There’s a pleasant change in the air these days, a cool but fresh onshore wind that’s rustling the leaves of the trees across the street from the Dory Shop sales office and letting us know that autumn has arrived in Nova Scotia. It’s really the only predictable season here, and because of it, the most pleasant. Clear, crisp days that lead to coolish nights and the inevitable dilemma of how long you can procrastinate before you have to turn the furnace on, or in Jay’s case light a fire in the Dory Shop stove. He should be good for a little while yet as the days remain warm enough and a frugal Lunenburger simply does not turn the heat on until it is necessary.
Autumn also brings that distinctive honeyed light that falling on the buff and green of an overturned dory makes for the perfect picture. And it’s still a fine season for sailing. In fact, the Nova Scotia Schooner Association’s annual September Classic, a full day of good-natured sailing competition, followed by a pig roast and beverages at The Dory Shop Boatyard, will be coming up in a little over a week. In the meantime, we’re scurrying to complete a refit on a fascinating little boat Capt. Dan hopes to sail in the Classic. Her name is Sydney.
Sydney is a 20-foot lagoon sailing workboat, built in 1954 at Palmerston Island in the South Pacific and cutter rigged. Capt. Dan first encountered these boats while engaged as first mate on the world-voyaging Brigantine Romance in the mid-1970s.
“They were built by the islanders and every family had one,” he recalled recently. “A beautiful boat with a Whitehall look to it. Heavily built with a long keel, not terribly deep but with a lot of lateral plane.” The islanders – themselves descendents of 19th century English shipwrights – used them for sailing in the lagoon, crossing over the reefs, fishing and ferrying fish, lobster and coconuts from one motu to another. While there, Capt. Dan spent days sailing in Sydney on fishing expeditions with Manuka Marsters.
Returning to Palmerston as master of Barque Picton Castle on a voyage around the world nearly 25 years later, Capt. Dan discovered that most of the lagoon boats were gone, replaced by fabrications in aluminum. Some had been hauled up under the palm trees to fall apart but while not being used, local families remained attached to them. It wasn’t until a return visit on Picton Castle’s second voyage around the world that he convinced a family to part with Sydney.
The lovely, but forlorn boat was loaded aboard the square rigger and placed on the boat skids, amidships on top of the galley. She was taken to Fiji where Capt. Dan had boat carpenter friend Pete Whippy begin to rebuild her. Interestingly Pete is a descendent of a Nantucket shipwright who came to Fiji eight generations ago. Arriving at Lunenburg, Sydney was stored in the captain’s garage until earlier this summer when she arrived at The Dory Shop.
It’s made another interesting project for Jay, replacing her sawn frames, her cap rail and a couple of her Dilo planks. And she really does look sweet. We can’t wait to see how she does in the Classic!
Dory PlugThe Dory ShopLunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canadainfo@doryshop.com