News from Covey Island Boatworks


The Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance – Covey’s ‘sister’ company that is rebuilding Bluenose II – once again sponsored the Concours d’Elégance at this year’s Antigua Classic. Al Hutchinson, John Steele and Peter Kinley travelled to Antigua for the event. Both Al and Peter conducted the awards ceremony while John was one of the judges. You could forgive John Steele for pinching himself as he and his fellow judges made their way from one gleaming masterpiece to another. The Classic is a long way from Covey Island’s humble beginnings. Memories of ferrying band saws and planers out to the island on rafts of dubious ability, of slowly winning the confidence of local fishermen and pleasure boaters in Covey’s then – radical wood/epoxy methods must have intruded as they passed judgment on the fit and finish of legendary yachts like Dorade and Eilean. It’s been a long and interesting voyage. 

This year, as they rubbed elbows with a society whose shared passion for beautiful classic boats sets them apart from sensible human beings, as they sipped rum punch under the swaying palms, thoughts of Tree Of Life and all that she meant to the yard must have come to mind. After a little more than a decade of building boats, with the yard still on a steep learning curve, a reputation in its very early stages of recognition and having moved from the island it got its name from to a slightly more practical location in an old community store in Petite Riviere (read mainland) John met one Kelly Kellogg at the WoodenBoat Show in Newport. The yard had a booth and was exhibiting Shady Lady one of the original twelve Bluenose sloops that they had restored. Kelly wanted a schooner to sail around the world with friends and family. She would be the biggest and most complex build yet, a real step up. The launch of this Ted Brewer designed schooner marked the turning of a page for the yard, and placed Covey Island Boatworks emphatically on the map of builders who have that unique ability to make dreams come true. 

Tree Of Life was a head turner from the first. She took part in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in 1995. Things were a tad more relaxed back in those days. John Steele remembers an early morning raid to capture the colours of Mary Bryant a Murray Peterson schooner owned and sailed by Anna Stratton. It was the beginning of a long friendship between Covey Island and the Regatta. Tree of Life was chosen by Sail Magazine as one its publication’s Hundred Greatest Sailing Yachts. 

Over the coming years Covey sent many more unique creations to Antigua, as the yard took its place of prominence among the custom yacht builders of the world. The fact that Tree was a big gaff-rigged schooner seemed to set the tone for the yard. Folks looking for boats with classic lines and wholesome scantlings gravitated to Covey Island, and the yard provided a steady stream of boats that were designed to honour the past while taking advantage of modern building methods and materials, both in motor and sail. 

The yard’s affection for Bristol Channel pilot cutters was born when Scrimshaw Mike, (also a judge at this year’s Concours) sailed to Nova Scotia in the lovely Marguerite T one of the greatest of her type. Well aware she was showing her hundred years, Mike was in the market for a rebuild. After meeting John, a friendship and partnership followed and the rebuild was begun. After she was reframed and the hull planked, Marguerite T was towed to Bush Island where new decks and and exquisite interior was built.


Her first voyage was back to Antigua in 1998 where she was the star of the show at that year’s Classic. Marguerite was well known in Antigua, and the sensitive and practical rebuild was admired by all. The Antigua Classic always provides wonderful pictures, and one of my favourites is a helicopter shot of Marguerite T and the powerful J-boat Endeavour, Marguerite to windward, both of them booming along on a close reach. It’s the kind of sight you’ll see at the Classic and nowhere else. The old girl won everything in sight that year, all her races, first in class, Woodstock’s best restoration, the Concours and the special honour of oldest boat in the regatta at 105. 

The Classic in Antigua became a kind of touchstone for Covey Island’s classic builds. Chance, one of the Covey Island Westerman 40s designed by Nigel Irens went to the Classic in 2001 and had three first place finishes, winning her class, and also winning the Coucours as the best privately maintained yacht. The Westerman is an evolution of the Bristol pilot cutters, and they carry a lofty gaff rig. They’re wicked fast, and have proven reliable passage makers. 

