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Archive for July 2018

Building an ice boat replica becomes a labour of love for Heritage Retrofit Carpentry students

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Students in the Heritage Retrofit Carpentry program work on many unique projects, designing authentic corbels, for example, or rebuilding century-old window frames. Each undertaking has its own attraction, and each provides the students with the opportunity to put the skills that they have been learning into action in the real world. But every once in while a project comes along that resonates so strongly with students that it moves beyond the satisfaction of applying their newly-acquired skills.

For students Logan Bonneville and Kelly Caseley, building a replica of an ice boat became a labour of love.

Today, ice boats are light-weight vessels with skis or runners and sails that catch the wind and reach incredible speeds on ice. In the 1800s and early 1900s, they were neither graceful nor speedy, but they were a vital form of transportation between Prince Edward Island and the mainland in the winter.

Ice boats were used to carry mail and passengers across the Northumberland Strait from about 1827 to 1917. They continued to run in the mid-winter months even after steamers were in service if the steamers could not get through the ice.

The boats weren’t very large – about 15 feet long and 6 feet wide – and were fitted with runners and straps for hauling them across the ice. Each boat had a crew of four who rowed in the open water and pulled the boat over the ice floes. Male passengers were charged $3, with a $1 discount if they help haul the boat over the ice. The fare for women and children was $2.

It’s not hard to imagine that the trip across could be grueling. Just a few hundred feet from the shore the boat could be enveloped in a snow storm, the crew could become disorientated, or weather conditions could force them to turn back.

It took teamwork to get the boats across the ice, and it took team work for the Heritage Retrofit Carpentry students to build the replica.

Logan and Kelly spent hours working on the replica, including hundreds of hours in the evenings and on weekends, and mustered a team of students to help them.

The replica was launched June 30th as part of the Cape Traverse Ice Boat Festival and will become part of the national monument in that community, commemorating the contributions of the ice boats and their crews.

The project was a partnership between Parks Canada, the Cape Traverse Ice Boat Committee, and Holland College.

See an interview with Logan on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HollandCollege/videos/10156414567638334/

You can read more about ice boats here:

And you can read a chilling poem written by a crewman about a perilous trip across the strait here:

The Cape Traverse Ice Boat Committee has a Facebook page:


Written by Sara Underwood

July 5, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized