Newfoundland’s Wooden Boat Museum’s New Course

Learn to make a functional wooden boat.

If Canada were a quilt, boat-building would occupy a giant square. Water has played a central role in the history of this vast land, which tops the world with over 243,000 kilometres of coastline, plus more than 1.4 million lakes. For thousands of years, people built boats and navigated its expansive waterways to trade, thrive, and survive. In Newfoundland and Labrador, life itself depended on the water, boatbuilding was part of the cultural fabric, and building a dependable boat meant having a reliable lifeline. While technological advances slowly eliminate the need for long-standing skills and traditions, the Wooden Boat Museum in Winterton, Newfoundland, is turning back time, showcasing the province’s maritime heritage and those who shaped it while inspiring future generations in the lost art of boatbuilding.

Long before roads were built in the province, boats connected communities, and parents taught their kids the skills needed to build a boat for fishing and transport. While time has taken a toll on this traditional way of life, the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador is turning the tide, so to speak. In 2008, it made its home in Winterton, one of many communities with a long wooden-boat-building past and descendants of boatbuilding masters. Already rich with informative exhibits and artefacts, the museum offers guided tours, has a boat shed with a resident boat builder, and contains a boatbuilding room where visitors can learn how vessels were designed and contructed, even testing their own skills by rolling oakum and using a caulking iron and mallet.



For those eager for hands-on learning, the Boat-in-a-Box workshop is designed for amateur builders and involves a “kit boat” with the precut parts needed to assemble a traditional Newfoundland punt. The Junior Builders workshop features kids working together to assemble a full-size dory, even creating their own model sailboat while learning about buoyancy and stability. One-day workshops include a punt design course and a hands-on planking session, while week-long workshops offer visitors a chance to build a 16-foot Winterton rodney and 17-foot Grand Banks dory.

In partnership with Memorial University in St. John’s, the museum’s immersive 12-week workshop offers a more detailed, step-by-step guide to building a 16-foot rodney, working with and learning from boat builder Jerome Canning how to construct the backbone, placing moulds and shaping timbers. For those yearning for a work-and-play, a five-day boatbuilding workshop combines building a wooden dory and relaxing in a seaside B&B where the ocean sounds lull you to sleep.




Boatbuilding traditions and folklore run deep in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the small staff at the Wooden Boat Museum are doing their part to keep them thriving. Ultimately, the goal is to raise awareness and celebrate a storied past when communities were bonded by boats and boat builders while also inspiring future generations to maintain the province’s wooden-boat-building legacy and reinforcing the effect it’s had provincewide for centuries.