Amer­i­can sailor re­fur­bishes sto­ried Lit­tle Bay Is­lands trap skiff

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - FRONT PAGE - BY CORY HUR­LEY

LIT­TLE BAY IS­LANDS, NL — Jules Racenet can re­late to the Jim Payne lyrics to “Wave Over Wave.”

Racenet has sailed the world over for decades or more, but says he never en­coun­tered a place like Notre Dame Bay.

When the sailor from Con­necti­cut fell in love with the lo­cal area, and Lit­tle Bay Is­lands in par­tic­u­lar, it be­came not just a home port, but a sec­ond home.

“I see it ev­ery­where — peo­ple who live in ar­eas like this, they lived and worked it, so they are so used to it they don’t some­times un­der­stand,” Racenet said. “For peo­ple who come from away, they first see this area and cruise this area – it is noth­ing but great­ness.”

It’s been about 10 years now since the breath­tak­ing views of Notre Dame Bay cap­tured the heart of this sailor. He now owns a home in Lit­tle Bay Is­lands. It’s next door to Ray Flynn, a lo­cal who had an old trap skiff de­te­ri­o­rat­ing in his yard. It caught the eye of Racenet, who says he loves restora­tion projects that give him the op­por­tu­nity to work with wood and some unique de­signs.

He pur­chased the boat for $100. It be­gan as a per­sonal pro­ject, but he soon learned of the lo­cal history sur­round­ing the de­pleted ves­sel.

Al­though there are still some parts of its history not com­plete or a lit­tle vague, Racenet seems to have pieced to­gether a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of it. He be­lieves Amos Heath built the trap skiff on Long Is­land in 1964 for Burt Ride­out, the owner of a gen­eral store at Lushes Bight, who used it to haul freight.

Even­tu­ally, re­port­edly in the early 1970s, Tom Roberts of Lit­tle Bay Is­lands bought the boat and used it for fish­ing and seal­ing. As the sto­ries go, the ves­sel would break through ice floes on its way to Twill­ingate and back on a daily ba­sis. It also would make rou­tine voy­ages to Labrador towed by Roberts’ schooner.

It changed hands again later on, with Ge­orge Tucker now as­sum­ing the helm. He would use it to haul wood to the is­land from the main­land. That is where the con­nec­tion to Flynn comes in – he bought it from Tucker, his brother in-law.

While it ap­peared its sail­ing days were done as it rot­ted in the gar­den on Lit­tle Bay Is­lands, Racenet had other plans for the boat.

“I had just fin­ished re­mod­el­ing the cot­tage I own, and I was look­ing for some­thing to do,” he said. “I am very in­ter­ested in the fish­ing in­dus­try and the history of it.

“I have sailed prob­a­bly 10,000 miles eas­ily on my sail­boat, and I ap­pre­ci­ate it. Un­less you have been there and done it, you can’t un­der­stand what these peo­ple went through in these open boats.”

All the wood in the boat was rot­ted, so he removed it all. For­tu­nately, he said, Tucker had done a great fiber­glass job on the out­side. Racenet fiber­glassed the in­te­rior as well, and re­placed the rot­ted wood. He brought the en­gine back to Con­necti­cut, cleaned it up, and got it run­ning.

About a week ago, the boat with the sto­ried past be­gan its new chap­ter. The lo­cals took no­tice, and came out to see it.

“I just wanted to put it in the wa­ter, I didn’t re­al­ize I was go­ing to get all this fan­fare,” said Racenet. “I guess I can un­der­stand it now that I look at it.”

Es­pe­cially given the at­ten­tion, Racenet is just happy his re­fur­bish­ment wasn’t a flop.

It has its right­ful place in the wa­ter again. In fact, it’s tied up back at Flynn’s wharf.

“It’s do­ing pretty good so far,” he said.

Wave over wave, the tale of the sto­ried ves­sel con­tin­ues.


Jules Racenet takes the re­fur­bished trap skiff for a ride around the har­bour of Lit­tle Bay Is­lands.


The trap skiff had seen bet­ter days than it did in un­der a win­ter’s snow­fall.


Jules Racenet removed all the rot­ted wood from the trap skiff, cleaned up the en­gine, and put some fiber­glass along the in­te­rior to make it look brand new.

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