Old boat, fresh memories

Aaron
Aaron Beswick
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Published on January 13, 2010

Elizabeth and Michael Simmonds raised 13 children. Pictured are (front, from left) Kay Taylor, Elizabeth Simmonds, Cyril Simmonds; (middle, from left) Leona Russell, Bridget Patey, Margaret Caines, Will Joe Simmonds; (back, from left) Eugene Simmonds,

Published on January 13, 2010

The doors of the tumbledown shed remain open, as if still waiting for the return of the cod to launch the trapskiff.

Published on January 13, 2010

Michael Simmonds fathered 14 children, 13 of whom survive.

Published on January 13, 2010

Powered by a 30 horsepower Yanmar diesel motor, the Simmonds trapskiff could get along.

Published on January 13, 2010

Eugene Simmonds (rear) and Sheldon Patey in their fishing gear.

Published on January 13, 2010

The Simmonds' fishing premises before the cod moratorium.

Published on January 13, 2010

The shed that protected the trapskiff from the weather has succumbed and now traps the boat. Notice the ribs - each one of which was cut out of a tree chosen to fit the shape of the hull.

Published on January 13, 2010

The old Simmonds fishing premises in Goose Cove - enough fish was landed here to raise 13 children.

Published on January 13, 2010

The shed may not have survived the ravages of time, but the boat inside remains in good condition.

Elizabeth Simmonds recalls how her family's life and livelihood were firmly anchored to the boat her husband built

By rights, a boat is just a bunch of dead trees, some galvanized nails and a fair-sized amount of human ingenuity.

It's the beating hearts the boat keeps safe above the ocean's grip that matters. It's the countless hours of care that went into its construction. It's the food the fishing boat puts on the table, along with the shoes it buys for little feet and the sugar in your tea.

To a passerby, the old Simmonds stage in Goose Cove may look like a charming relic of an old way of life or a tumbledown pile of rotting wood, forgotten in the wake of a fast-moving world.

Goose Cove -

By rights, a boat is just a bunch of dead trees, some galvanized nails and a fair-sized amount of human ingenuity.

It's the beating hearts the boat keeps safe above the ocean's grip that matters. It's the countless hours of care that went into its construction. It's the food the fishing boat puts on the table, along with the shoes it buys for little feet and the sugar in your tea.

To a passerby, the old Simmonds stage in Goose Cove may look like a charming relic of an old way of life or a tumbledown pile of rotting wood, forgotten in the wake of a fast-moving world.

But sticking out from the collapsed store is the bright white transom of a 28-foot trapskiff.

And where there's a boat, there's a story.

Michael and Elizabeth Simmonds already had a large family in the 1970s. She worked as a janitor at St. Mary's School and he with the McDonald's merchant store.

"I remember he started talking about building a boat," said Elizabeth, sitting surrounded by photos of her 13 children, 30 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren.

Michael took his sons into the woods around Goose Cove, seeking grown timbers and planking.

All knowledge comes from a long tradition of success and failure. Whether he knew it or not, Michael Simmonds brought more than 2,500 of western culture's wooden boat-building experience into the shed with him when he laid the keel of what would mean economic independence for his family. Even now, the planking is so smooth you have to get close and run your hand along its seams to realize the hull's not fibreglass.

"I loved every minute of it," remembered Elizabeth, who now lives in Shirley's Haven senior citizen's home. "I enjoyed fishing in the company of my husband, son and his wife."

Every morning the weather allowed, Elizabeth, Michael, their son Eugene and his wife Theresa would be on the water at 4:30 or 5 a.m. Depending on which trap berth they'd drawn it could be a long steam - but Elizabeth says she didn't mind watching the sun rise behind the boat, sending its fiery colours dancing over the water.

"I had no fear in that boat," she recalls. "Except once."

There'd been a full load of fish in their trap at Murrin's Cove, but Michael would only let them take some of it, knowing the sea they'd face as they came around the point. The fog whipped by Elizabeth's face in shreds as the skiff rose on one sea and pounded heavily with cod into the next.

"A boatload of fish when its blowing a storm ... it's rough," Elizabeth said. "But Michael was cautious, he wouldn't let us fill the boat right up with fish, and it was a good thing."

When you're hauling traps, raising 13 children and filling your many moments with life's commitments large and small, there's little time to notice lines spreading around your eyes and time taking its steady toll. But Michael, like other inshore fishermen, did notice the cod's demise and in 1992 they hauled the family's brave skiff one last time.

