Nfld. & Labrador

Building a dory — and life skills — in downtown St. John's

It might seem like an unlikely pairing, but a youth outreach group and traditional boat builders are working together.

Teens and traditional boat builders are teaming up

Logan Woodfine, 17, follows tradition by designing a pattern on the dory seat. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

A traditional, seventeen-foot Newfoundland dory, not quite complete, sits in a cradle on a wooden platform in a vacant downtown storefront in St. John's.

Work is well underway, as the sounds of a drill and gentle hammering fill the air.

Some people working on the project are old hands at the craft, while others are brand new, but all are getting something out of the work. 

Members of Thrive — an organization that supports marginalized youth and young adults — and the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador have teamed up to build the dory. 

"A lot of the young people who are participating in the program would say they've experienced some level of isolation or separation from mainstream society, so doing a project like this is really about building community," said Ellie Jones, a director of programs at Thrive.

Eight participants with Thrive are taking part in the six-week dory-building exercise.

It doesn't make any difference to me who comes into our course — I treat them as people who are willing to learn.- Jerome Canning, instructor

Logan Woodfine, 17, said he loves building the boat. 

"It's really cool. I'd like to do it a lot more and do it again," he said.

Woodfine is tracing a diamond design into the wooden seat of the dory, something a builder would traditionally do. Later, he and others will paint it.

Krystal Morgan is learning new building techniques from the project. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Woodfine said he stopped going to school a long time ago.

"I just couldn't focus, my anxiety was too much. I couldn't sit down and work," he said.

At Thrive, he is getting one-on-one instruction and he said the difference is noticeable.

'Willing to learn'

Building a dory is something Krystal Morgan has dreamed of for years and she's learning new skills every step of the way, including "clenching the boat." 

"Every so often we put in a nail and we'll haul in the nail so it attaches the strapping from the inside and then we'll bang the nails over," she said. 

"It just pulls the wood together and holds it in place so that there are no gaps in our pieces of wood and the boat will float."

Morgan is enjoying the experience and is thinking about taking a course in Winterton at the Wooden Boat Museum.

Boat builder Jerome Canning says this group has exceeded all expectations. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Jerome Canning, an instructor from the museum, said it's remarkable to see the progress, since none of the Thrive participants had many carpentry skills or previously used power tools.

"It doesn't make any difference to me who comes into our course — I treat them as people who are willing to learn," Canning said.

"I hope they become enthusiastic and they're interested. [These participants] scored 150 per cent."

The dory, once it's finished, will be donated to Fishing For Success, a group in Petty Harbour that encourages young people to get involved with the fishery.

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