The Dory Shop

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

Stories from the The Dory Shop

The CALANOVA Chronicles Chapter 6 - Rigging CALANOVA

The Day After The Day Before. Rigging CALANOVA. D. Moreland, current trustee


When last we met, the beautiful newly built and ever so Amazing Schooner CALANOVA had just slid down the greased ways of the Slauenwhite Yard in Mader’s Cove into the saltwater sea, with a majesty and elegance rarely seen in living memory. After sending a wave of daunting magnitude, sweeping the edges of the surrounding shore, terrifying or swamping no small number of worthy citizens, the new schooner, not yet rigged, settled down against the arresting gear and came to a bobbing halt in a serene tranquility. Being so light yet, plenty of waterline was showing. Good old red copper bottom paint was plain to see. And as plain to see was how she so sweetly rested on her lines.

As the tugs EASTERN POINTS and THEODORE TOO towed the schooner over to the rigging loft’s wharf to step her masts and get rigged, the friction smoke wafting along on the skidways drifted away, as did the many schooners who had sailed here to be a part of these momentous events. The schooners that sailed here in honour of the day; THOMAS W. LAWSON, SHENANDOAH, AVENGER, BLUENOSE, FARFARER, PAPA, NINA W. CORKUM, BLUENOSE II, NORDLYS, ALICE S. WENTWORTH, VEMA, ELSIE, FRIENDSHIP ROSE, EFFIE M. MORRISSEY, WARSPITE, TRADERS CHOICE, VAETA, FLEARY QUEEN, CCC, MERMAID, ROSEWAY, PRIDE OF BALTIMORE, MAPLE LEAF, AMERICAN EAGLE, CRYSPIN WAYNE, EMANUEL C., WATER PEARL, FULTON, WANDERBIRD, YANKEE, TE VEGA, HARVEY GAMAGE, KITTY COCHRANE, GENISIS, HALIGONIAN, BOWDOIN, EASTERN STAR, HARRLY L. BELDEN, FEATHER, GRAMPUS, and the absolutely darling DARLING B. all headed home. May have missed a few here the fleet was so thick. Now, once again bound for Bridgewater, Grayrocks, Camden, Anguilla, Petty Martinique, Nyhaven, Bequia and Barbados under all sail. What a fleet in review!

Schooners sailing from Mader’s Cove launching celebrations of the Amazing Schooner CALANOVA

Witnesses to the launching now set about decamping. Coals doused and knocked out of cook-out grills getting packed up, picnic blankets rolled up, the grass (and ants just loving that spilled lemonade, and the blushin’ ticks) shaken off, the backwash from the amber bottles with schooners on the blue paper labels, drained into the grass. Ducks swimming near the muscle covered rocks took swift care of the ends of hot dog rolls tossed in their general direction. Being soaked in relish and mustard did not seem to bother them. A few lingering kids skipped flat stones on the now still waters as parents packed up their wagons to head home. School tomorrow.

The tugs have headed back to the main harbour. There is a living to be made docking the big freighters. Clutched in and steaming slow they leave little wake as they rumble off. The famed local watering holes of the Mug & Anchor, the Knot and the Grand Banker as well as the Green Dolphin Beverage Room are seeing some patrons wander back in after the launching. One good beer deserves another it seems. The Boatyard proprietor is talking to the next fellow who is looking for a new craft, a lobster-boat this time. A fine new Cape Islander with steam bent frames and clinch nail fastenings with a fine Chevy engine. Good news. The Amazing Schooner CALANOVA is along side, swelling up in the sea water. Absorbing a wee bit of that luscious brine that will make her a saltwater star. This will take a day or two and will also make her rock hard and watertight. All have lived a day of auspicious moment. A bonfire or two will glow into the night on the far shore surrounded by those intent on savouring the day. The stars overhead assure us this night that all augurs well for the Amazing CALANOVA and her adventures to come.

On the Monday following, the crowd that came to watch the launch is all long gone. The waterfront rattles and hums again with busy husky nautical activity. Back to work. Schooners up and down the waterfront are getting ready for sea. A bark and maybe a brigantine too, destined to sail across broad oceans for far off lands. Hatches and scuttles thrown open, get some fresh air down below after a long winter. Big Fairbanks & Morris engines getting rolled over and lubed up with the occasional hiss of compressed air blasting through the lines. Heavy canvas sails getting bent on to gaffs and booms and headstays. Old worn gouty long-jawed running gear getting condemned and turned over to those that could use new tie ups for their goats, or maybe into turks-heads thump mats. You can caulk with the stuff too. New golden manila getting rove off into just greased blocks in its place. Nothing better. Freshly painted dories and newly overhauled fishing gear are getting carted down to the wharves, tubs of trawl scattered here and there. Ice getting funnelled into schooners holds that plan to sail shortly. Some schooners take mountains of salt into their holds instead. Nothing like salt cod once soaked in fresh water and brought back. better than fresh. Fish & Brewis with rendered scrunchions all over the top should get top billing over poutine, shouldn’t it? Newfoundland’s gift to world cuisine, followed by fresh blueberry pie and coffee that can stand a spoon. That’s the stuff. The few salt-bankers still sailing have a market for salt cod in the West Indies and Portugal. The atmosphere along the wharves is pungent with tar and tallow and salt and the sounds of a waterfront coming awake to reap what the sea has sewn.

