Paul Winter has always felt drawn to the water and this attraction has led to a unique business in landlocked Alberta: building and renting traditional wooden Newfoundland-style dories.

This summer, he will rent dories to paddlers on the North Saskatchewan River. He spent 300 hours building one. It’s a traditional boat from the 1800s, made out of Douglas fir and spruce. This rowboat has been scaled down from an ocean-faring Newfoundland dory to a smaller and more maneuverable size, better suited to a weekend river float. So far, he’s completed one, has almost finished building another, and intends to build yet another one before spring.

Rob Roy will be available for rental this summer. | Adam Millie

The Alberta Avenue resident is from Corner Brook, Newfoundland, but he has been living in Alberta for nearly 15 years. He has worked his way up on the rigs, and is a Class 3 cement truck driver, but now he is pursuing what he truly loves. He describes his handmade boat:

“This is a banker dory [and is] what they use to fish off the grand banks of Newfoundland and the east coast of Nova Scotia. They stack together, they go on a schooner’s deck, and when they’re done at the end of the day, they take the seats out and stack them all together. So you stack them eight to 10 high on a deck and then strap them down. Two guys would take one; they would be 18 feet long. This is shrunk down to make it easier to handle on the river. So [it’s] a 14 foot six inch boat modeled after an 18 foot six inch boat.”

He’s named the boat Rob Roy, after Newfoundland master boat builder Roy Dennis. He fesses up to…ahem…robbing Roy’s design, and created this cheeky name to honour the master boat builder.

It’s easy to see that Winter has imbued the wooden dory with plenty of handbuilt quality and craftsmanship. He’s been building boats all his life, and tells me that he built his first one at age 11 in his father’s basement. His expert woodworking skills are on display in this boat.

Paul Winter started making boats when he was 11 years old. | Adam Millie

“All my life, I’ve been attracted to water like a moth is to a lightbulb, I can’t fight it, I’m sick of fighting it, I’ve just got to accept it,” Winter said. “The dory is my favourite way to have fun. It’s one of these with a pair of oars and they’re just really stable and really fun [and] most of all, every time I cross the river I cross the bridge and just say, ‘It’s a perfect fit, you know.’ That’s what I want to do, I want to rent it out for the river.”

The name of Winter’s business is L. A. Dories.  “L.A. is slang for a town called Lark Harbour [pronounced Lark ‘Aarbour]. They build the best dories, there’s a man there, Mr. Childs, and he builds the best dories, and I’m sure on the East Coast of Canada.”

Renters must sign a waiver.

Once you rent the boat, you’re the captain of the boat and you’re responsible for the boat.”

One dory will hold up to three adults.

Deposits are taken on credit card. Rental is $130 including drop-off at Devon and pick up at 50 Street.

To rent this dory, call Paul Winter at 587.785.3679.

Featured Image: Paul Winter displays his handmade dorie. | Adam Millie