Funding announcement for Winterton boat museum

Melissa Jenkins
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Walking in through the doors of the Winterton Wooden Boat Museum, residents and travellers alike are greeted with scaled models of schooners and fishing boats, as well as old photos of fishermen from the last century.

The Wintertown Wooden Boat Museum hosts boat building workshops every year during the late summer. A Grandy dory (originally constructed in the Garnish/Grand Bank area) still sits on the workshop floor from the last workshop. Those taking a look at the newly constructed boat are, from left, Frank French, William Matthews, Doug Piercey, Fred Cumby, Jean Knowles and Wayne Maloney.

Through a doorway, full-size dories and punts greet you with posted descriptions of the boats’ backgrounds and origins.

Walk just a bit further, and the smell of wood is overwhelming. It isn’t surprising since the walls are lined with planks and an unfinished boat lay in the centre of the floor. Dozens of historic tools — saws, chisels and augers — that have been donated over time are mounted to the wooden walls.

Today (Oct. 23) some 40 residents, supporters and museum members from near and far blocked the wooden room of the museum.

MHA for Trinity-Bay de Verde and Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development Charlene Johnson addressed the anxious crowd just after 11 a.m. to announce a $159,000 investment to the museum.

“Local museums are important for the Newfoundland and Labrador cultural fabric,” Johnson says, adding boat building is one of those important cultural aspects that needs to be preserved.

This is the second cultural announcement Johnson has made in her district in three months — the first was in July to reveal an area of Heart’s Content as a provincial historic district.

“There is so much culture and heritage in the district,” Johnson explains. “It is important for us to teach it and pass it on to our children. I am so proud of the district for preserving such important history and heritage.”

Local artist Florence Pinhorn donated a beautiful print to Johnson — a man building a wooden boat with his bare hands, and a small child looking over his shoulder. The print was described as the epitome of what the boat museum is all about.

With the funding — along with donations and other funding received in the past two years totallling some $200,000 — museum president Frank French says the museum has some ambitious plans.

The main plan on the large list is to begin to generate significantly more revenue in upcoming years, and to becoming a self-sustaining entity — not relying on government grants or funding.

Another part of the plan is in being rolled out in partnership with the European country of Spain.

A company in San Sebastian, Spain will help reconstruct the San Juan — a wooden galleon, or multi-deck sailing vessel — that is believed to have sunk off the coast of Red Bay Labrador.

French believes the ship will be completed in 2016, and make a voyage to the island of Newfoundland in 2017 before heading to Red Bay.

The museum has been adding more boat replicas, photos and dioramas to their inventory that reflect different regions of the province, and this partnership with Spain will add to the diversity.

“People have said the Wooden Boat Museum is the best kept secret around,” French says.

The organizations is also anticipating to use the funding to continue educating people in other parts of the province on the culture of boat building by opening some satellite centres — including a trial location in central Newfoundland.

The Wooden Boat Museum is located along route 80, along the main road in Winterton, and is open during the summer months. The museum offers ship building workshops for adults and children, and dates will be announced early next year.

For more on the programs and offerings, visit or call (709) 583-2070.

Organizations: Wooden Boat Museum, San Juan

Geographic location: Winterton, Newfoundland and Labrador, Spain Red Bay San Sebastian

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