During the first half of the twentieth century, economic recession, a lack of government support, and the incursion of large draggers on coastal fishing grounds meant many inshore fishing communities were facing poverty and starvation. The formation of fishers’ cooperatives started a movement toward recovery, and the introduction of the internal combustion engine along with the development of a new medium-sized fishing vessel equipped with mechanical haulers meant groundfishers who had previously employed handlines from small boats with a single hook could now haul multiple trawl lines from a single vessel. The development of the “government approved” Cape Island–type longliner was perhaps one the most significant achievements in the survival of Nova Scotia’s struggling inshore fishery. Sadly, this important history has gone largely unrecorded. With the help of in-depth archival research and more than thirty little-known historical photographs, Building a Better Boat chronicles the history of the recovery of the shore fishery and the development of a new fishing craft known as wooden Cape Island–type longliners. It is a story that needs to be told, if for no other reason than to honour the brave fishing families who persevered through poverty and hunger and who, despite all odds, developed a vessel that would help them secure their own futures and that of future generations.
About the author
Donald J. Feltmate, OMM, CD, was born in the Cape Breton fishing village of Port Morien and grew up in a family of shore fishermen. Since his retirement from 1 Canadian Air Division of the Canadian Armed Forces, he has been actively involved in improving public accessibility to some of the most forgotten elements of Nova Scotia’s maritime heritage. He works as a consultant on a number of projects in concert with provincial museums and Library and Archives Canada. In 2012 he completed a pictorial history of the Cape Island–type longliner for the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. He lives in Sunken Lake, NS.