Marguerite and Tree of Life continued their association with the Classic in the following years, and two more Nigel Irens creations joined the fleet. First was Frank Blair’s lovely Maggie B, the first of his fusion schooners. Gaff rigged, with an overlapping fore, and high tech materials, she really was a “fusion” of old and new. Frank took her to the Classic, turned a lot of heads, and then sailed around the world in exemplary fashion, rolling off two hundred mile days like it was easy. To complete his circumnavigation Frank sailed back two years later to compete again at the Classic. 

Sadly, Maggie B was in the shop for a light refit when the shop was destroyed by fire. Frank Blair’s response to this tragedy was rare indeed. He ordered another fusion schooner, this one called Farfarer. Her hull is a lot like her predecessor, but her rig is radical as any schooner sailing, with two lofty rotating free standing carbon fiber masts that carry “square headed” modern and very efficient sails. Her maiden voyage was a brutal passage from Nova Scotia to Bermuda mid December of 2010, followed in March by a run from Charleston to Antigua, for the 2011 Classic. Farfarer returned again this year, she’s proved very fast, and Frank’s having a ball with her. 

Covey Island plans to continue to support and sponsor the Antigua Classic and would love to see more Covey boats participate in this annual spring regatta. 

So it’s been nearly two decades, this association between Covey Island Boatworks, and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Both concerns have grown and changed over the years, but one thing remains constant, and that is a deep and abiding respect and affection for beautiful classic boats, and a touching willingness to risk one’s sanity in an ocean of rum and fun every spring.


Mark Doucette Photographic

The Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance (LSA), the new joint venture company owned by Covey Island Boatworks, Snyder’s Shipyard and Lunenburg Foundry, is nearing completion of the big black schooner. LSA was created to focus on large projects like tall ship restorations or new builds and to further Lunenburg’s position as a provider of services to this sector. 

I visited the job in late summer, and she’s a breathtaking sight, there in the big white shop. She’s now painted, and no longer surrounded by a forest of scaffolding, you can now see her sweet lines and almost feel her longing to set sail again. Snyder’s crew were preparing to install the chain plates, and caulking the decks. The Foundry crew were installing gear in the engine room, and the Covey Island Shipwrights were cladding the house, and finishing the interior. Below, she exudes strength. The massive laminated shelf and clamp, the laminated deck beams, and cold molded ceiling are now somewhat obscured by the interior appointments, so she looks quite traditional. An untrained eye would be hard pressed to notice the difference, though the virtues of these improvements will become very apparent as the ship takes to the sea. Where there were once dozens and dozens of mechanical joints, there are now continuous and massively strong members. Doors will continue to fit, and she won’t “talk” much as she booms along. It’s down to trim and finish work now, as all the interior bulwarks and cabins are in place. 

During the last week of August, Bluenose was moved on the new side transfer system to the marine railway. You can sense the building excitement, as the old icon approaches her relaunch and completion.


The big co-operative effort creating the rig for Brian D’Isernia’s steel re-creation of Columbia, once a rival to Bluenose for the Fisherman’s Cup (in 1923) is full steam ahead. Covey Island shipwrights have built the spars, and a crew of riggers are fashioning the standing rigging. The rig is awe-inspiring. The main boom beggars the imagination. It’s just so big, and even though I’ve sailed aboard 

Bluenose II, which carries as much sail as Columbia, I’d never seen her boom inside a shop, where the impression of size is much more stark than when the spar is in place on the ship. The thought of all that sail, all that power, lends gravitas to every piece of work. The spars are all built, unlike the “grown” spars of the old days, and so engineering is paramount. The shipwrights at Covey Island have long experience building spars, so the difficulties here were more of scale than anything else. Working from small to big made things fall into line, and the finished products are beautiful. 

