Nova Scotia

Louisbourg boatbuilder reconstructs vintage Nova Scotia sloop

A young cabinet maker from Louisbourg who builds boats for a hobby has taken on the task of restoring — reconstructing, really — a Nova Scotia-built sloop from the 1940s.

'They sail ever so beautifully,' says Darcy Harte

Darcy Harte says the sloop expresses the spirit of Nova Scotia. (Steve Sutherland/CBC)

A young cabinet maker from Louisbourg who builds boats for a hobby has taken on the task of restoring — reconstructing, really — a Nova Scotia-built sloop from the 1940s.

Darcy Harte loves to build wooden boats. Now he's working on the project of a lifetime and preserving a piece of Nova Scotia sailing history.

The 27-year-old told CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning how he came to own the S class sloop, built in 1946 by renowned Lunenburg boatbuilder David Stevens.

"I happened to see it for sale on Kijiji, and I just had to have it," he said. "Here's a piece of Nova Scotia history that I get to restore and keep sailing for another I-don't-know-how-many-years."

Harte said when he was considering buying the boat, he discovered it has been stored inside for the two years, but then put outside and "left on two stands and ended up twisting quite badly and becoming misshapen."

When the sloop was built, it was one of six to come out of the same boatyard in one winter. Harte knows of three surviving.

He said he first learned about the type of sloop at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and was encouraged to build one of his own. 

As things transpired, buying the boat may have been the simplest part of Harte's job. 


Sloops like this one are a 'piece of Nova Scotia history,' says Darcy Harte. (Gerry Lunn/Maritime Museum of the Atlantic)

"A hydraulic trailer dropped it off outside of my barn," he said. "My father and my uncle came along and we pulled it into the shed with chainfalls and come-alongs. Our pick-up just wouldn't move it.

"So, the come-along was perfect. It was nice and slow and easy and of course, a good lubrication of Crisco really helps. She's presently sitting on a cradle and the cradle was slathered up with the Crisco and then a few logs going across and we brought her in that way."

Once the boat was in the shed, Harte realized he had no headroom to build up, so he essentially had to "tear the shed apart," opening up one section and building an extension on another.

Then the work began.

"In 70 years, she lost three inches off her bow and her stern, she dropped down," explained Harte. "She also did the same thing on the port and starboard sides. They were different shapes.

"So I actually got the original lines from David Stevens, the grandson of David Stevens who built the boat, which helped me set the boat back into shape."

Harte says he used jacks, chains, and come-alongs to twist and lift the boat back into its original lines.

'They're beautiful boats'

It will be a long time before he finishes the job, but Harte is looking forward to one day sailing his sloop. (Steve Sutherland/CBC)

One by one, Harte began removing and replacing the old planking and ribs.

"For every part I took off," he said. "I put something new on. So this is a reconstruction but I like to call it a restoration. A major restoration." 

It may be a long time before Harte finishes the job, but he's looking forward sailing the sloop when he's done.

"For me it's the spirit of it," he said. 

"We have a spirit of Nova Scotia, a pride of our province. It's a wooden boat. It was thought up in somebody's mind and brought to life just out of a few pieces of wood. And it really speaks to me.

"They're beautiful boats. They have lovely shape, and they sail ever so beautifully as well. So it's just fantastic. Awesome. I can't say enough."

With files from Steve Sutherland, Information Morning Cape Breton


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