In remembrance of boats gone by

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6
November – December 1986
Photographs from MUN Digital Archives

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Mary and Titus Spurrell, 1986

Time was when men built boats and sailed them, with only the wind and a compass to guide them. Such a man is Titus Spurrell, 83, of Little Hearts Ease who with his five brothers laid the keel of the schooner Spoon Wright in September 1939, the second day of the Second World War.

“She was 35 ton, built off the same model my father used to build the James Spurrell, but smaller. That one was 70 tons,” says Titus as he takes down photos of the two boats from his living room wall.

The big hulled boats with rakish stems and gleaming white sails are crewed by small figures who stare at us from a different era. Titus looks at them affectionately.

“My father, James, modelled the first boat. She was 90 foot but he didn’t finish her. He took sick so my brother finished her and launched her in 1934. I only ran her one year, then Baine Johnston took her up and sold her. A fellow bought her down Wesleyville way in Bonavista Bay for $11,000.”

Deprived of their boat, the Spurrells decided to build another. The family owned a lumber mill at Deer Harbour where Titus worked intermittently for 60 years.

“I was 11 years old when I went up sawing. I had to slab a junk and get up on it to see,” he laughs.

Weather Spoon [Spoon Wright]

The mill contained not one but three saws and the six brothers— Barnett, Lewis, Uriah, Solomon, Eli, and Titus—cut over 100,000 feet of lumber to pay for their new vessel. They cut bent boughs of fir and juniper for timbers, and spruce for boards, so that a year later they were able to launch the 58-ft. schooner. One of the brothers ransacked a dictionary to come up with the name, Weather Spoon [Spoon Wright].

“I sailed her right through the war to St. John’s and Conception Bay. We carried lumber, junks, whatever you could get at the time. We had 27 men on that one and paid out 27 dollars a day—a dollar each, 10 cents an hour,” recalls the old mariner.

After 16 years the Spurrells finally laid the Weather Spoon [Spoon Wright] to rest by the point in Little Hearts Ease near where she had been built. There she gradually rotted away.

Registry certificate of the Weather Spoon [Spoon Wright]

“I couldn’t get a captain’s ticket. I didn’t have the education see, so I wouldn’t be able to pass,” concludes Titus who had made countless journeys before an anonymous, desk-bound government official devised exams to see whether sailors could sail, Titus’ wife Mary folds up the Weather Spoon’s [Spoon Wright’s] registration papers and looks at the two photos.  

“He worships those two schooners,” she smiles. “Every time anybody comes in he gets them down and shows them.”



Note: Click here for more information on the Spoon Wright


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, May 2019

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.