The hardware, which is being fabricated of stainless steel by Peter Tanner and son Josh at Standfast Fittings are massive. The main boom bail is almost more than one man can lift. Watching all of these components coming together is a great lesson in the forces and loads that the salt bank schooners generated. The blocks are being made by Arthur Dauphinee, the same family business that built the blocks for the original Bluenose. Here, the ancient “rules of thumb” apply. Sails are being built by Michele Stevens Sailloft, on Second Peninsula, just down the road from Dauphinee’s shop. Michele made sails for Bluenose II. 

All involved in bringing these great saltbankers back to the sea harbour visions of the two vessels in sight of one another…

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; 
the realist adjusts the sails.”
– William A. Ward


Covey Island Boatworks is about to see some changes. After a lifetime of building good wholesome cruising boats and several high performance boats, John Steele is going sailing on his schooner, Papa 1. Al Hutchinson, the company president will have the controls, the company is well positioned to continue its legacy of building boats of integrity and beauty. 

John has been the public face of the company since the beginning, and his steady hand and commitment to quality, as well as his desire to forge a business that shared the responsibility and profits with the workers has laid a firm foundation. From the beginning, the company has profited from John’s deep love of boats, sense of community and willingness to take a chance when that was what was called for. He inspired confidence in customers, provided solid advice and remained willing to learn throughout the years. 

It’s no small thing to start with a shed on an Island that built kayaks and skiffs, and end up with a company with a worldwide reputation for building fine custom yachts. Along the way, there were “dry spells” when there were no orders, and a crew sitting on their hands. Always, at the eleventh hour a job would appear, or more likely, John would find a customer. And then there were times when there was enough work to wear everyone out. Through it all, the company managed to evolve, each boat informing the next. And so the evolution continues. 

I asked John how it felt, this “letting go” of something so much a part of his life. He said… “How’s your salad, Tom?”


I am sure many of you have heard, or read in this newsletter, that John Steele has retired and is going sailing this fall on his wonderful schooner Papa with his wife Madelyn. 

As most of you know, John was one of three partners who founded Covey Island back in 1979. He has had an outstanding career at Covey, where nearly 100 incredible and unique boats have been built. From the early days of epoxy and cold molding, the yard has come a long way under John’s guidance to become one of the most respected yards in the world for custom, wood-epoxy yachts. Many of you probably had no idea that Covey helped to create the East Systems epoxy and eventually owned and ultimately sold the brand. Innovation has always been something that interested John and many of the boats created exemplified. 

While John will be off on the waters, he will still be available to those of us continuing the Covey Island tradition – assisting on projects new and old, and providing invaluable guidance. We wish him well as his next journey commences. So, I guess I have some “big shoes to fill.” After John announced his retirement in October 2011, I moved from my role as General Manager to President. 

On a personal level, I am not new to Covey Island. I came to the yard in 2008 and became one of the four principals, assuming the position of General Manager. Having spent 22 years in sales and marketing in the computer business – including starting two small companies – my background is business, not boat building. I do, however, have a passion for sailing and boats and this is what attracted me to Covey Island. 

I learned to sail at an early age at the Lunenburg Yacht Club. Our family now has a 30’ sloop that we sail in Nova Scotia and race at local clubs. I have had the pleasure of working side by side with John over the past four years, and have probably met many of you at shows or talked to you on the phone.Over that time, I have learned a great deal about Covey Island, the employees, the boats, the processes and why owners come to us to build their dreams. I am overwhelmed at the dedication and passion of the crew as they go about their jobs. The Covey culture is something that greatly impresses me. This culture helps to differentiate us from our competitors in very positive and meaningful ways. 

I have found what Covey delivers to owners is not only a “great boat,” but an experience that owners cherish as much as their new boat. I am committed to ensuring that we continue to build great boats and delivering outstanding experiences. Lunenburg and Nova Scotia is an unspoiled part of the world that tends to make quite an impression on first time visitors. The food, the accommodations, the beaches, the scenery, and the people all help to create an “experience” that is difficult to duplicate in other parts of the world.

