I have taken much pride in sharing information about the various boats my father had built and raced during his lifetime.
My father, however, was not the only Turple to build boats. Boat building was in the Turple blood for many years. I have done research as far back as possible and have discovered that many years ago my dad’s father Elias and his twin brother Charles also assisted in building boats on Pictou Island. These two brothers lived across the road from each other on that tiny Island.
During the early 1900s, lobster boats around this fishing area averaged 28 to 28 feet long and were built without cabins. Grandfather Elias participated in racing his lobster boats at local celebrations. I have inherited a silver trophy from my father that was won by his father for lobster boat racing at Pictou Natal Day in 1913. I have no idea what kind of motor would have been used to power their boats during those years. It would probably have been a one-cylinder engine and a good tail wind would be beneficial.
Grandfather Elias’s twin brother Charles also had a boat that he named DOT. He ran the ferry service between Pictou Island and Pictou with her. This ferry would not have been nearly as large as the present Pictou Island ferry and it not likely had a cabin. Luck was not to be with Charles and he lost the DOT in a storm off Pictou Island.
He had another boat built for the ferry service and he called her the DINTY. Luck again was against him and he lost her in a fierce storm while tied to the Pictou Island Wharf. Charles then went to PEI and purchased a bigger boat to be used for the ferry service. He called his new boat The Jennie R. after his wife. However, as fate would have it, she to was wrecked in a storm. She broke loose from her moorings at the Pictou Island beach in a fierce storm and drifted across the strait to Arisaig where she was wrecked on the rocks. Charles called it quits for the ferry run after that.
My grandparents raised their family off two girls and three boys on Pictou Island. My father’s brother Lester moved from his home on Pictou Island at a young age. He also was a fisherman and he met, fell in love with and married Helen Cyr from Pictou. They raised a family of three girls and four boys. Like their father, these Turple boys also took to the sea and fished during their early years. Fast seaworthy boats were a must in their profession and their father began building boats for them.
Some boats that I remember Uncle Lester designing and building were the Little Mike for Hughie, named after Hughie’s son. Marilyn and Marilyn Two for Vernon named after Vernon’s daughter. I believe the last boat he built was the Bingo for himself. Lester completed the boat Marilyn in the spring of 1959 for Vernon. She was a sleek, fast seaworthy lobster boat. The Marilyn was only in the water for a few months when on July 6th 1959, she was docked at the old freight shed wharf in Pictou. No one on that fine sunny morning knew of the catastrophe that was to unfold later that day. A fire broke out somewhere on the wharf around noontime. When the cresol on the wharf’s timbers started to burn, nothing could be done to stop that fire. The fire destroyed the Marilyn and other boats along with the complete freight shed and wharf. The following winter, Lester set upon building the Marilyn Two for Vernon.
Lester’s son Leonard wanted the undertaking of building a boat for himself. He had witnessed his father and my father building boats and he wanted the challenge of building a good fast boat also. Leonard, with help from his father, began the task of building himself a lobster boat during the fall of 1959. Leonard’s new boat, called the Action Pak was constructed forty feet long. Leonard installed a 292 cubic inch six cylinder engine to power this boat. She proved to be an excellent sea boat and many people admired her splendor and speed. Leonard won many six cylinder lobster boat races with her during the 1960s.
We moved off Pictou Island on Sept. 1st 1964. My father and his brother Lester became like two peas in a pod now that water wasn’t separating them. They were inseparable over those next few months. I can remember Uncle Lester being at our place in Central Caribou nearly every day. He and my father would be doing many things together. They could be at the wharf working on their boats, gone to P.E.I. or to Pictou Island setting smelt nets or to New Glasgow or Truro after motor parts. They would often be assisting Allen Brown, another boat builder from Pictou. Allan had a boathouse close to where Stright MacKay’s marina is today. On Nov.18th 1964, Donnie Shaw and Hughie Turple arrived at our place with some deer meat for us. They along with Lester and dad went to the wharf to haul some boats. Lester was complaining about being tired and having some pain in his stomach. On Nov. 25 he was admitted to the hospital. Nine days later on Dec. 4, 18 days after his 52nd birthday, Lester Turple passed away.