Big Pond Boat Shop


This page will be a blog about the boats we have built over the years.

We have always just built and not catalogued what we have done very well so when our clients ask; ”how many boats have you built?” we don’t have a good answer. By creating this page from photos in our ‘archives’ which are boxes and albums scattered around the basement plus photos from various computers, we hope to create a history of our work. The story will skip back to times before Big Pond Boat Shop for a few other projects and to where we found our love of boat building.

Sixth Post, March 6, 2018

More Catboats

In the fall of 1997, our friend and colleague Greg Silver thought that we should create a Catboat fleet and offer charters. He drew up some beautiful marketing plans for his vision: Stay and Sail, which used accommodations around the Bras d’Or and sailed the Catboat Fleet. His vision also had ideas about flotilla cruising, where guests would sail several of the boats together, ending up in a different destination together each night. Click here for the original brochure from 1998. Once again we almost had all the pieces, we already had one Catboat, and a Bed and Breakfast! Greg had another Catboat and he ordered a 17′ Charles Wittholz Catboat.

Cat Breton at anchor

This was a plywood Catboat, and would have a Marconi or Bermuda rig…no gaff. The chine plywood construction is marine plywood on douglas fir frames and chine logs


This Catboat has an outboard engine, room for two to stay, a head, and in a fit of inspiration, Greg designed an outdoor galley complete with sink, water pump, dish storage, one burner stove and fitted icebox which all fitted in one of the cockpit lockers.

Named Cat Breton, the little boat went to the Halifax Boat Show in 1998 and again in 1999 advertising  charters on the Bras d’Or Lakes. Cat Breton was sold to her second owner in the early 2000’s. She is currently for sale again in 2018.

That same winter we received an order for a Phil Bolger designed Gloucester Light Dory. The Gloucester Light Dory or the Gloucester Gull is possibly the prettiest rowing Dory you will ever see. It is even called Phil Bolger’s ‘Ticket to Heaven’. The dory is also built of plywood. We have built three of these lovely boats, they are a delight to build and to row.

Click here for construction photos of both boats


Flotilla publicity shot by photographer Don Robinson



Fifth Post, February 19, 2018


With the completion of Drumbeat, we realized that we had a fair amount of boat building epoxy left over, so the search started to find a new boat to build. In 1994 we thought we might like to build a Catboat. Catboats originated as fishing boats on the East Coast of the USA, and a simplified description of a Cape Cod Catboat would be that the beam is half its length overall, with a mast forward and a large hold for fish. Often shoal draft, these boats were capable of getting the ‘catch’  home in a hurry. As time went on, pleasure Catboats started to be built, keeping similar dimensions and the mast with its large sail forward. We looked at several Catboat designers including Fenwick Williams and Charles Wittholz. Sadly Mr Wittholz passed away in 1993 but his widow sent us his Catboat Design booklet and we ordered the plans for his 20′ round bottom Catboat which could be built with a cold-molded hull.

doing the interior before installing the coach roof made life easier!

This was our first cold-molded hull. For years cold-molded wood construction has been used successfully in building small sailing dinghies, competitive rowing shells, cruising sailboats, rugged multi-hulls, and swift powerboats. The technique involves laminating together layers of wood veneers or very thin planks to create a hull that is watertight, extremely strong, and lightweight. With a layer of fibreglass cloth over the hull for abrasion resistance, the hulls are possibly the strongest and lightest, and with the greatest longevity of wooden boat construction.

We started Catspaw in the winter of 1996. All Catboats seem to have a name somehow connected with the sea and kitty cats! Our plan was to add to our charter fleet in the summer of 1996, but Keith was working on other projects not related to Big Pond Boat Shop, so construction was delayed. Meanwhile, the Bed & Breakfast and the first charter boat were busy.

