Now that summer truly seems to be just around the corner, you might be thinking of taking to the water in the near future. Many boats are already in the water and have made their first trips to sea, to the pond or lake, or maybe down the river. There can be quite a lot of work involved in getting your craft ready to sail and, with the long history of a people on the water, it’s no surprise that Newfoundland English has quite a number of boating terms. This month, Twig’s focus is on types of boats, but that only scratches the surface of boat culture in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inspiration for this theme came from the Online Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador English materials which will feature an extensive section of words related to boats. The Dialect Atlas launch has been pushed to October so keep an eye out for announcements over the next few months.
On the northeast coast and Labrador, you might find a bully or a bully boat. The skipper of a bully boat is called the bully man. The file below shows a sketch of a bully by a resident of Broad Cove, Conception Bay from 1973.
A jack is similar to a bully. A jack-boat, on the other hand, is a smaller boat but is said by at least one informant to be used to carry a dory (see more on dory below). In the DNE, jack-boat falls under the head word jack 1 n as one of the linked compounds.
A by-boat is a second boat typically belonging to the merchant or master of a ship. These boats were used mainly in the inshore migratory fishery and then left behind when fishermen returned to their homes across the Atlantic in the winter. The word file below was excerpted from a printed source from the Colonial Office Series in 1675.
One of the most popular terms for a boat in the province is dory. A popular tune on weekend radio shows featuring traditional music is the gem recorded by Ray Johnson from Buddywasisname, Fishin’ in a Dory. You can have a listen by clicking here, complete with lyrics and some commentary. The drawing on the word-file below comes from a resident of Gillams and was collected in 1973.
Another popular term for a boat is punt. There are many word-files for this term in the DNE collection. There are a couple of proverbs involving punts in the files. “A fish in the punt is worth two in the water” and “With a leaky punt and a broken oar, it’s always best to hug the shore” come from England, 1924 Vikings 255. The word-file below gives a nice description of a punt in comparison to other crafts.
A rodney is another type of small boat, similar to a punt but the rodney is round-bottomed and with one square end where a punt is normally sqare at both ends and is flat-bottomed. Back in 2007, boatbuilder Jerome Canning was onsite at The Rooms in St. John’s, NL to build a rodney in a living exhibit. Read more about Jerome and his boats by clicking here.
Larger vessels include the skiff and shallop. Interestingly, a skiff in its first sense refers to a large partly-decked fishing boat mainly used to set and haul nets but in its second sense can refer to a smaller boat of up to 20 tons. A shallop is used in the cod and seal fishery and refers to a large partly-decked vessel rigged-out with lug-sails.
Do you have a boat? Do you have names for vessels that aren’t listed here? If you have photos of your boats on land or on the water, perhaps even inside a bottle, please feel free to share them, especially for those readers away from home missing out on the glorious weather and a great season to be out on the water!