Working with Jim Smith

Jim Smith (1930-1990): Boat builder in Dublin Shore, on the south shore of Nova Scotia.

Jim Smith was a veteran boat-builder in Nova Scotia. We started work in the grey dawn on chilly mornings. Jim was in the habit of addressing the third person that only existed in his mind. This interloper he called the “Queer Fellow” – a common Nova Scotian title for the devil.

“You hear again, today?” he’d bawl at the shadows. “Ain’t you going to let a fellow do his work without hitting his thumbs.” He was so convincing that I found myself uneasily looking over my shoulder.

But Jim was a skilled boat-builder who had worked on the salt bankers repairing dories which were often damaged when hoisted aboard or cast loose.

Simon Watts in his workshop applying lapstrake constuction techniques he learned from Jim Smith.

He had a ‘saving’ disposition and rather than buy galvanized bolts, he would take a six or eight-inch spike and thread one end to match the nuts. This, of course, stripped the zinc coating from the business end of the nail. Since boats were used year-round through the bitter Nova Scotia winter their lifespan was rarely longer than a dozen years.

They were then passed onto the Newfoundlander’s – or the Newfoundland fishery, whose boats were in even rougher shapes than the Nova Scotians.