A master boat builder …

Featured Online First Pictou Island Memories

Vincent Turple Sr. (1909-1980) was considered the master boat builder of Pictou Island. Besides being a seasonal fisherman and farmer, Dad built two iceboats, which were used for winter island mail delivery and 22 wooden lobster boats for himself and other fishermen on the island.

He began his boat building with the iceboats in the 1930s and concluded with the Dream Boat III in February 1964. Dad would try to acquire all possible materials from the woods on Pictou Island. He would saw and plane all rough materials to a finished product. I remember my father planning the plank and timbers to be used in his boats with an old square boxed metal planner that was belt-driven from the power take off on his tractor. I recall going as a small boy to the woods in back of John Angus MacMillan’s place with Dad, in search of I believe a juniper stem post for the Dream Boat III. The root and trunk of the tree had to resemble the shape of the front post of the boat which is called the stem post.

Once the required tree was selected, Dad would cut the tree off about eight feet from the ground. He would then spend hours digging and shoveling the earth from around the roots of the still standing tree trunk. The roots would be cut individually with a hatchet when enough earth was removed and the remaining tree would fall. This was the section that he would cut and saw to take the shape of the stem post for his boat. Dad’s boathouse was a wooden structure with a sawdust floor that was about 45 feet long. He had made a wood burning stove from a 45-gallon drum to heat the boathouse on cold days. This homemade device also provided the heat required to produce the steam needed in bending the timbers of his boats. I can remember the intense heat that would come from this device as it glowed red. Many cold winter days when snow would be swirling about the yard, Dad would be comfortably working on his boats. It was in the late 1950s when Pictou Islanders began to purchase small gasoline engines to generate their own electricity. Prior to this, every nail going into the boat plank and timber had to be pre-drilled with a small hand drill.

I believe the first electric tool Dad bought when he got his electric generator was an electric hand drill in 1957. All finished planning and shaping to the planking was done with a hand held jack planer. I have the hand drill and jack planer that Dad used in the making of his boats. I think back to when dad built the Dream Boat 111 and the many people who would come to the boathouse to witness its construction.

Pictou Islanders who are no longer with us including Duncan Rankin, John Angus MacMillan, Duncan and Roy MacCallum, Bush, Logan and Frank MacDonald, Jack Happy, Charlie Munro and others. I can still visualize these men standing around talking in the boathouse. When the day came for Dad to take his boats from the boathouse, he only had to call Duncan Rankin, a neighbor and good friend. In a short time, Duncan would have contacted most of the men indicated above. They along with others would come to our place and gather inside and outside the boathouse to help.

That was the way Pictou Islander’s were. No matter what assistance may have been needed, all islanders were more then willing to help and offer their service. A thankyou was all that was ever required when one Pictou Islander helped another.

A growth of spruce and juniper trees has taken over the area where once so much activity took place. The old farmhouse burned down years ago. The barn and boathouse have since fallen and decayed into the ground. Memories are all that remain.

Dream Boat 111 was built with a length of 34 feet 6 inches and a beam of 9 feet. In her lobster boat racing career she was first powered by a 427 cubic inch Mercury, second by a 409 cubic inch Wildcat Buick and finally by a 440 cubic inch Dodge Magnum.

Dad retired from fishing in 1975 and my brother Vincent took over and fished in the Dream Boat. Vincent and I raced and placed first at the Pictou Lobster Carnival boat races in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1980 Even though she was a heavy wooden boat, she achieved recognition for her incredible speed and winning numerous races at the Pictou Lobster Carnival and Boat races held in Monteque, P.E.I.

She has won 22 first place trophies and many of those trophies are on display at the Northumberland Fisheries Museum, Pictou. The second Pictou Island iceboat that dad built in 1940 is also on display at that museum.