A few years later, time took Michael, too.

It has also weathered his old stage - the roof has fallen in and the cribbing is giving way.

But a boat is just a boat, a store is just a shed and both lack the power of memory.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, with a smile can let her mind drift back to Hare Bay and feel the rise and fall of the water as her man guides their skiff back to Goose Cove with a full load of fish.

Organizations: McDonald's

Geographic location: Goose Cove, Mary, Shirley Hare Bay

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Recent comments

  • HL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    This is a beautiful story - how nice to read something not criminal and death as usual, but true to life and how hard people did work years ago. Now the people work 10-12 weeks and go on EI. Times were better back then because everyone had to pull together, and families and friends meant something.
    Well done AARON BESWICK and well done Mrs. Simmonds. Goose Cove is a beautiful and picturesque place.

  • Max
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Wonderful story. I too can remember the sun rising behind the boat as we steamed out the cove. Now I work behind a computer all day.....

    Thanks for sharing your memories Elizabeth and I hope you can write more like this Aaron.

  • Brendon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    I do remember those times Mrs. Simmonds spoke of and even in the 1980's this was very much still the way of life on the tip of the Northern Peninsula. Time has not been kind to that way of life or the communities and people who flourished so happily back then. Most people had no choice but to trade their boats for a trip to Alberta... This story really does bring me back. Thank You... great story...

  • phil
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Where else in the world will you find the spirit of man more undaunted or a love with more ingenuity then in those who lived and fished the coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador like this Simmonds family of Goose Cove?

    Reading this beautiful article and looking at the old fishing premises and wharf brings a swelling of strength and pride in my chest that is not expressible. A memory of what it was like as a boy growing up on schooners with my father and cod trap fishing on the Labrador in the summer.

    There is no greater driving force in the civilized accent of man then that which comes from the pleasure man takes in exercising his own skill. And I know of no greater driving example from pride in skill and strength of character then the fisher people of our past. It is they who made our heritage and gives us our character today.

    The leaders and powers of the global world may take away our resource and disrespect our history and who we have been but they cannot change the lesson we as a people have learned.... that truth is found in ones heart and it can only be found there by those who are humble and honest!

    Mrs. Elizabeth Simmonds your memory is more then just a memory of the past it is a light for our future. You are an ageless mother to all of us in this beautiful, rugged place. God bless you.
    philip earle
    carbonear

  • HL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    This is a beautiful story - how nice to read something not criminal and death as usual, but true to life and how hard people did work years ago. Now the people work 10-12 weeks and go on EI. Times were better back then because everyone had to pull together, and families and friends meant something.
    Well done AARON BESWICK and well done Mrs. Simmonds. Goose Cove is a beautiful and picturesque place.

  • Max
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Wonderful story. I too can remember the sun rising behind the boat as we steamed out the cove. Now I work behind a computer all day.....

    Thanks for sharing your memories Elizabeth and I hope you can write more like this Aaron.

  • Brendon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    I do remember those times Mrs. Simmonds spoke of and even in the 1980's this was very much still the way of life on the tip of the Northern Peninsula. Time has not been kind to that way of life or the communities and people who flourished so happily back then. Most people had no choice but to trade their boats for a trip to Alberta... This story really does bring me back. Thank You... great story...

  • phil
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    Where else in the world will you find the spirit of man more undaunted or a love with more ingenuity then in those who lived and fished the coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador like this Simmonds family of Goose Cove?

    Reading this beautiful article and looking at the old fishing premises and wharf brings a swelling of strength and pride in my chest that is not expressible. A memory of what it was like as a boy growing up on schooners with my father and cod trap fishing on the Labrador in the summer.

    There is no greater driving force in the civilized accent of man then that which comes from the pleasure man takes in exercising his own skill. And I know of no greater driving example from pride in skill and strength of character then the fisher people of our past. It is they who made our heritage and gives us our character today.

    The leaders and powers of the global world may take away our resource and disrespect our history and who we have been but they cannot change the lesson we as a people have learned.... that truth is found in ones heart and it can only be found there by those who are humble and honest!

    Mrs. Elizabeth Simmonds your memory is more then just a memory of the past it is a light for our future. You are an ageless mother to all of us in this beautiful, rugged place. God bless you.
    philip earle
    carbonear