Educator crafting historical scale models

Gander high school principal turns passion for boats into intricate works of memorabilia

Published on January 13, 2014
Gander Collegiate principal Greg Drover sits next to a scale model of The Titanic. —Submitted photo

From racing dogs in Cartwright to building intricate model ships in Gander, high school principal Greg Drover has found many ways to enjoy life outside the classroom.

Drover taught school in Hopedale for three years and was principal of Henry Gordon Academy in Cartwright for three years.

These days, he says, building model boats is a great diversion from his job as principal at Gander Collegiate.

“The school is great, the staff is great and the students are great, but it’s a busy school. So this is something different for me.”

Finding different hobbies isn’t new to this educator.

While living in Cartwright he had his own dog team, which he raced in numerous events.

“I got my lead dog in Hopedale, but I built the team when I moved to Cartwright. I’m one of those people that enjoys the older way of life. I’m heritage-minded and loved working with the dogs and figuring out how to get them to do what I wanted. … I set traps with them and go hunting. I just enjoyed them a whole lot. I loved it in Labrador. I really did.”

Drover built his boats from scratch from the keel up. There are 104 handmade blocks on each schooner, all carved by hand.

While visiting his hometown Spaniard’s Bay a few years ago, Drover met a man from Ontario named Peter Rudy. A retired machinist, Rudy was building models for an Ontario museum. Rudy dropped by Drover’s home in Gander on his way back to Ontario.

Drover describes himself as an amateur model ship builder. Ruby thought otherwise.

“I’d only been building boats from pictures and from my own designs. He told me it was time for me to build a boat to scale.”

Since Rudy introduced Drover to the world of scale, Drover has completed several model ships including several of the SS Kyle — a boat he is well familiar with.

“In Spaniard’s Bay, growing up I saw the Kyle every day down in Harbour Grace. So I knew the story and I knew the boat pretty good. I used the plans and built her to scale. I put it on the Internet to see if anyone was interested in buying the boat.”

That particular piece is now a part of the Harbour Grace museum.

Drover built a second model of the Kyle, from wood taken from the boat, after being contacted by the daughter of a former captain of the longliner.

Drover’s father was a finished carpenter. Put together the skills he’s learned from his father and grandfather and you might come up with the reason why Drover is also an accomplished woodworker.

“Several years ago, my dad got injured and couldn’t work anymore,” explained Drover. “He started making these model schooners as a pastime. Then in 1999, when he passed away, I got his tools.”

With a passion for boats, it seems only natural that Drover would pick up where his father left off.

When he moved to Gander in 2004 and began searching for a hobby, Drover picked up his father’s tools.

“My dad had made a schooner for me and one for my sister Diane (Whalen) — who is living in Goose Bay — but he died before he could give it to her,” Drover notes.

Drover’s sister did get the boat afterwards and Drover turned to his grandfather to help him make a boat for his other sister.

“We spent a week and we built a schooner I called ‘Four Winds.’ I gave it to her.”

Drover was hooked after making the first boat. He’d make them and give them away or offer them as a prize for a charity event.

“It was a hobby for me.”

That model is now with a woman in Harbour Grace, he says.

Drover has also completed another model of the Kyle for a man now living in California.

A model of the Titanic he built found a home in Ontario while his most recent Titanic is now up for sale on the Internet for $1,500. A 53-inch scale of one of the most famous boats in the world, it took Drover about six months to complete this project.

He does it for the joy he gets out of using his hands rather than for the money he makes from each model.

“At the end of the day, I’m probably making about five cents an hour,” Drover laughs.

“But, to me, it’s all about learning something about the boats. I see the individual planks, I can see what people saw when they walked along that boat.

“I can see where the windows are. But it’s all an illusion. It’s my interpretation of what I see on the pictures and on the plans.”

Drover has built a model of the Bluenose and has another six models in the works including the SS Caribou, SS Florizel and SS Bruce.


— Danette Dooley