BY LAURENT D’ENTREMONT
Although it took the better parts of two years to build the boat replica now owned by the Acadian village of Nova Scotia located in West Pubnico, the huge crowd that showed up for the recent launching more than made up for it.
We did our launching in grand style, using oxen. About 400 residents and visitors came to watch. Alan McCormack, with his team of brown faced oxen, hauled the boat out of the boat shop and into the water. It was a memorable occasion and Father Maurice LeBlanc, dressed like a priest of yesteryear, did the waterside blessing.
The wooden boat was expertly built by veteran boat builder Jimmy d’Entremont and his son, Miche,l with a few willing volunteers. For the master boat builder, who had not built a wooden boat in over a quarter century, it was a labor of love: his heart and soul went into this project. The finished product attests to this.
The new boat, known as “La Tatane,” was constructed mostly with hand tools in the village’s boat shop. The keel, notched for the ribs, is made of oak, the ribs are also oak and the planking is pinewood. The plans to build this replica fishing boat, which is 29 feet long and eight feet at its widest, came from the fishery museum in Lunenburg. The boat is propelled by a one cylinder (nne banger) “make and break” motor that runs very well (most of the time).
Having the boat on site is the realization of a big dream for the Acadian village. Le Village Acadien shows how Acadians lived 80 or more years ago, mostly by fishing and farming, with the housewives caring for the babies and keeping the home fires burning. It was a simple, but good, life. The Acadian village is very much in its growing stages, with farm houses, fish sheds, a boat shop, a 1915 Model T Ford pickup truck and, this year, two new additions: a first class forge (blacksmith shop) and, now, a new fishing boat replica.
This boat is very much reminiscent of earlier times, when Acadians (and other coastal dwellers) would venture out five miles or more to fish for lobster; they may have fished for cod and set herring nets at times, too. Those from my generation, born in the 1940s or before, remember these boats quite well.
One who understood those boats very well was my grandfather who, for most of his working life, was a lobster fisherman. My mother and grandmother said it 100 times or more: the only time they saw any money from fishing was during lobster season. Although it was before my time, I have often heard the old master storyteller relive how he had started lobster fishing with his father at 13 years of age, dory fishing close to shore. In time, he graduated to fishing with his good friend, William S. Amirault, in a small, one-cylinder gasoline boat, similar to the one now at the village. All lobster traps were hauled by hand long before the “trap hauler” was invented.
Now, William Sylvere Amirault was a tall, husky, easy-going man with poor eyesight; my grandfather, by contrast, was short and stout with the form of a “Fred Flintstone,” but he was blessed with the eyesight of a hawk. In any case, they worked and got along very well. Early one spring, they were hauling lobster pots by hand at the mouth of the harbour when they came upon one stuck at the bottom. William, being taller, was pulling on the rope behind my grandfather. The trap let go all at once and Amirault flew over the side of the narrow boat into the cold salt water. Luckily, my grandfather was able to pull him aboard the boat again, and hightailed it for home - and dry clothing. Even though he was in the shelter of the small cuddy, my grandfather often said he could hear his shipmate’s teeth chattering from the cold over the noise of the one banger as it wailed in pain forced to sail at full throttle for the wharf.