Covey is very well-positioned to continue our success and build many more great boats. We will continue to focus on our core competency – building custom yachts – but, with our new marina, we plan to expand our business and focus on refits and restoration services as well. 

So, what’s new at Covey? This summer we started running the marina in Lunenburg and have been responsible for renting out berths on three wharfs, including several floating docks. This fall, we will be expanding our service offering to include hauling/launching and related services, as well as storage inside and out. In the spring of 2013, we plan to add fuel, water, and pump-out services to the Lunenburg marina. 

We hope that by operating the marina we will see more Covey owners make Lunenburg and Nova Scotia a destination on your cruising itinerary. While in Lunenburg, it would be a great opportunity for us to address any issues or repairs, or to even store your boat with us over the winter season. 

Our Riverport yard is busy completing the Columbia spars and rig, while in Lunenburg we continue with the Bluenose II restoration. We have some refits over the winter and are bidding on two very exciting new projects. 

The Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance (LSA), the new business we created with two other local companies, will continue to target tall ship restorations and other large new builds or refits. The LSA yard is located on the Lunenburg waterfront where we have been restoring Bluenose II. We have removed the temporary building to allow Bluenose II to be moved to the adjacent railway on the side-transfer system. The LSA hopes to redeploy the temporary building or erect a new permanent structure for future projects. 

Looking back, I definitely jumped in with both feet. Just six months after I started, we had the tragic fire and lost the yard in Petite Riviere, as well as the yacht Maggie B. It wasn’t long before we had moved our offices to Lunenburg and setup a new yard in Riverport. John and I had a plan to move to Lunenburg but not nearly so quickly. Not long after, we started to build Farfarer and we were back on our feet. Then, after a couple of refits and other small projects, we secured our role in the Bluenose II contract and then the spars and rig for Columbia. It has been quite a ride so far – and I have enjoyed it immensely. 

I look forward to leading Covey Island in the years ahead and building many more “great boats.” 

Al Hutchinson

DREAM BOATS A closer look at the Dyarchy design from The Laurent Giles Archives 

It’s not uncommon to hear folks talk of a bucket list, a dream that some day they will accomplish x, y or z. Dyarchy has been on shipbuilder, Colin O’Toole’s list since his early years at Covey. 

Barry van Geffen of Laurnet Giles shares with us the background of the boat along with sail plan and a few early images on board. Perhaps she’ll make it on your list… 

SPECIFICATIONS: Length Overall 56’0” Length on Deck 46’6” Length Waterline 38’0” Beam (Moulded) 12’3” Draft (Max Load) 7’6” Displacement 22.2 tonnes Fuel Capacity 140 gal Sail Area – Cutter 1,350 ft2 

Dyarchy was built for achectict Roger Pinckney in Sweden in 1938 just prior to the beginning of the Second World War. With the outbreak of war Dyarchy stayed in Sweden until her voyage home to England in 1945. Roger was accompanied by Eric and Susan Hiscock, author of “Cruising Under Sail,” 1954 (credits for saloon and galley images below). 

Dyarchy is a beautiful, classically designed boat, with fair lines, a flush deck and deep bulwarks and her line is hardly encumbered by the small protrusion of her doghouse. She was specifically designed above decks for short-handed sailing and a large topsail was added, an obvious necessity in a gaff cutter. 

Below decks Dyarchy is particularly interesting: designed by the owner, his requirements were for a much more open-planned layout which could sleep four people comfortably, although a maximum of six could be accommodated if necessary. The saloon: 9ft long with settee berths on both sides and built-in semi-circular armchair on either side. 

