognizes that the skills required for wooden boat building are dying with the generation of inshore fishermen.  Not just are the builders a dying breed, but wooden boats themselves.  So through workshops, conferences, and newsletters, they attempt to keep the art alive.  Their motto is “Look Aft and Learn.”

Inside the Boat Shed.

Inside the Boat Shed.

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This poster demonstrates how the curvature of a tree near the root system would be used for both the stem and stern of a wooden boat.

This poster demonstrates how the curvature of a tree near the root system would be used for both the stem and stern of a wooden boat.

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But the non-profit museum goes much further beyond the building of boats. It explores the history of the heritage of the province all the way back to skin-covered kayaks used by the indigenous peoples.

One might wonder (or at least I wondered) how such a large boat building facility supported by sponsors and volunteers might survive in a town so small as Winterton, home of approximately 500 residents.  Turns out, it’s only a 90 miles from the capital city of St. John’s, where I’m headed next…

More views from the Baccalieu Trail scenic drive.

More views from the Baccalieu Trail scenic drive.

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3 thoughts on “Wooden Boats to my Heart’s Content

  1. We had one of our most bestest adventures just there next to the museum where we camped overnight, cod jigging. The drinking water in Hearts Content was quite good, we filled our tank and they recycle it somehow after it comes out of the hydrant… I didn’t pursue that line of questioning. Great post Suzanne!
    Ed and Marti

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