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Laying Keels for Twin Schooners

Saturday was an important day on Lunenburg’s waterfront, as the keels for two wooden schooners to be built at the Dory Shop were laid. Laying the keels marks the start of this exciting project, and Picton Castle crew were on hand to assist.

The two schooners, both 48 feet long and built in the Tancook tradition, will be constructed outdoors on the Dory Shop property as twins, frame for frame and plank for plank. Captain Moreland said on Saturday they will be “schooners that are so pretty, they’re make you cry; so comfortable they’ll make you never want to go home; so fast, they’ll make you win every race you’re in.”

Picton Castle crew from the Voyage of the Atlantic have a strong connection to this project as they procured the wood for the keels from the forests of Grenada. With help from Wesley Pilgrim, commonly known as Mr. Bones, an old shipwright friend of Captain Moreland, second mate Paul Bracken and crew member Matt McGraw treked into the jungle to find the right tree that would provide the wood for these keels. The perfect tree was found, a mountain gommier, then cut down and dragged three kilometres out of the forest by hand, with assistance from a team of locals and some reinforcement crew members from the ship. These two 3,000 pound pieces of wood were then towed to the ship and loaded on board, lashed securely on deck for the passage from Grenada to Lunenburg.

The craftsmanship of master boatbuilder Dave Westergaard has turned these two giant pieces of wood into keels for two schooners. And the first spikes were driven into the keels on Saturday, beginning the building process.

With about 250 people on hand for the celebration, Lunenburg Mayor Laurence Mawhinney noted the value of this project for the community. “Many years past, this waterfront was the beam upon which Lunenburg was built. So these two beams being laid today are significant of the revival of the watefront that we know and love and want to see rise again.”

The ceremonial pounding of the first spike into each keel was easily done by distinguished mariners Captain Phil Watson, skipper of the schooner Bluenose II, and 91-year old Captain Matt Mitchell whose long career at sea included a period of time aboard the original Bluenose.

Despite the cold temperatures and biting wind, most of the crowd stuck around for some hot cider to warm themselves up and toast the beginning of this new chapter of boat building on Lunenburg’s waterfront.

To follow along with the project’s progress, check out the Twin Schooner blog at

Captain Matt Mitchell drives in the first spike
Captain Moreland addresses the crowd at keel laying
Captain Phil Watson drives in the first spike
Meredith, Paul and Jackie at the keel laying

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