It was a rare sight Saturday afternoon when a traditional Newfoundland schooner, built by 83–year–old master shipbuilder Henry Vokey, hit the water in Trinity, Trinity Bay.

A crowd of onlookers — on land and on sea — cheered when the 13-metre vessel hit the water just after 1:00 p.m. Saturday. 

Vokey, who started building boats in his early 20s, worked on the boat for three years in his backyard. This was the third schooner he has built.


The Leah Caroline, a traditional Newfoundland schooner, launched on July 7, 2012 in Trinity, NL. (Curtis Rumbolt/CBC)

He plans to keep the boat for personal use.

"I'll take a few of me friends and the family around different places, like up the bay and across the bay to Winterton," said Vokey.

Vokey named the vessel Leah Caroline — Leah for his great–grandchild who was in Trinity from Alberta for the launch, and Caroline for his late wife.

Chris Osmond with the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland said the launch was an important cultural event.

"Since the Labrador fishery went out and the old coastal schooners used for the coastal trade are gone it's very unusual to see a boat this size. Most of our boat builders are building models or punts or motor boats, that sort of thing," said Osmond.

A garden party was planned for Saturday afternoon at the Trinity ball field to celebrate the launch.