St. Anthony -
"Please God, if I'm alive, I'll have her done by summer," muttered Roland Flynn as he clamped a riser against the ribs of his 13th wooden boat.
You can count on Flynn having the 24-foot trapskiff out of his shed and out of his hair by summer. Listening to the man curse the shed's small size with a heavy Croque accent as he scrambles about the boat, you'd swear the project was nothing but a nuisance to the retired fisherman.
But a close examination of his craftsmanship and pride tells another story - one of addiction to the art.
"'Spose I like to work with wood," he admits. "I think she's got a nice shape."
There's plenty of sweep from a high bow to high stern. Up forward the hull flares out for protection from heavier seas. Although built by eye, this skiff isn't just a creation of Flynn's, it's the product of generations of trial-and-error learning.
Flynn started his apprenticeship early. His family lived on the Grey Islands fishing during the summer and moved to Conche annually before winter.
"Grandfather had never seen anything like it - a speedboat."
Flynn hauled the planking from the forest by dog team and going against the advice of his grandfather built a flat-bottomed speed boat - as opposed to the rounded punts which were the norm.
"I painted her white and green," recalled Flynn of his first boat. "I was proud of her."
But he wasn't proud for long.
"We was hauling her behind the motor boat, storm of wind on the go and she filled with water and Grandfather chopped her off."
Flynn, then a teenager, brought the big boat around and tried to save his handiwork to no avail. A round hulled, narrow-sterned punt might have fared better when towed with a following sea.
"'Spose he did the right thing," he concedes nearly 50 years later. "Joey Smallwood moved us a few years later."
Resettlement landed him in Croque. He married, fished and raised a family. Winters found him in the woods or in a shed, learning the art of the working boat.
Unlike fibreglass, the wooden boat is a balance of opposing pressures. The planks would rather stay as straight sticks, but are held in shape by ribs.
The force on each individual set of ribs is spread along the length of the boat by the planks which join each set from stem to stern. This protects the keel, which would otherwise snap under the weight of thousands of pounds of fish slamming into walls of water.
Benches or thwarts divide the boat into thirds - known as the forward hook, midship bend and afterhook. These thwarts run perpendicular to the keel and hold the boat's shape (the curve of the hull) along with the covering board (a grown timber that caps the ribs and planking). Inside the hull, for extra strength, a batten is run from stem to stern.
The opposing and balanced pressures of the hull's construction withstand the battering of North-Atlantic seas - tonnes of oncoming water that slam against, then wrap around and God willing, pass by the clever constructions of men.
Keeping the boat water-tight is again a matter of balanced pressure. Planking sticks are cut, milled and left to dry. When wood dries, it shrinks. The planking,- of an inch on Flynn's trapskiff, is shaped and nailed as tight together as the boatbuilder can manage. But even this wouldn't keep the water out, so using a cauling (corking) iron, he pounds oakum (tarred and twisted jute) into each seam between planks. This pushes each plank tighter against the ones above and below it. Then, when the boat is launched, it soaks up water for a day or two, each plank swells and pushes tighter again.
"Grandfather and old Uncle Cyril Flynn had no trouble to knock a boat together," said Flynn. "I miss he, lot of stuff he'd tell me if I went astray."
But at 65 Flynn is working on being an oldtimer himself, an authority on the craft who in years gone by young fishermen would have come to for advice as they built their own boat and started towards independence. But fiberglass boats built in shipyards by other men's hands have largely replaced wood and Croque's K-12 school with its three students closed last year.
The future has moved west, leaving Flynn singing and cursing in his shed.
"I went to Fort Mac to help my young feller build a house," said Flynn. "Hates it out there, I does. No one understands me, tells me I talk to fast when they're listening too slow. This is a good place, I'll stay here."