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75-year-old Sunnyside rodney boat being refurbished and replicated

St. Phillips man restoring heirloom with help of boat builder


Published on July 13, 2017

Derek Penney (right) sits in his rodney with boat builder Max Bursey on the day they took the boat to St. Phillips for restoration.

©Jonathan Parsons photo

SUNNYSIDE, N.L. — For over 30 years, a vital piece of Derek Penney’s family history has been sitting in a waterfront stage in Sunnyside.

A 75-year old rodney, a boat that belonged to his dad, is now getting a full restoration — not to mention fibreglass moulds made of the unique artifact.

Derek’s grandfather Hayward started building the rodney in October, 1941.

It was a gift for Hayward’s son, Harvey, who is Derek’s father, who had been serving in the British Merchant Marines in the Second World War.

“He (Hayward) said, ‘When you come home, I’m going to have a nice little rodney for you,’” explained Derek.

It was used throughout the inshore fishery over the years.

“It was a workhorse,” remembers Derek.

The boat is 53 inches wide, 15 feet long and only six inches deep.
Jonathan Parsons photo

His dad told him he would row from Sunnyside to Chance Cove in the small vessel — filled with capelin.

Derek vividly remembers rowing the boat in the harbour as a boy.

Judging by his wide grin, and the excitement in his voice as he talks about the little boat, he is passionate about returning it to its former glory.

He is looking forward to a day in the near future when he will take the boat out again.

“I can take it, slide it out and scull right across the harbour and back,” smiled Derek.

“That’ll be a fun day.”

The rodney is more rare for small boats in Newfoundland. Different from the dory or punt, Derek explained this particular rodney is unique itself.

The boat is 53 inches wide, 15 feet long and only six inches deep.

Loading it onto the trailer for the trip over the highway was not easy, as the boat was quite fragile.
Jonathan Parsons photo

“She’s shaped like a small version of the Blue Nose,” says Derek. “If you see rodneys that are around Newfoundland that are made through the fiberglass moulds, she’s actually a sleeker, more streamlined version.”

The boat was put away in 1985.

It remained in storage in Sunnyside until this past spring. It still has its original paddles, thole pins, and sculling oar.

Derek arranged to have the boat restored by Max Bursey of St. Phillips.

Bursey is related to the Reids of Sunnyside and jumped at the chance of working with a boat like Derek’s.

“He’s (was) very anxious and eager to get at this,” Derek laughed. “He said it was all he was thinking about since he’d seen her.”

In fact, on the day they arrived at Derek’s summer home to take away the rodney, a crew of friends and fellow boat builders arrived with Bursey — totalling over 100 years of collective boat-building experience.

Bursey told The Packet he’s been building boats since 1972.

“When I came back down (to Sunnyside) in 1958, I saw those little boats and I was very impressed,” said Bursey.

He says, in all his years, he’s never built a rodney.

“(But) I’ve built 75 or 80 . . . a lot of small boats,” he says.

Once he makes his own reproduction with moulds from this one, it will be mainly a show boat, he says.

“My intention is to do a fibreglass replica of this one. I’ll make one for Derek and I’ll make one for me, and that’s it.”

The 100-plus year old house in Sunnyside, built by Hayward Penney.
Jonathan Parsons photo

This isn’t the only restoration project Derek’s been involved with.

Derek, who lives in St. Phillips, had the family house in Sunnyside renovated to use as a summer home. The house is over 100 years old and a marvel in itself. It was also built by Derek’s grandfather, Hayward, and his father, Harvey, was born in the living room.

“There was not too much (Hayward) didn’t build,” says Derek. “He was a master carpenter and boat builder and also worked for the A & D Company years ago building dams on the rivers in Central Newfoundland.

“He also helped build the hospital in Come By Chance and whenever there was work to be done on the churches up there, he was involved in that as well.”

Taking a break from the restoration.
Contributed photo

As for the rodney, since its trip to town, the progress on the restoration has been going well, says Derek.

They had to make a few additional repairs to the boat, followed by some refinishing and sanding.

By the end of June the boat was fibreglassed.

This past week, they began cutting materials and started on the first fibreglass mould.

While the rodney started as a gift for his father, and hasn’t touched the ocean for 30  years, it seems its destiny is to live on — and ply the waters of Sunnyside harbour once again very soon.

“The first step (after it’s complete) is to take it and put it right there,” said Derek pointing to the water with a huge smile.

“That’s where it came out of and that’s where it’s going back.”