Catspaw at the Halifax International Boat Show in February 1997 with the inspector and the supervisor



We decided not to over extend ourselves on equipment purchases as we knew the sail and the lovely bronze pieces that we would need to complete the rig would take most of the budget. Keith found a one cylinder Yanmar engine that some one was taking out of their sailboat and with a new injection pump and a few new accessories, it was the perfect engine. The spars we built with spruce from our local building material supplier. (We don’t do this anymore…all our wooden spars are built from the best mast building wood we can find!) We found a bronze gaff parts supplier, Bristol Bronze in the USA, and supplemented with a few local finds, we put together the rig. Michele Stevens of Michele Stevens Sailloft Ltd, with the help of her father, cut the 325 square foot gaff sail and she put together a beautiful traditional sail. Down below, Catspaw has two very comfortable berths, a marine toilet, hanging locker and a little galley. Of course the accommodations are bisected by the centreboard case but they are very comfortable for a 20′ boat.

Ready to launch, June 1997

By February 1997, she was finished except for the rig, and we took her to the Halifax International Boat Show for a display along with other wooden boats. Launched in June 1997 she joined the charter fleet, and many of our charter guests have happy memories of sailing her on the Bras d’Or Lake. Catspaw was sold in 2003 and now has a fourth owner who sails her on Mahone Bay Nova Scotia.

Click this link for more photos of Catspaw

Catspaw with a double reef, towing our original Nutshell dinghy crossing the Lennox Passage in Nova Scotia, Labour Day weekend, 1997

Fourth Post December 28th, 2017

Business ideas and larger boat

By 1993, we were considering what we were going to do in our new life as home owners and parents.

The Inspector and “Alli Kat” on the shore of the Bras d’Or

We had decided to open our house as a Bed and Breakfast, which was an excellent way to meet people, but we still liked boats and sailing. We came up with a business plan to create a bareboat charter company on the Bras d’Or Lake which we could run from our beach on the Lake. Not a bad plan at all, we just needed to get boats, we already had half the infrastructure, small tenders and a great ‘crashboat’ our 17’6″ ski boat ‘Alli Kat’ built by our friend Kevin Kusel in St Maarten, and accommodation for before and after stays for charterers.

Hull arrives. the Supervisor is to one side…

We started pricing 30′ boats and decided to build a boat…but one day while reading the newspaper we found an advertisement for a hull to be auctioned that had been purchased and used as a weather station. Proceeds of the auction were to benefit disabled sailors in Nova Scotia. We thought we would go and look at it. Painted yellow and orange it was a sorry sight but the paint did not disguise that it was a solid sea going hull. We went home and researched the make and put in a bid for what it would be worth to us and won the auction. The hull was built by Hughes in Canada , the design originally was a PJ 30 1/2 tonner, Sparkman and Stevens design  S&S #2098 which became the Northstar 1000 and then the Hughes 31 with the addition of a full skeg in front of the rudder. We contacted Sparkman and Stevens as we needed a rigging plan and they graciously gave us a set of plans. We did not like the deck so we took that off.

Drumbeat emerges from the Boatshop

As we live in Canada, we thought that we would need to build a shed to complete the work on the boat. Well you cannot build a shed of the size that we needed without a building permit. In order to get a building permit, you need a survey. In order to have a building that might be used for building boats, there had to be a change of zoning. In order to change the zoning, the municipal council had to vote. In order to be legal the roads department had to say that we could have a driveway, and then when the zoning is changed all of a sudden it is commercial and the tax rate goes up! Very much a learning experience. But the shed was built around the boat, and construction began. We put heat into the shed so that we could work through the winter. We stripped off the yellow and orange paint revealing her S&S cove stripe we built a new deck and coach top and we fitted her out with a Yanmar diesel, a mast from EB spars in Quebec, a set of very nice Hood sails and launched her the following summer (94).


Named Drumbeat, the boat worked as a charter boat until 2002 when we sold her to a former charter guest. She remains on the Bras d’Or Lake.

We now had an insulated heated boat shop to start building boats, we had a fledgling charter boat company which created a client for our boats and we were keeping ourselves busy!

