The Dory Shop

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada | (902) 640-3005 |

Stories from the The Dory Shop

The CALANOVA Chronicles Chapter 2 - Designing the Schooner

The Amazing Schooner CALANOVA…. under sail in Lunenburg waters.

Designing the Schooner

Now, it stands to reason that before a schooner, or any legendary sailing ship, like CALANOVA, or even a cathedral for that matter, can burst forth into the universe and set out on her legendary exploits or even simple existence, that make her legendary, it must be noted that first said vessel must be built. And further, by extension of that very logic, before a vessel is to get on with construction, starting with the selecting and felling of mighty oaks for keel and frames, or slender pines for plank and masts, to be worshipfully harvested to fashion this noble affirmation of the shipwright’s art, whether this vessel be the Swedish VASA, or HMS VICTORY, schooner-yacht AMERICA or the X-15, or Notre Dame on the Isle de Paris, or anything else beautiful, that either abides as we move about she, as in the form of a cathedral, or moves with grace through the ether, damp or dry, some designing needs to take place. Some mental energy needs to be applied and expended. Some metaphysical conundrums must be posed in query form, and released into the very atmosphere, to draw and align the forces requisite to the mission of the creation of form, function, and sheer unabashed beauty. One does not simply blurt out in some cavalier fashion, half-heartedly the phrase ‘pretty schooner’ and instanto, presto, such an angel in wood and canvas comes to pass. Oh no, not on your life. This one or the next.

Conjuring a quintessentially perfect sliver of swift sailing timber sorcery takes untold cleverness, ten thousand hours of practice while learning, in-depth study of your peers and your aspirational elbow rubbers, your heros - and the very vessels that they caused to slide down the ways into their natural element, the salt sea. No small measure of laying on of hands can this be accomplished without. At your moral peril do not forget to watch the vessels, closely, as they are built, piece by piece, then as they sail, for these are the very sailing wells of wisdom, the oaken archives of knowledge, the hard drives of the driven hard into the head sea. If they find and show off their magic, then how we must ask, will they ride the briny breakers?

Why, they shame the gulls….

The word we used in the old days for the designing of such fast and able schooners such as CALANOVA was “modeled”. A schooner designer was said to ‘model’ a schooner not to design she. No matter, just a point of historical fact. Famous Canadian naval architect William Roue modeled the Schooner BLUENOSE and many other demon swift vessels besides. Word is that he may have been the first in these parts to make actual blueprints, drawings of his vessels, with pen and paper, instead of a carved wooden half-hull model. Mel McClain, Crowningshield, McManus, Burgess, Herreshoff, Fenton, Westergaard, Stevens, Steers, are all names that live on the hallowed walls of the hall of fame in schooner design.

But here we are concerned with one master schooner designer, Steven Slauenwhite, modeler and builder, the creator of this sacred legend to beat all legends, le crème de la crème of a craft, the Mona Lisa of the sailing Louvre, the Eiffel Tower of schooner power, the Sistine Chapel of Sail, the amazing Schooner CALANOVA. Like a St Francis with his birds and squirrels, modestly and with little fanfare Master Builder Slauenwhite drew forth manifestation of his gifts as he went about his business of bringing genius to life in his shipyard (aka boat shop) at Mader’s Cove, Mahone Bay. Genius to a level of wonderment to those that have eyes to see. Today you can drive by this former scene of a lovely summer day, and see little else but pleasant coastal living for well-to-do transplants from afar, living the good life in this fair province of Nova Scotia. Inhabiting the old abodes of fisherfolk, shipwrights, carpenters, caulkers, sailmakers, sea captains and dory builders of days not long gone by. The people who built these fair communities.

The sons and daughters of earlier inhabitants now mostly gone off to get jobs where there are jobs to be had, or cruelly dispatched ages ago in the colonial struggles that permeate almost all lands. But in the day whereof we speak, if you were handy with tools, knew one end of a craft from the other and, perchance, were a nautical genius such as Steven Slauenwhite, the world would beat a path to your door to seek the best that the minds and hands of mankind can create, and make a living so doing. With a good wood lot and plenty savvy, one could create, out of a small forest, nails, wire and canvas – then set down and get wet in salt ocean to sail the seas, ploughing the one road that circles our watery globe. From Maders Cove or a mooring in Lunenburg, there is nothing in the way to stop an intrepid seafarer from sailing to anywhere else in the world. There is no zoning at sea. There are no yellow lines, no guard rails either. There is only one ocean. You can sail anywhere. That is, if you have as your ship to command, a vessel of such formidable ability, such staggering renown and stunning beauty as this paragon of cunning and craft, the amazing schooner we call CALANOVA.

It was from the mind, the imagination, from the very soul of Steven Slauenwhite from whence came the Amazing CALANOVA. And no doubt a modicum of deep-sea, salt-water wisdom from the great schooner master Captain Doug Himmelman too, who, with his family, commissioned this noble subject of our story. Famed ship pilot, shipmaster and light-footed dancing partner and a seafarer, raised man and boy on the pine decks of fishing schooners sailing from Lunenburg.  And design, excuse me, model CALANOVA they did. The task? To design and build the smallest schooner, most like that racing fisherman BLUENOSE, worthy of the appellation ‘schooner’, that they could. And so it was. Next, we must go into the forest.

By my hand, Daniel Moreland, trustee, Schooner CALANOVA


In the coming weeks and months, and due to the dedicated and sleuthfull efforts of our learned and studious researchists, with days and weeks spent paging their way through dusty parchments, bent double over crumbling archives, hours upon days searching and also travelling far along the coasts to find those seafarers all but lost to time who lived her very stories, we will be bringing to you the true and unfolding and heretofore untold story of the life and times of this amazing sailing ship. We will only release these insightful stories after careful and forensic fact-checking, double checking every source, and confirmation from any respected quadrant. Certified and well attested sacred tomes by all those erudite savants close to these unknown secrets.

We expect sober and researched white papers on the story of this vessel from a raft of historical investigators to be forthcoming in due course. Any and all, persons with deep and honest knowledge and an absolute abiding reverence for the truth and only the truth will be welcome for publication herein. Contributions from renowned authors such as Howard I. Chapelle and Frederick William Wallace, James B. Connelly, Samuel Elliot Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Bill Gilkerson, Joshua Slocum and Jens Kusk Jensen are expected soon and will be put through withering cross examination for veracity. Others are being considered and under review. If any of our kind, gentle worthy readers have any anecdotes to share to further illuminate this illuminated schooner, shed some additional light so to speak, we will be glad to print such accounts here (or near here). The river is deep and wide (and cold).


An image suspected to be CALANOVA on or near launch day. All kids out of school to celebrate.