End of an EraDecember 21, 2011
There are just a few of the original island-built boats still in service. This boat, seen fishing off the Eastern tip of Little Thatch, is kept tied up to the mangroves in Sopers Hole. When I was a boy growing up in Tortola boats were still built by hand by shipwrights who practiced their craft in almost the same way as their fathers and grandfathers. They used some power tools but they still went into the bush to find cedar trees that were correctly shaped for the boats ribs. Caulking was done by hand and the boats launched by a team of people. In East End they would still build the odd island sloop while in Towers near the West End of the island I remember the yard where they turned out 18 or so foot open boats that were used by fisherman and by the North Shore residents who gunned off to work at Caneel Bay Resort on St John. By the 1980’s the Tortola boat building tradition had succumbed the ubiquity of the fiberglass boat.