The Dory Shop
of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada was established in 1917 by Henry Rhuland.
At the time there were at least two other dory shops in Lunenburg: Arthur
Oxner’s, which was just to the west of the modern-day Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and another run by William Seaboyer, located just next door.
Mr. Rhuland set up his business at the other end of the muddy waterfront street that would eventually become Bluenose Drive in a harbourfront shed known locally as a fish store. At the time there were dozens of these buildings, built just at the water’s edge to house gear and salt fish for drying. While the exact age of the building is not known, it is present on a bird’s eye map produced in 1893. Previous owners included William ‘Bubby’ Hirtle, Capt. Alex Knickle and Mahlon Rhodenizer.
A second adjacent fish store, previously operated as a boat shop by Austin Young, was acquired in the 1940s.
The demand for dories was high in those days. Lunenburg was home to an ever-growing fleet of fishing schooners, each of which needed at least one new set of 14-16 dories per year. Then there were the orders from ships out of Gloucester or New Bedford when their dories got smashed up in treacherous weather on the fishing banks.
The dories were built production-style with individual employees working
to produce specific components. For instance, one man built bottoms all
the time, another cut stems and stern posts, others did planking and so
A former employee, Freeman Rhuland, recalled that by the mid-1940s there were
about 25 schooners still operating out of Lunenburg. In peak years, the
shop built up to 150 dories.
When the dory business was slow, the men
did vessel repairs.
Key suppliers included Morris Bruhm’s mill in Upper Cornwall, now operated by
his grandson Chris. It’s
still where we get our planking and bottom stock. The dory frames or knees
once supplied by Arthur Hatt of Beech Hill now come from his son Edgar and grandson
In 1949, Henry Rhuland sold the business to Lawrence Allen, a former Banks fisherman
who ran it until illness forced him to sell in 1972. Subsequent owners included
Robert Cramm, Atlantic Shipbuilding, Kim Smith and the current owner, Dawson
Moreland and Associates Ltd., headed by Capt. Daniel Moreland.
While the business changed hands, it never ceased production, making us one of,
if not the oldest continuous production commercial boat building shop in North
America. And while a few power tools have been added, we still use the same basic
methods and materials, including dozens of wonderfully worn patterns, jigs and
moulds that were used to build dories during the golden era of the Grand Banks
fishery a century ago.