Free Issue! Try Saltscapes Magazine before you buy. Download Now

The putt-putt sound of a make-and-break engine is forever imprinted on my brain from my childhood days in outport Newfoundland.

Growing up in the 1950s in very rural Newfoundland, the main mode of transportation was on the water, be it by a flat, a dory, a punt, a skiff, or a coastal boat. Most families had a dory, and as a young boy we learned to row and some of us, including my cousin, were excellent at skulling a dory, something I never did quite master.

Most of my family were fishermen, some deep-sea and some inshore fishers. One of my fondest memories of childhood is of going with my uncle and his crew, in his skiff, to haul the cod trap. The fish were plentiful, then.

The boats were all wooden and built locally, often by the fishermen themselves, who had initially cut and sawed the logs for the lumber. They were sturdy and generally all had a make-and-break engine. When a boat would be going in through the harbour, one could often tell by the sound of the engine whose boat it was, as they all seemed to have a different sound.

Another of my cherished childhood memories is of going in the woods with my grandfather, to look for an appropriately-sized tree from which he could get a dory stern.

Even in old age, the lines of the boat are still beautiful.

As I have gotten older and have been travelling around the bays and coves of the Atlantic provinces, I have been drawn to the many boats which have been retired—and, in many cases, abandoned—along the beaches. While a great number of these boats are wooden, a substantial number are of fibreglass or steel construction.

When I encounter one of these boats I am transported back to my boyhood, and it saddens me to see them in their present state of disrepair. I have an urge to photograph them, hopefully in a gentle way, as a sort of homage to the great service they provided, be it a working or a pleasure boat. It is with that background that I present this selection of such boats that I have encountered over the years.

As you travel around this breathtaking country in which we live, and encounter one of these boats, take a few minutes and reflect on its probable history, from its construction to its current resting place. Many adventures in calm seas and turbulent ones have been encountered. 

Other Stories You May Enjoy

Camera Obscura

It. Helena Island is shrouded in the kind of fog that Fundy fishermen claim to lean on. It hangs thick and wet around our tents, concealing the shores of nearby Deer Island and obliterating the...

The Golden Horse of Yarmouth

It has survived nature's elements, wayward snowplows and a homemade bomb-not to mention the playful, late-night annual decorations of Dalhousie University's Yarmouth, NS, nursing grads.

Free under the sun

Animals live well at Boyle Family Farm