By Lyle Carter
Boat building is in Warren Manthorne's blood.
"There have been eight generations of boat builders in our family," said Manthorne, a 64-year-old Upper Onslow resident. "They were all on my mother's (the O'Hara's) side."
Manthorne has built 21 boats over the years but the size of his latest project, a 75-foot schooner named the Lena Blanche in honour of his late mother, might surprise a few people.
"Building this vessel was my vision," he said. "We're talking a big schooner here."
"Warren sees boats in his dreams," added his wife Andrea. "He builds them in his dreams and then his dreams often become reality."
That passion dates to the early 1950s when, as a young boy, Manthorne played in his great grandfather's boat shop in Drum Head, Guysborough Co.
"My great grandfather, Charlie O'Hara, built his last boat at the age of 94," he recalled.
Manthorne built his first schooner, the Logan Lassie, in 1976. Nearly three decades later, in 2004, he built a 120-horse power band saw mill to saw all the large lumber needed for his second schooner and in 2007 the Manthorne's held a keel laying in their 75-foot long boathouse.
"It's a ceremony around the keel of the vessel," Manthorne said. "It commemorates the start of the building of the vessel. People found it interesting that the schooner takes up all the boatshed. "
"We had a bagpiper, Brenda MacDonald, from Pictou. She piped all our guests (79 in total) into the boatshed. It was fantastic. The excitement was electric."
A microphone and sound system was set up and Nello Romagnoli, a friend from Smithville, Ont., was master of ceremony.
"Nello took our guests through the history of shipbuilding in Warren's family," Andrea said. "It's a journey that's so evident in Warren's family."
Soon after the keel laying the boatshed had to be expanded to include a 30-foot cutting room. Work on the schooner began in 2008 and it is not expected to be completed for another two years.
"The plans are to eventually launch the vessel in Country Harbour or Goldboro, Guysborough Co.," said Manthorne, who has no plans to sell it. "We plan to sail it in local waters. After sea trials we would like to sail it to Newfoundland and around the Atlantic provinces and Quebec."
"We're really enjoying the journey of the building of this vessel," added Andrea. "Warren and I have always worked together as a team. This is another big project that we are enjoying together."
Manthorne is making most of the fittings, rope blocks, dead eyes, steering gear, mast and rigging for the schooner. Visitors have marvelled at the work in progress.
"Everyone is amazed," Andrea said. "We've had people sign our guest book from all around Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Vancouver, Boston, Finland, Malaysia, Shanghai and other parts of the world. It's been mostly by word of mouth that people have learned about the schooner."
Manthorne described the project as a real pleasure.
"I've enjoyed the planning of the vessel and I've enjoyed building it as well," he said. "And another positive thing, I have seven kids and most of them have taken part as well."
Andrea said that they hope to instill the boat-building heritage in their children.
"Warren would hate to see the tradition of boat building end here," Andrea said. "We would like it to be carried on to the next generation."
Recently, Manthorne was surprised by something he learned from a senior in the local community.
"There had originally been a boat shop in Upper Onslow," Manthorne said. "It was back in the 1920s and 1930s. This surprised me. It does seem like a dry area to build a vessel this size."
Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.