CALANOVA GETTING RIGGED – painting by the legendary Earl Bailly of Lunenburg

At the old stone crib wharf, the freshly painted CALANOVA is swarming with riggers. These venerable deep-water seafarers, veteran shellbacks of the Horn and hauling trawl on the banks off Newfoundland in burning summers or many a winter blow, these riggers look like nautical cowboys, and swagger with the same confident grace. What appear to be oiled leather scabbards on their hips that might secure a “pyrat’s” cutlass instead hold a select few rigging tools, knives, spikes, grease packed cow horns clacking and dangling. Under ragged sleaved, faded halibut shirts, tanned fore-arms of corded muscle power thick calloused hands brandish long steel marlinspikes, so well worn they flash like silver in the morning sunlight. Passing skeins of tarred marlin, splicing wires, laying on racking seizings in hemp. Shiny topmasts on sawhorses awaiting their turn. The lower masts are swung out from the wharf and are lowered gently through the deck partners on a tackle from the yards boom, handled perfectly smoothly and all but silently by hand and under practiced eyes of those who have done this before. A silver schooner dime under each mast takes the place of ceremony now and the mast heel tenons settle into the morticed steps. The finished standing rigging is hauled out to the rails and chainplates and secured. To be ‘set-up’ when all is in place. These days some sailors call it “tensioning” the rig. Riggers used to just call it ‘setting up the rig’. Some still do. Bowsprit set into the pawl post, foremast, mainmast, gaffs and booms all where they belong now. Shiny varnished Dauphine Blocks, peak halyards, throat halyards, sheets, topping lifts, downhauls all rove off properly way. Hemp ratlines, square to the shrouds and taught show off the rigger’s skill.  Soon time to bend sail.

Taking a break at the fitting out and rigging wharf


As this is to be an auxiliary schooner, at least some of the time, a heavy cart built of massive hewn timbers and drawn by four oxen, creaks its slow way down to the wharf. Lashed down in the middle is this mass of iron known as the main engine. With the same tackles that stepped the masts this internal (infernal?) combustion engine is lowered onto its bed and thems that know of such things see to its mysteries and connivences - and far too soon comes the sound of it coughing to life. She has enough power to pull that tugboat backwards up a river. Scary.


Daily trips to the local ship Chandlery

While all this critical work to the schooner is going on trips to the ship Chandlery become a daily pilgrimage. Any excuse to mosey about a proper ship chandlery will do, eh? A magical emporium of nautical delights is a good proper olde tyme chandlery. CALANOVA needs a few extra bronze cleats, blocks, hanks, skylight hinges, a boat hook, a lead line, a boarding ladder, a couple proper anchors, right?  In the galley a frying pan would not be out of place, a pot or two, a few knives and big spoons, some heavy coffee mugs – the kind that fall and don’t break but sure as hell hurt your foot should they make a direct hit, a few heavy bowls for chowder and strike anywhere matches. Probably a coffee grinder up on a bulkhead. Maybe a few mason jars. If there is a dry salt cod or small halibut to hang near the stove that is snatched up as well. But proper provisioning will come later. A couple brass bound oaken casks for fresh water, a small cask for something else, a hand crank foghorn, a compass, probably good to have a chart or two. A Marine Sanitation Device (aka, a bucket), running lights, gotta have them, and an anchor lantern. A few ‘donkey breakfast’ straw mattresses for the narrow bunks, thin paltry affairs. We can get some small firewood at the boat yard. A couple, three milk crates will do. Scraps of oak from the construction. Life jackets of course, flare gun and flares. As VHF radios have not been invented yet we will not be getting one of those. And the Amazing Schooner CALANOVA must have a dory. What the hell kinda schooner has no dory???

Building a dory for CALANOVA

The CALANOVA is tight as a drum, not a drop in her bilge, almost dusty are her limbers. Our schooner is all stowed, rigging set up and her snowy canvas bent on to the gleaming spars and set once at the wharf to make sure none are twisted or upside down, the Amazing CALANOVA is ready for sea trials. Painstaking research taking place internationally is coming in in dribs and drabs; revealing some surprizing and little know facts of the colourful seagoing career of this famous schooner. But now and first of all, we need to make her shake-down trial trip. Stretch out her gear, get the sails and rigging settled in. Work out the kinks. Test everything. Under strain and in a breeze of wind.

But we must first find a crew….

Crew for CALANOVA?


The author as a young mariner