During past years, fishermen would often be the builder or participate in the building of their own wooden fishing boats. The fishing boats around these local waters were usually built with the design known as the round or barrel bottom. Those boats would be designed and built to a particular size and shape and unlike fiberglass boats of today, no two wooden lobster boats would be exactly the same.
I’m assuming that to probably be a suitable reason why so many past fishermen would partake in challenging each other for having the fastest lobster boat. My father Vincent MacNeil Turple was one of those fishermen who took great pride in building and racing his lobster boats. Dad’s brother Lester from Pictou was another local fishermen/boat builders who likewise did the same. Others that I remember were Fred and Sandy Polley from Pictou Landing. I recall John Grant from Caribou River who built excellent wooden lobster boats. Allen Brown was also recognized as having a boat shop in the east end of Pictou where he and Nick Pallerine designed and built many fine worthy lobster boats. Wilfried Anderson Sr. from Braeshore was recognized for his many fast sleek wooden lobster boats. Wilfried won numerous lobster boat races with boats he designed and built. Pictou Landing resident Percy Haynes Sr. dominated lobster boat racing for many years with V-bottom wooden boats that he too designed and built in his own boat shop. These gentlemen were just a few of many local fishermen who took great pride in their ability to design and built fine wooden lobster boats.
Past fishermen from Prince Edward Island also held bragging rights as designing and building fast wooden fishing boats. Prince Edward Islanders seemed to prefer V-bottom boats over barrel bottom boats.
Island fishermen and local fishermen would regularly challenge the speed of each others boats at many annual celebrations. Quit often you could have fifteen to twenty plus lobster fishermen participating with their boats in the boat races. I recall when I as a small boy would be in the boat with my dad racing against eight or more boats all in one race. Those boats would only be a few feet apart as we raced around three buoys in a mile long course.
My father would tell me stories about the days when he raced against his friends from Prince Edward Island. They included such fishermen as John and Dan Herring, Preston Higginbothan, Roulston Graham, Clarence & Lee Nicole and Harem and Warren Miller. I plainly remember the late 1950s and 60s when I raced many times with my dad against Warren and Harem Miller. They fished and raced in a sleek V-bottom island boat known as the Breeze Quite. The 1960s saw Dad and I also race against Blain, Hamie and Juddy Nicole from Murray River. My brother Vincent and I raced the Dream Boat III against such Islander’s as Maynard Paquet, Jack Tassell and Ken Williams during the 1970s.
I was fortunate to again meet with Blain and Juddy Nicole at the 2002 Pictou Lobster Carnival boat races. A misfortunate holdup occurred with the starting of the lobster trap-hauling contest. That situation delayed the lobster boat races from being run for over an hour. This provided ample time for Blain, Juddy and myself to catch up on a lot of past events. The following is part of our conversation.
cLee Nicole from PEI fished for lobster during past years around the waters of Pictou Island. He required lobster boats that were fast and wouldn’t take a long time to sail from Murray River to his fishing grounds around Pictou Island. In 1944, Blain and Juddy’s father Lee designed and assisted boatbuilder Nelson Bell from Murray River to build the well know thirty-foot lobster boat WizzBang. Juddy says that his father suspected that this boat would be fast and named her WizzBang after a World War 11 ammunition shell. Lee would sail WizzBang over to Pictou Island on Sunday evenings. He would stay in a bunkhouse at MacGee’s lobster factory on Pictou islands north side throughout the week and then sail back to Murray River after fishing the following Sat. There is a reef some distance offshore from where that factory used to be and it’s called MacGee’s Reef. Fishermen at that time would anchor their small lobster boats just inside of that reef. They would then row ashore in their dory to the lobster factory. Large waves rolling over MacGee’s reef would usually breakdown before they would hit the smaller lobster boats that were anchored beyond it. A severe storm however struck this area the first year that WizzBang was built. She was swept ashore at that location in 1944 and landed on the rocks. WizzBang suffered much damage with a hole being ripped through her bottom. She was repaired however and continued sailing for many future years.
Years later WizzBank was retired and lay in a hay field belonging to Oliver Gildens. The Graham brothers from Murray River bought WizzBand for $35. They hauled her to MacKay & Gillidens boat shop in Murray River and replaced some of her planking and rebuilt her stem post. They then renamed WizzBank to Citation.
Lee wanted another boat and in 1951 he again designed and helped Nelson Bell build the 30-foot V-bottom boat named Breton. The Breton was also a fast lobster boat that Lee’s three sons Blain, Hammy and Juddy loved to race. The Nicole boys would race the Breton at various lobster boat races including the Pictou Lobster Carnival. Blain recalls the Breton being powered by a stock 429 cubic inch Hemi Ford and turning 5500 rpms when we raced against each other at Pictou Lobster Carnival in 1966. That year saw the Breton place first in its class and the Dream Boat III powered by a 440 Dodge Magnum placed first in the Free For All.
Over the past years, the Nicoles have designed and helped build many wooden lobster boats. Five of the Nicole boats attended and raced at the 1968 Pictou Lobster Carnival boat races. Those boats included the Breton, Citation, A & J Nicole, Audra and Lori Ann. They were powered by Ford motors that included a 296, 412, 428, 429 and 460 cubic inch Fords. Their power and speed really provided a great show. Blain states and I also believe that the fastest Nicole boat was Audra. She was a 36-foot long plywood boat and was powered with the 429 cubic inch Hemi Mercury. My father and I never had the opportunity to race against the Audra. It was during those years that the Dream Boat III had struck a reef off Caribou and split her stern post. I do however recall the Audra being an exceptionally fast boat.
Seventy year old Juddy and brother Blaine Nicole made the trip to the 2002 Pictou Lobster Carnival with John Cox from Murray River. John being 82 years old sailed his 20 foot boat powered by a 350 cubic inch motor from Murray River to Pictou in One and a half hours.