Roger Pinckney was very pleased with Dyarchy, finding her dry and comfortable in a seaway. He commented that ‘she was light to steer on all points although not very good at sailing herself close hauled’. He also noted that in confined waters or rough sea ‘she was very certain and manoeuvrable.’ The light weight and simplicity of her equipment made it very easy for one or two people to sail. There were originally no sheet winches fitted and runners and back stays were designed to be operated by the same levers. She carried neither radio, echo sounder nor ship-to-shore radio since the owner believed these to be redundant to the cruiser. The comfort, safety and ease of handling of Dyarchy can best be summed up by the fact that Roger often sailed her crewed only by his octogenarian mother, who made her last Channel crossing in Dyarchy at the age of 91!

“Icon on the Coin” DVD, A Bluenose commemoration

Over the past 24 months, the famed Canadian schooner Bluenose II has captivated thousands of visitors on the Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, waterfront. 

From deconstruction of the old hull, to the laying of the new keel, the installation of the frames, the planking of the hull, and the interior and deck work that has been completed in the past two years, the restoration of Bluenose II has been a breathtaking experience – for both those involved in the hands-on process and the droves who have made the pilgrimage to this small UNESCO World Heritage town. 

The simple truth is, to most Canadians and, indeed, many sailing enthusiasts right across the globe, Bluenose II is a remarkable, iconic symbol of an age gone by – when wood, wind and sail ruled the waters and when those who lived in coastal regions plucked their livelihoods from the ocean’s depths. 

To honour the legacy of Bluenose II and all that she represents, Covey Island Boatworks and the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance have been proud partners in the development of a very special DVD, “Bluenose Legacy: The Icon on the Coin.” 

This 75-minute documentary style feature explores different facets of the remarkable history of the vessels that have been known by the name Bluenose and also includes details of the latest restoration and rebuild. 

Beginning with the original Bluenose, the Grand Banks fishing schooner which set the schooner racing world aflame with its string of victories beginning more than 80 years ago, this remarkable DVD tells the complete story of the Bluenose legacy, through the development of Bluenose II in the 1960s, to the sailing ambassador that she became, to the restoration of today. 

Complete with rare footage and unique interviews, Bluenose Legacy: The Icon on the Coin really is the defining DVD history of the schooners Bluenose. 

If the story of Bluenose, and Covey Island’s involvement in the restoration process, piques your interest, we would love to offer you the chance to purchase this breathtaking and beautiful tale. For information on how to order, you can contact us at: or you can order online at

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
– Louisa May Alcott


The Bluenose Legacy DVD is but a taste of the offerings on the Bluenose II restoration work at the moment. 

If you happen to be travelling in Lunenburg, a “can’t miss” stop along the way is the Bluenose II Restoration Images Gallery, located at 139 Montague Street. 

In this gallery, you will find a wealth of paintings and photos capturing Bluenose II in her glory, both on the water and during the recent restoration process. 

Paintings and prints by well-known Canadian artist Peter Matyas convey the elegance, care and heartfelt nature of the restoration process, while Mark Doucette’s vibrant, remarkable photographs of the 24-plus months of intricate restoration work provide the kind of insight only a builder would normally have. 

If, by chance, you can’t get to Lunenburg, you can still get access to these wonderful prints and originals – available framed and unframed – by visiting the online store A limited number of frames were made from wood used on the restoration. 

You can also look for details on an exciting photo book, featuring selected Mark Doucette works, that capture the restoration project from inception in 2010 to near completion today.

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky. And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”
– John Masefield


Dana Story, a legendary American boatbuilder was given to saying that systems were nothing but grief to the boatbuilder and ultimately, to the owner, since they drive the cost of a boat up faster than any other thing. You won’t get any argument with that notion from the boys at Covey Island. It’s always the systems that make costs run away, drive the builders to distraction, and cause all the trouble after the boat is launched. Intelligent souls, folks wise enough to decide on a unique custom boat built by a fine shop like Covey Island will, almost always, go mad near the end of the build and start asking for wi-fi in the forepeak, disappearing flat screen television, and email from mars, on their gaff-rigged vessel. Which impels one to ask… WHY? 

