The Dory Shop

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

Stories from the The Dory Shop


The amazing schooner CALANOVA is as sweet as 26’ of schooner could possibly be. Here she is on her cradle at the Dory Shop getting ready for launching and then rigging and sailing by the Bosun School gang. An amazing and swift little vessel, she has much BLUENOSE DNA in her. As do so many of the West Indian Island trading schooners of the last century.

CALANOVA would fit right in somewhere among the balmy sweet trade wind islands of the Lesser Antilles, between Tortola and Trinidad, although most likely with a raking sloop rig, instead of schooner rig, no doubt. She could be sailing from Petty Martinique bound for St Barts to take on a load of ‘smuggling goods’, as one did in the old days not soooo long ago.

Next to her in among the Queen Anne’s Lace rests a neat little bateau called NO MONKEY…

Schooner CALANOVA and Bequia two-bow boat NO MONKEY

Sloop FISH PEA and Bequia boat NO MONKEY

NO MONKEY is what is called a ‘two-bow’ boat from Bequia, St Vincent & Grenadines, in the Eastern Caribbean. At first calling some thing ‘two-bowed’ sounds a bit odd, but then so does ‘double-ender’. This is even more ridiculous if you ponder it even briefly. I mean, what boat, ship, watercraft, canoe, skiff, schooner, dugout, launch, pram, dory, punt has ever but one “end”? Huh? Answer me that. All boats have two ends, some even have more. But no boat has only ONE end? Pish posh.

Well, NO MONKEY is a super little ten-foot wooden boat built at Bequia. This little thing is built stouter than many a 30-40 footer. Crafted with carvel pine planking fastened to naturally grown and sawn white cedar frames. Built like a little ship, she is. We have other seen 8-9 foot boats like this and then many more up to 30 foot long. There are many similar craft all over the Grenadines - from St Vincent down to Grenada too. Used for fishing, hand lining, seining, and getting around. Further north in the islands the small craft design changes.

A Vincentian two-bow boat and her skipper. Photo: W.J. & M. Bolster

The back story is this. Or something much like this.

In the late 1800’s a typical New England whale ship, one much like the CHARLES W. MORGAN laying at Mystic Seaport today, dropped off, or sold, a double ended classic 28’ whale boat in Bequia. Many Bequia Islanders used to ship in whale ships. The whale ships would put into that island to recruit crew.  And many were excellent shipwrights and boatbuilders too.

See the longboat in davits on the starboard quarter of this whale ship…

And more such whale boats along the port side of this whale ship. Here is also illustrated the distinction between “boat” and “ship”.

So, this 28’ double ended boat gets dropped off in Bequia some 140-150 years ago. This was a fine watercraft and folks liked it a lot. Light weight, handy, seaworthy and a good sailor. This one in particular may well have become the protype for all further small craft built there over following generations, all the way up until now. So the story is told in Bequia.

The original whale boat from that ship, called the IRON DUKE, is still around, last seen pulled up on Princess Margaret beach in the shade of some sea-grape trees. Only 100% rebuilt four or five times. Not one splinter of the original left. But not a fake ‘old’ boat either. She just been rebuilt plenty. To keep her useful. She remains the real thing. They still have three or four old wooden sailing whale boats there, just like old New Bedford whale boats. As they still whale, they have built a couple fiber glass versions too, also with sailing rigs. In fact, these neo-whale boats are just the same as the wood ones except in contemporary materials. From time to time they head out and catch a whale. Seems to occur every 3 or so years. The International Whaling Commission says its OK. You can buy whale oil in the shops there. What for, I know not. I knew some guys who went whaling as young guys in the 1960’s and 70’s. They did not like it much. Bloody stinky nasty hard work. And dangerous. And not just for the whale…

Anyway, our diminutive NO MONKEY is in effect a 10 foot long descendent of this very IRON DUKE, lowered from a whale ship’s davits into Port Elizabeth so many decades ago. So named NO MONKEY by four-year old Dawson in Bequia when I bought her some time ago. His mother Tammy and I thought to call the boat MONKEY but Dawson said straight away “NO MONKEY!!!!” and that was that.

Here at the Bosun School Dawson loans this noble sea craft to us to serve as a tender to moored fleet of sundry Bosun School craft just off the Dory Shop, and also a fine little rowboat in its own right. Very handy. Good practice.

Dawson regarding the flotilla at the Dory Shop. From left: O’Day Sprite FISH PEA, 14’ pre-war MONOMY, the semi-dory and SEA-NEVER-DRY, both Dory Shop built. All fine craft to tease out the skills of small craft for our Bosun School.