Nfld. & Labrador

In the shed with Reverend Fred: How boat building bonds these men

They gather for the boat-building and stay for the chat. Men in the Arnold's Cove area take to the shed Thursday nights to build a 14-foot flat.

They gather for the boat-building and stay for the chat

Building a boat, building a community is the theme for Thursday nights in the shed in Arnold's Cove. (Todd O'Brien)

At the top of a driveway on Spencer's Cove Road in Arnold's Cove you'll find a shed.

Inside, on a Thursday evening, 17 men stand around a 14-foot, partially finished wooden boat, hands resting on the gunwales.

There are smiles, jokes and questions as Carman Stanley Best, 79, uses his hand plane to smooth the upper top edge of the boat's side. 

Tonight's gathering is called "In the Shed with Reverend Fred."

I started looking to find out how come the men don't go to church.- Fred Marshall

"The first year I was here I noticed at service one Sunday morning I was facing the congregation and I thought to myself where's all the men?" Rev. Fred Marshall, the priest at St. Michael's Anglican Church, told CBC.

"Now I knew some of the ladies were widows but there wasn't very many men there. So I started looking to find out how come the men don't go to church."

Turns out some of the men worked on coastal or lake boats, did shift work or worked out of province. 

"Years ago the women brought their children to church and the men stayed home and cooked Sunday dinner and there's different reasons like that," he said.

From left, Trevor Hoskins, Rev. Fred Marshall and Michael Brinston — and others — gather every Thursday night. (Todd O'Brien)

Building a boat, building a community

 Undeterred, Marshall thought that if the men didn't come to the church, maybe the church could go to the men. 

Five years ago, the first meeting of the men took place in a small shed with a wood stove behind the rectory. The session was called, "Small Questions to Big Answers." From there it progressed to making small wooden figures for the Sunday school program, and then last year they found a shed to build a 14-foot boat called a rodney.

This year they're building a 14-foot boat called a flat, with a wide, flat bottom.

"it's been a wonderful way to bring all the men together in the community," he said. "Most of them are from other places, the (resettled) islands in Placentia Bay. We've had fathers and sons and grandsons."

A 14-foot flat is taking shape under Carman Stanley Best's lead. (Todd O'Brien)

Many are here from resettled communities

Carman Stanley Best, the man with the handsaw leading the building of the boat, is originally from the nearby resettled community of Spencer's Cove.

"I come from up on the islands one time. But I'm living here now about 40, 50 years or more," he said. "The Warehams had a business there and they always had schooners and one thing and another, and there was always a bit of work to be done on them, repair work."

That's where he learned the art of boat-building before being resettled in 1964.

"There were always people up there repairing boats and building boats and stuff like that, and I was always around where they were to, you know. Helping them or watching them or something because I liked to be at it."

The building is taking place in Trevor Hoskins's shed; Best is his uncle.

Getting to spend time with me uncles at this boat is probably the best thing for me.- Trevor Hoskins

"Getting to spend time with me uncles at this boat is probably the best thing for me," said Hoskins, 38.

When you look at a wooden boat, Hoskins said, you think there's nothing to it, but it's really intricate work. He said along with the regular Thursday night gathering, he'll be in the shed at other times to work on it.

"There's been a couple of Saturdays now [with] all five uncles in me shed working on a boat. So there's not much wrong with that."

The evenings bring men in the Arnold's Cove area together for a bit of chat and craftsmanship. (Todd O'Brien)

Passing on skills to a new generation

Michael Brinston and his father are taking part in the building.

"The older people here, like I say, no doubt they're at a lot of this years ago building their own boats for fishing," he said.

"But, like, for myself now, I'm 35 years old and I never got to see a big lot of this growing up. And the generation of young people today, I would say they don't see this kind of stuff, but it's a really good thing to be doing."

Marshall makes his way around the boat, asking questions of the builders and taking video with his phone.

He says people have come from all over, from Grand Falls, North Harbour and New Harbour to be here.

"People have come a good ways to come and just spend an evening. Some will take part in the building and others just stand around and watch and get in a conversation about something."

As for helping boost attendance in church, Marshall said, "Well, they still don't necessarily come to church on a Sunday morning. But I tell you if we want anything done in church all we got to do is say what needs to be done and you got all the men that you'll ever going to want to find there."

A few more Thursday nights, and the flat will be finished.

The church will sell tickets on the boat and use the money for missionary and outreach work.

Planning is underway for next year's build.

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