Prime Berth ranks among Top 10 mu­se­ums in Canada

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - BUSINESS - BY JIM HILDE­BRAND

If your travel plans in­clude find­ing one of the Top 10 mu­se­ums in Canada while sight­see­ing in At­lantic Canada, you have only one des­ti­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to TripAd­viser’s 2015 Trav­ellers’ Choice Awards.

Prime Berth in Twill­ingate has been hon­oured by be­ing named Num­ber 6 in the Top 10 mu­se­ums in Canada.

Colleen Heikka, TripAd­viser’s brand mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, ex­plains the pres­tige of this award.

“Our Trav­ellers’ Choice win­ning at­trac­tions are among the top one per cent of all at­trac­tions on Tri­pAd­vi­sor, truly the best of the best,” she said.

In a re­cent phone call from the New York of­fices to Dave and Chris­tine Boyd, own­ers of Prime Berth, Heikka passed on the ex­cit­ing news ex­plain­ing, “that the award comes di­rectly from the re­views and opin­ions of your guests and is the high­est rec­om­men­da­tion that you can re­ceive.”

To wrap your head around the enor­mity of be­ing named one of the Top 10 mu­se­ums in Canada, one must un­der­stand that the rec­om­men­da­tion came from the largest travel com­mu­nity in the world, reach­ing 375 mil­lion unique monthly visi­tors, and more than 250 mil­lion re­views and opin­ions cov­er­ing more than 5.2 mil­lion ac­com­mo­da­tions, restau­rants and at­trac­tions. The sites op­er­ate in 45 coun­tries. More than 160 new con­tri­bu­tions are posted ev­ery minute.

Dave Boyd strug­gled to find an anal­ogy.

“It’s like a mouse get­ting in a fight with a bunch of ele­phants and the mouse comes out the win­ner,” he said.

He is sand­wiched in the list of win­ners be­tween phe­nom­e­nal Cana­dian at­trac­tions such as Vic­to­ria, B.C.’s Royal B.C. Mu­seum, Toronto’s Royal On­tario Mu­seum and Mon­treal’s Mu­seum of Fine Arts. For tourists to have placed a lit­tle mu­seum in Twill­ingate on the list is high praise.

Is­abella Nes­tran­sky from Red Deer, Alta., was part of a 10-day tour of New­found­land and Labrador with a group of Cana­di­ans, Amer­i­cans and Bri­tons.

“The per­son­al­i­ties of the guides and the ac­cents are amaz­ing,” Nes­tran­sky re­marked. “It makes the heart feel good to see that peo­ple have such a love of the land and sea and can con­nect this pas­sion with other peo­ple.”

Heather Pate­naude, a tour man­ager with Col­lette Tours out of Rhode Is­land, who has brought many tours to Prime Berth, am­pli­fies the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“There are al­ways ques­tions on the bus about the fish­ing, but hear­ing the sto­ries from Dave (Boyd) and Bill (Cooze) gives the tourists a bet­ter live sense of the history of the fish­ing in­dus­try,” Pate­naude said. “They’re a nice combo.”

In a guided tour of Prime Berth, Boyd and Cooze pro­vide a nar­ra­tive of the changes in fish­ing through the history of the province. In­ter­spersed in the com­men­tary are tra­di­tional songs of the sea sung by Cooze and the im­pas­sioned po­etry of Boyd telling the tales of days gone by.

As the tour pro­gresses, the group moves to the var­i­ous stages and stores, where Boyd demon­strates the fil­let­ing and split­ting of cod.

The demon­stra­tion is nar­rated with sto­ries of his youth and sto­ries of his fa­ther and his grand­fa­ther.

“Maybe I’m an in­cur­able ro­man­tic,” Boyd said with a sigh. “I long for times that may never be back again.”

Prime Berth is a tes­ta­ment to that ro­man­ti­cism.

“I guess you could say I’m a his­to­rian, an au­thor, a poet, a fish­er­man as well as a fish­ing and cul­tural ac­tivist.”

Some years back Boyd no­ticed that the things he grew up with were slowly dis­ap­pear­ing or fall­ing into var­i­ous states of dis­re­pair. Prime Berth was his method of try­ing to pre­serve a piece of his boy­hood, a way of life, a pas­sion.

Boyd bought a gravel pit from the province for $5,000 and started as­sem­bling his mu­seum.

He towed his fa­ther’s stages across the wa­ter from Tiz­zard’s Har­bour and another stage from Her­ring Neck. He towed in a fish store/net loft from Mor­ton’s Har­bour.

“I could have gone to the mill and bought the wood and re­made all of this, but it wouldn’t have the same char­ac­ter,” he said. “You can’t re­build history.”

The premise is a col­lec­tion of old tools, ta­bles and ar­ti­facts of the fish­ing in­dus­try. Traps and nets are on dis­play to be ex­plored. There’s the bleached bones of a sei whale and the story of its jour­ney to Prime Berth.

The ex­hibits pro­vide a look into the small-boat fish­ery and a way of life that he warns is be­ing stolen away by the fish mer­chants and over reg­u­lated to the point of ex­tinc­tion.

“I love the out­ports and I still be­lieve we should all be able to share in the bounty of our province,” Boyd said. “I hate see­ing the wealth of the sea be­ing freely passed to cor­po­ra­tions. Ev­ery­thing that we used to be able to do as chil­dren is now illegal. The rules and reg­u­la­tions are mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for chil­dren to par­tic­i­pate in seal­ing, bird­ing or to make a life of fish­ing.

“Soon there will be no one left to take over from us. The cor­po­ra­tions will get their way by just wait­ing for us to die off, with no one to fol­low in our foot­steps.”

It is this in­tense emo­tion that makes a trip to Prime Berth a mem­o­rable oc­ca­sion. The visi­tor can’t help but feel the af­fec­tion. Where the other mu­se­ums on the TripAd­viser’s Top 10 are mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar public fa­cil­i­ties that tell the story of the history of Canada, Prime Berth is a pri­vate col­lec­tion of mem­o­ra­bilia, as­sem­bled as a state­ment of love.


The Prime Berth Fish­ing Mu­seum is a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion. It’s now the sixth-best Cana­dian mu­seum, ac­cord­ing to the TripAd­viser 2015 Trav­ellers’ Choice Awards.

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