Replica chaloupe to be built at Roma

The Roma at Three Rivers historic site is the proud new owner of the replica of a wooden boat called a chaloupe. But the boat is only partly built — donated to Roma by a volunteer group in Nova Scotia that ran out of funds for the project.

Sturdy, stocky chaloupe was the pickup truck of the 1700s

Roma at Three Rivers is working to restore a replica boat from the 1700s 1:08

The Roma at Three Rivers Historic Site near Montague is the proud new owner of a chaloupe — a wooden boat described as the pickup truck of the 1700s.

Roma's new chaloupe will be kept in winter storage until spring when it will be moved to the site at Brudenell Point. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The boat is currently just a skeleton of a vessel, so the volunteer board is raising money to rebuild the boat — and get it afloat — so it can be featured in historical re-enactments at Roma. 

"Wouldn't it be nice to see Jean-Pierre Roma arriving at Roma at Three Rivers in the chaloupe?" said Bob Perrin, with a smile, looking at the shell of the chaloupe. 

Wouldn't it be nice to see Jean-Pierre Roma arriving at Roma at Three Rivers in the chaloupe?' — Bob Perrin, Roma board member

Construction on the chaloupe originally started in 2010, part of tricentennial celebrations in the Nova Scotia community of the arrival of Acadians, but funds for the project ran dry, as did the pool of volunteers with the expertise to work on building the boat.  

"It was serendipitous," recalled Perrin, who has been a volunteer at Roma for 10 years.

Bob Perrin, dressed in period clothing from the 1700s, poses with Roma's new chaloupe at its winter storage site. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

While visiting family in Nova Scotia, Perrin met Keith Driver from the Creamery Square Boat Shop in Tatamagouche. Driver told him about the partly finished boat and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Boat Shop donated the chaloupe to Roma this fall, along with funds to transport it to P.E.I. 

Bringing history to life

The Roma at Three Rivers site is a not-for-profit organization run by volunteers from eastern P.E.I. who came together to develop the site as a visitor attraction in 2004.  

The site has guides in period clothing who provide interpretation of a French heritage garden, historical artifacts and Jean Pierre Roma's significance in P.E.I. history. Roma was a wealthy merchant from France who established one of the first commercial ventures on the Island from 1732 until war broke out in 1745 and the settlement was destroyed.

Roma's crew would have used the chaloupe for fishing cod, which Perrin calls "Roma's gold," and for transporting lumber and other goods from one small port to another.

'A real treat'

Georgetown wooden boat enthusiast Tim Mair was asked by the Roma board to check out the new chaloupe. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Georgetown wooden boat enthusiast Tim Mair is excited by the arrival of the chaloupe.

"Even the build phase is such a fascinating thing to do — traditional boat-building," said Mair.

"And maybe to have the public have a look at that as it goes along, in installments. And then one day to have it so you can get it on the water.

"It would be a real treat, wouldn't it?"

The chaloupe, Mair said, would have had a mast for sailing and rowing stations, with as many as six to eight rowers powering the boat.

The construction so far, he said, is a combination of traditional techniques, such as square cut nails, as well as some modern touches, because the nails are galvanized. He said the boat is stocky and sturdy, because it would often have been landed on the beach back when there were very few wharves.

Fundraising campaign

The Roma board has started a fundraising campaign for materials and to hire someone to lead the boat-building project. They're also looking for a spot on site where visitors can watch the project as it evolves.

"There is a lot of work ... Possibly hundreds or thousands of hours," Mair said.

The chaloupe is being built with a combination of modern and traditional materials, including square cut nails. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"It is exciting ... The old tradition of boat-building — this whole area has got that kind of history, like Georgetown and Cardigan. But the Acadian history is older than that again."

Mair said the Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton, which has several chaloupes, will be a great resource.

"There are other chaloupes in the Maritimes, so people have been through this," Mair said. "I will have to acquire some of the skill set should I get the chance to work on it."

Mair has a rowing background and looks forward to some day rowing the chaloupe — in full historic costume.

For now, the chaloupe is safely tucked away in winter storage, ready to make its public debut at Roma next spring.

The chaloupe is described as a stocky, sturdy boat that would be either rowed or sailed. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

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