Upper Onslow couple works toward completion of wooden schooner

Published on July 17, 2017

With his wife Andrea looking on, Warren Manthorne shows how to use a push slick for removing small lumbs and so forth from areas such as the deck boards. The slick he is using is more than 100 years old.

Oh, the allure.

“There’s something about a wooden boat,” Andrea Manthorne says, as she and husband Warren look across the deck of the hulking creation that continues to grow inside – and, now even outside – their large shed.

And there have been many visitors who share that affection.

“They love the feel, the smell and the memories. I think it’s the memories.”

When complete, the Lena Blanche – named in memory of Warren’s mother – will be a two-masted, wooden schooner built in the style of the 1930s era, with a 78-ft.-long deck.

Now into their ninth year with the project, the couple isn’t expecting it to be ready to launch until 2019. Despite countless hours they’ve invested in it, however, it has never gotten tedious or tiring. And each day is just as exhilarating, if not more so, than the last.

“It’s all been exciting,” Andrea said. “Wouldn’t trade one day. And it’s new every day.”

That is in part due to the many visitors who stop by from near and far, from all over Canada and the United States as well as various parts of Europe and beyond.

“We do get a lot of visitors and it’s new everyday through their eyes, which is kind of fun because we’ve had everybody, from people who have never seen a boat before, to old, master ship builders who are 98 years old,” she said.

“All of them come up on the staging, right up on the ladder looking over the side,” Warren added. “Last Saturday, there was a woman, 92. She climbed up there, she wanted to get right on the deck. I had a job to keep her off … . But I wouldn’t let her up,” for safety reasons.”

When complete, the mast will be 60-ft. high with another 20-ft. section above the crosstrees. The main boom will be 44-ft. long.

The schooner is also equipped with two four-cylinder Detroit diesel engines of 1970s issue, both completely rebuilt, to provide power when not under sail.

Most of the decking, made from three-inch-thick, B.C. silver fir, is now complete and the deck rails are also well under way.

“That was a major job, framing the deck in on this thing. She was a big job,” he said.

Warren Manthorne is seen explaining how a large piece of oak was shaped and steam-bent to form a “knee” that is used to support his schooner’s Samson post.

Warren actually designed and built his own diesel-powered mill for sawing the lumber used in creating the Lena Blanche and – with Andrea’s constant assistance – will also be installing all the electrical and hydraulic systems.

“After the boat is done I have to build a trailer,” he said. “And that’s going to take me a couple of months. And we have rigging to make. We have masts and gaffs and booms to do.”

For many, such a long list of uncompleted items, especially after so many years into the project, might seem daunting. But for Warren and Andrea the enjoyment they derive from working side by side each day and seeing their boat slowly take shape – along with the sense of wonder expressed by their many visitors – makes the project a complete labour of love.

Just sitting on the rail sets the imagination in motion.

“We do that,” Warren said. “We were planning the other night; we were up here and we were having a little jamming session about what we’re going to do with our cabin top. It’s an inspiration when you sit on the rail and you’re looking at the whole vessel from the top. It kind of stirs you a bit.”

All the lumber being used in the construction of the Lena Blanche by Warren Manthorne are milled by him on the saw mill that he both designed and built.