Click this link for more pictures of  “Drumbeat’ Construction





Third Post December 12, 2017

Wooden Boat magazine, plans and small boats

Pat sailing her parent’s boat ‘Hornpipe’ on the Eggemogin Reach in Maine USA in the late seventies

After a short sojourn on the beautiful island of Antigua and the birth of the inspector in the early nineties, it was back to Nova Scotia and a family discussion of what to do next. The basement boat shop was created, along with a business name and a pent-up desire to make things.  In the seventies, Pat’s family had owned a lovely clinker boat designed and built by Alan Buchanan. It was brought on a freighter to Canada and sailed on Lake Champlain for years, but it developed a large crack in the garboard planks. The boat was sailed to Brooklin Boatyard in Maine, where Joel White was able to fix the problem. Joel had room to store the boat inside for the winters and so several years were spent enjoying the Maine coast by Pat’s parents. Their presence in Maine meant that we were introduced to the designs of Joel White,

Basement boat shop

and to the publication Wooden Boat Magazine. Many evenings in the Caribbean were spent looking at their publication 30 Boats to build and reading about the North American NE Coast. In the early nineties, plans were ordered not only for Joel White designs,  but also for Phil Bolger’s designs in Herb Payson’s book ‘Instant Boats. Working in a basement workshop in Big Pond did have limitations…boats had to be sized to fit out of a

The supervisor in sales mode at her first boat show

36″ door but somehow during the winter of 1992  we managed to produce two more Nutshell prams one for sail and the other for  rowing, a beautiful Gloucester light rowing dory and a 15′ outboard utility ‘Diablo’, ready for a ‘recreational show’ put on by the figure skating Association in Sydney Nova Scotia! The amazing part was that we found an owner for the Diablo and for the rowing nutshell, the other sailing Nutshell we kept along with the Gloucester Light.

Click here for pictures of our first Big Pond Boat Shop Boats




Second Post November 23, 2017

The seventies…

Boat Building Projects in different countries

In the 1970ties, Keith was living in Durban, South Africa and Pat was living in Montreal, Canada. They were both building boats. Keith was on his final of numerous boat building projects in South Africa, but this boat was the one he was building to go cruising in the Caribbean. Pat, a recent university graduate had her first job as the chief painter on a 56′ schooner project, being built on the Richelieu River in Quebec. Click here for full size photos

Stoney in Wilson’s Boat Yard prior to launch

Keith’s 40′ cruising sloop was launched in 1978 in Durban and in 1980 he and his crew sailed it to the island of St Maarten making landfalls in Ascension Island and Grenada. His boat, ‘Stoney’ was a Hartley 39 Design with a modified deck so he could have a flush deck.

There were lots of South Africans building boats in the seventies, many of whom arrived in the Caribbean and set up businesses and are still there now.


Keith and his Dad on board after launch

In order to leave South Africa in a pleasure craft, Keith had to take a serious course in boating to be allowed to go, and needed to be able produce documentation that he was qualified to sail a boat over 6 metres in length.

That is pat standing on the deck

In 1977, the 56′ aluminum Palmer Johnson hull that was to become the schooner  L’Escapade ll arrived at Marina Gosselin in St Paul L’ile aux Noix. A very ‘green’ boat painter started work painting and varnishing  every surface of that boat. Launched in the fall of 1978, L’Escapade ll had 4 ‘staterooms’ three heads, full fridge and freezer etc etc, and was built to go places. As Pat did not think that after all that work the boat should sail without her, she went with the boat as far as the Bahamas and back to Montreal and then sailed to St Thomas USVI in 1979.

Funny how those silly mirror sunglasses were all the rage.

Keith steering in the South Atlantic 1980

Pat crossing the Gulfstream 1979


First post: November 15, 2017

Date of build; Summer 1989

Boat type: 7’7″ Nutshell pram designed by Joel White

Boat Name: Nutmeg

Keith working on the Nutshell with supervisor

We moved to Canada in the summer of 1989 from the island of St Maarten. Our home was in Big Pond on the Bras d’Or Lake. We had a three year old who needed to experience a small boat so a nutshell pram seemed like a good project.

Built out of exterior plywood and coated outside and inside with epoxy resin, we built the sailing and rowing version and sewed the sail ourselves. It was fun to sail.


The supervisor examining the completed craft

The maiden voyage

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