It’s safe to assume that anyone wise enough to seek out a custom builder, find a unique design, and throw the whole operation into gear in order to build a dream, has probably read Herreshoff’s “The Compleat Cruiser”, in which he rails against systems and extols the virtues of simplicity. It’s also probable that the impulse that led to the whole venture was weariness with the noise and confusion of modern times, and a desire to connect with the wide world in a more visceral and direct way. So it is more than peculiar that these venturesome souls, at the eleventh hour in the build of their dream ship, suddenly decide that they want to take all the bullshit that they built the ship to leave behind along with them. And this at great cost to themselves, and the yard. It is to weep. 

A deep water cruising boat needs a few systems. An engine. A good working head. Hot and cold running water and a shower. Electrics to run the lights, navigation instruments, and tunes. And a fridge. You need a fridge. This is easy nowadays. If you get the right stuff, and set it up right, it’s easy and inexpensive and low maintenance. A robust inverter will mean you can charge your phones and use your computer. That’s it. That’s all you need. Any more, and your cursing your escape by taking the jailer along with you. 

I have friends who believe that even a head is a needless extravagance. I have visions of them carrying their elegant cedar buckets, full of “slop” through the streets of some lovely seaport, looking for a place to dump the fundamental effluvia. My affection for the distaff side rules them heedless fools.

But I get where they’re coming from. We go sailing to get away from the noise and confusion do we not? So why spend fortunes to take said confusion along with us? It’s a very very good question. 

I have enumerated the actual necessary systems on a cruising vessel above. There is one more. I invented it, in the configuration that I describe here two years ago. Trust me. You want one. You really do. In fact, you can’t consider yourself a well found deep water sailor without it. What is this paragon of nautical virtue? Wait. You need the story. Dan Moreland, master of the mighty Picton Castle, in a characteristic fit of generosity, endowed me with a rum keg. About a gallon and a little half, it holds. I brought it aboard, and searched for a place to lodge it. First place was athwartships. Not a good move. There was a dry tack and a wet tack. Cruising, tacks can last days… weeks. I resolved that the thing needed to live in a fore and aft position near the centerline of the boat. That done, and the keg secured, a problem, a serious problem, presented itself. You had to take the thing down to fill it. Which was a lot of trouble. Which led to my great invention. 

What you need, what every vessel worth its salt needs, is a permanently fixed rum keg with a deck fill! I’ve got one. It’s a blessing, a joy, a practical, sensible, wonderful, endlessly amusing and glorious system aboard my schooner. No more clanking bottles. And most of all, the blend! I’ve worked on the blend since installation, and since there’s always a little of the old blend in the keg, it evolves gently, subtly, and, believe me, has taken on a character that is beyond the pale. Everyone who sips it is amazed. All rums are blends. Mine is refined to a fare thee well, and I will share it with all sailors sensible enough to order said system from “Lookout Island Kegworks,” my personal attempt at making an honest buck in my dotage. 

Trust me, this is the system to end all systems, the “ne plus ultra” of yachting wonders. It’s simple, elegant, and it works. That’s what you want in systems. Anything else is mere bling. 

Yours, Cap’n Crank


47’ Dave Gerr Peregrine Shoal Draft Nancy Lakin. Built by Covey Island Boatworks in 2001. Available for viewing Galesville, MD. 
Asking $410,000 US.(REDUCED)
40’ Spencer Lincoln Longliner Misty Girl. Built by Covey Island Boatworks in 1987. Uncomplete conversion of a commercial vessel to a pleasure boat. Viewing Shelburne, NS. 
Asking $70,000 CDN as is.
38’ Spencer Lincoln Lobsteryacht turned Pleasure boat, Orion. Originally built by Covey Island Boatworks in 1983, refit to Pleasure in 2008 Viewing in Riverport, NS. 
Asking $99,500 US.
For additional information, please contact:
Covey Island Boatworks
107 Montague St., PO Box 1538, Lunenburg, NS B0J 2C0 
Ph (902) 640-3064


By Ocean Navigator