You won’t hear the mosquito-like drone of an outboard motor winding out. Instead it’s the soothing putt-putt-putt of a make-and-break engine.
Mr. Fowlow is a fisherman by trade. He doesn’t use his traditional Newfoundland boat for work. This boat is his labour of love and tribute to the old ways of fishing.
“It’s a crime how our heritage is going down,” said Mr. Fowlow as he stood aboard his boat. Three years ago he decided to do something about that downfall after he heard someone in Isle aux Morts was selling a working make-and-break engine.
He struck a deal, buying the engine and the boat it was installed in. But for him, the boat wasn’t the right style. He wanted a traditional Newfoundland boat.
To get that, he went all the way to Winterton, and the Wooden Boat Museum.
Jerome Canning, master boat builder at the Winterton Boat Museum, said the boat Mr. Fowlow purchased was a traditional Winterton motor punt built by students.
“That’s a shape that’s been in Winterton for 150 to 200 years,” he said.
He said the style goes back to southwest England and southeast Ireland. Although Mr. Canning didn’t have a hand in building Mr. Fowlow’s boat, he said it was likely built with black spruce and juniper.
Mr Fowlow is pleased with the craftsmanship of his boat. He is especially proud that it was built using traditional methods.
“The Newfoundland boat has timbers into her – sawed timbers,” he said, pointing to the elbow shaped fasteners running along the inside of his boat. He explained how the boat builder would find bent tree roots and hand-cut each one to fit.
“Some said to me, ‘You should fibreglass it,’” said Mr. Fowlow. “But if you fibreglass it you’re taking away the tradition of the boat.”
The engine sits towards the rear of the boat. The five horsepower Atlantic is painted red.
“You can tell an Atlantic by the design of the hearts in the flywheel,” said Mr. Fowlow.
He said there were about 15 different brands of make-and-break one could buy. Atlantics were made at a foundry in Lunenburg, N.S. He said another common type was the Acadia. He hopes to get one of those to put in another boat as his next project.
The big metal flyweel has a wooden peg sticking out of it so Mr. Fowlow can put it in position to fire. Once in the right position, hooking it up to a 12-volt battery causes the engine to fire and start. He burns mixed gas in the make-and-break.
“You gotta be pretty careful with those mototrs – they can break your arm or your leg pretty fast because of the flywheel,” he said.
Although they’re not fast, Mr. Fowlow said the make-and-break is powerful and efficient. He figures he can get three times the distance of an outboard motor, even with a full load.
“You can fill this full of rocks, if you will, and it will not go any faster, and it will not go any slower. Take an outboard motor – fill it full of traps and you’d lose your speed by 50 per cent. This is power, power. It’s a chunk of steel.”
He said traditionally, the motor was there for fishermen when they needed it, but often they would rig up their sails to save on gas and possibly go a bit faster.
Mr. Fowlow’s boat has a sail, but he seems to prefer just putting about the harbour.
“It’s not a thing you’re going to use for fishing anymore,” he said. “It’s part of your heritage. If you don’t keep it up it’s going to go away the younger ones won’t even know. I’ve had my grandson and his friends come aboard and they say ‘what is that?’ I tell them that’s what we used in my grandfather’s time.”