'Prettiest schooner that ever floated': Restored old lady of the sea lures past sailors

Three former owners gathered aboard the Wawaloon in waters off Chester this week to share memories of the schooner.

Former owners gather aboard Wawaloon in waters off Chester

Former and present owners Chris Pelham, Harley Schofield and Francis Forbrigger sail on the schooner Wawaloon off Chester, N.S. (CBC)

She's in her eighth decade and is described as "gorgeous" by three men who adore her.

Wawaloon is a gaff schooner built on Tancook Island in 1946. She's been lovingly restored by Harley Schofield, who bought the former herring fishing boat in 2013 for $5,000.

"It's a gorgeous boat, the prettiest schooner that ever floated," Schofield said Wednesday.

This week, he and two other men from Wawaloon's past were aboard the restored vessel in waters off Chester. There have only been six owners in Wawaloon's 71-year history.

The schooner Wawaloon being sailed in 1953. (Submitted by Harley Schofield)

Francis Forbrigger, 80, recalls buying Wawaloon from his Uncle Bill in Port Hawkesbury. He sailed it from 1979 to 1985.

Wednesday was an emotional day for him.

"It's the silence of the sailing and the wind," he said while tending to the main sail and looking half his age. "It's just the most exhilarating feeling."

The third sailor was Chris Pelham, whose father, Morten, bought the boat in 1953 and converted it from a fishing schooner to a pleasure schooner.

The trio believe each owner played a part in making sure the old schooner endures, likely because of great family memories.

A trio of owners, past and present, sailed the restored schooner Wawaloon off Chester on Wednesday. (CBC)

"It went through various owners, but it was always a family boat," Pelham said.

Wawaloon was in rough shape when Schofield first took possession.

"It looked like a picket fence," he recalled.

He couldn't even estimate how many hours it took to restore the boat.

"A lot, I don't know," he said with his hand on the tiller.

Piece of history

Schofield calls himself the boat's guardian and said his job is to protect this piece of Nova Scotia history.

He also credits the Nova Scotia Schooner Association for its work in preserving the vessels that are so closely associated with the province's identity.

"They've done so much and they are committed to keeping them alive. I'm responsible to make sure this boat is as good as I can keep it and that it sails continuously," Schofield said.

"Then someone else will acquire it and they'll love it as much as all of us."