The boat builder

Al­most 50 years af­ter chop­ping down a tree, Millville’s Ce­cil Reid fi­nally uses it as a stem to build a new boat

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - News - BY ROSALYN ROY Rosalyn.roy@gulfnews.ca Twit­ter: @tyger­lylly

In what is likely a mas­sive un­der­state­ment, Ce­cil Reid says it took him a while to haul a stub­born black spruce tree along a riverbed al­most 50 years ago.

“It was all I could carry up the brook a lit­tle ways,” he ad­mits. “But it was so good that I had to have it.”

Back then he was still work­ing with the rail­way.

“I was on a work train at Cook’s Brook,” re­calls Ce­cil, who is now 86. The brook is roughly eight miles west of Cor­ner Brook. “Af­ter we were fin­ished work in the evening, I de­cided I would go for a lit­tle walk down the brook and I saw this per­fect stem for a boat.”

Af­ter felling the tree, he sin­gle­hand­edly dragged it up the brook and put it on the run­ning boards of the train’s diesel en­gine to get it to Cor­ner Brook where his truck was parked. The tree was then taken to his home in Millville and shoved into one cor­ner of the garage where it re­mained for the next 48 years.

It was only dur­ing this year’s an­nual sum­mer va­ca­tion to New­found­land that Ce­cil de­cided the time was right. He has two sis­ters in the area and Ce­cil says they’ve had a few con­ver­sa­tions about their lack of a boat de­spite there be­ing a boat builder in the im­me­di­ate fam­ily.

“They like to go to Co­droy Is­land berry-pick­ing, and I think this is where it started to come up,” he said.

He says they would like to par­tic­i­pate in the recre­ational food fish­ery, which also re­quires a boat. So Ce­cil fi­nally de­cided the time was right to dust off the black spruce and use it as a stem for a new 16-foot boat.

“The wood is still so hard that I have to drill that I have to put a screw in,” says Ce­cil. He es­ti­mates the black spruce is about 10 inches in di­am­e­ter. “White spruce would be a lot softer wood.”

His wife, Joanne, who is a nat­u­ral­ist and en­joys work­ing with flow­ers, of­ten lends a hand. The cou­ple have been mar­ried for 36 years.

“She holds the boards and that for me,” says Ce­cil. “She’s a big help.”

Even with her help the boat won’t be ready this sum­mer, so his sis­ters will still have to find an­other way to get to their berry-pick­ing spots for a while yet.

“If I sur­vive un­til next sum­mer, I’ll fin­ish it next sum­mer,” he laughs.

Ce­cil is an old hand when it comes to boat build­ing and car­pen­try. He’s built at least three in Co­droy, and he kept at it out west at his home in Smithers, British Columbia.

“I have a ca­noe and a sea kayak on the is­land of Tas­ma­nia off the coast of Aus­tralia,” says Ce­cil. He built them for friends, school teach­ers who even­tu­ally re­turned home and wouldn’t leave their boats be­hind. Ad­mits Ce­cil, “It was good work.”

In ex­change one of the teach­ers edited Ce­cil’s pri­vate mem­oirs, which he shares only with fam­ily and friends.

“He’s built a lot of boats over the years,” says son Scott Reid. “He used to build mo­tor boats and then he started build­ing kayaks for a while.”

Ce­cil also built a few homes out in B.C. and was one of the team leads who built a huge cross-coun­try ski lodge.

“That was a real bit of hard work,” he said.

Hard work or not, the re­tired rail­way en­gi­neer thor­oughly en­joys his favourite hobby.

“Well it’s a gift that I have, I think, that I can craft a boat or any­thing with wood,” says Ce­cil. “I love wood.”

COUR­TESY OF SCOTT REID

Scott Reid with his fa­ther, Ce­cil, who kept a black spruce in his garage for al­most 50 years.

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