The Telegram (St. John's)
Prime Berth ranks among Top 10 museums in Canada
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.