The Lunenburg Dory: small, but hardy

´╗┐The Lunenburg dory modestly claims a long and dependable history. By those in the know, the wooden rowing vessel is affectionately called the Workhorse of the North Atlantic. It plays a significant role in the rugged tale of sleek, sailing schooners and sea-faring men.

The schooner and her brave, hard-working crew would set sail from Lunenburg with enough provisions to last up to four months as well as a small fleet of dories neatly stacked one inside the other.

On the moody and often terrible seas of the Grand Banks, dories with tubs of baited trawl, some sustenance and water for their crews of two were lowered from the mother ship. Throughout the long, arduous day the men worked as one to harvest the sea's bounty. The finely tuned partners rowed and fished together, depending on each other in a dangerous, often deadly dance among the harsh elements -- relentless waves, wind and often fog.

These little workhorses were built to row. A flat bottom and flared sides gave a sturdy, stable helpmate that could hoist aboard a heavy load.

Lunenburg dories are traditionally painted golden yellow with green trim. The colours were chosen to keep the boats and their precious men and cargo visible against gloomy waters and amid the belly of a thick blanket of fog.

In the mid 1800s, hand-lining for fish with a single hook was upgraded to trawling with lengths of line loaded with baited hooks. The trawl was strung along the ocean floor, a favoured feeding place for hungry cod and haddock. This method embraced the dory and dorymates in a successful union that lasted nearly 100 years, until the 1940s. Up to 14 dories per schooner were used.

They were cheap to build and easy to nest and lash in place. Fishermen in dories were spread out over the banks and the ship's hold was filled in record time.

Although those days are long gone, on Lunenburg's waterfront, a working dory shop continues to turn out the loyal workhorses in a brisk fashion. Just down the road a short ways, the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic houses a dory and its remarkable story.

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