The boat that wouldn’t barbecue

Brian Jones
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A few summers ago, we planned to buy a canoe.

There are numerous ponds within a 10-minute drive, so we could toss the canoe onto the Jeep and head off.

Driving home from work one day, I noticed a boat in a nearby front yard — a dory.

It looked new, with bright dory buff paint — sort of halfway between orange and gold — and green gunwales.

A sign on it read, “For sale.”

On the way to work, and on the way back at the end of the day, I’d pass the dory and think, “That is one nice-looking boat.”

Different craft

It occurred to me that we didn’t necessarily need a canoe.

Maybe a dory was a better option.

Older Boy is determined to be a marine biologist.

He has loved the ocean ever since he first toddled into it at

St. Philip’s beach. (Recently, I suggested he should think about a second career choice, just in case he decides to not go into marine biology. He said, “I don’t need a second choice.”)

A marine biologist needs experience with boats, I figured.

Rolled dice

I called a family meeting and suggested we pool our money and buy the dory.

There was no price written on the for sale sign, so we should make an offer, I said.

It was unanimous: 4-0 in favour.

A few days later, we were the owners of a beautiful dory, 13 feet on bottom and 17 feet on top. The bill of sale was written by hand on a piece of foolscap.

We learned a bit about the dory’s history, although I’m still sketchy on some details.

It was handmade by an old skipper in St. Mary’s Bay, who built it for his son to use as a lifeboat on his longliner.

It was no longer needed, and thus was sent to St. John’s for sale.

Our purchase was perfect timing.

Offers rolled in

In the days after we handed over the money, interest in the dory multiplied.

It was still in place on the front yard, and people were stopping to inquire about it.

One power couple — a pair of lawyers — apparently wanted to buy it to use as an ornament at their barbecue pit.

J. — the fellow who had taken on the task of selling the dory for the old skipper — told us most people wanted the dory for an ornamental, rather than a practical, use.

He said he knew a guy years ago who had suspended a full-size dory from the ceiling of his bar.

In Nova Scotia, J. said, there is a mini industry of building dories and exporting them to Europe for use as ornaments.

The old skipper might have got a higher price if he hadn’t accepted the first offer that came in.

But we like to think he would prefer the dory be used as intended, on saltwater, rather than as merely something pretty to look at.

We quickly discovered people at the local wharf are friendly and helpful. J., who also owns a dory, taught us enough to get us started.

Others offered advice, and even gave us equipment such as ropes and buoys.

In this, our third summer on the water, we’re fairly confident that we know what we’re doing.

We’re fairly good with the oars, we’ve been out more often than in previous years and we have a freezer full of fresh cod fillets.

Rowing across the cove is a lot more fun than paddling any canoe.

But the most common question we get asked is, “When are you going to put a motor in ’er?”

My answer: never.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Jeep

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Europe

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