Jeff's Little Boats of Newfoundland
Jeff Clarke spent much of his teen years hanging out in his neighbours' sheds in Twillingate, Newfoundland, watching as skilled craftsmen transformed pieces of wood into works of art. These days the 42-year-old former fisherman is back to hanging out in a shed - his own - and now heâs the one behind the transformations. Despite his early interest in his neighboursâ model boatbuilding, Jeff only took up the hobby himself in recent years.âIn 2012, I wanted to buy a Canadian Coast Guard ship as a model, just to put on the shelf or the fireplace, something to look at,â says Jeff. âI searched online and there was nothing that I wantedâ¦I wanted something like the Ann Harvey.â So he made one. Measuring 110 cm in length and about 50 cm tall, Jeff fashioned the keel and planks from pine, with ranger board for ribs - and used glue (not nails) to keep it all together. Then Jeffâs steady hands carefully plastered, primed and spray-painted her to perfection. Finally, he painted on the lettering, logos and other fine details freehand. Itâs a process that took approximately 250 hours from start to finish. Three years later, Jeffâs very own Ann Harvey is still perched atop his mantel in his home in Gander, Newfoundland, where heâs lived for the last decade. Jeff doesnât just have a soft spot for miniature boats - he has a real passion for ships and fishing vessels in general. âI just love to go around them and take pictures and look at them and sit down on the wharf on a nice summer day and just take in the scenery of a fishing vessel,â says Jeff. âThe fishing vessels are pretty amazing now, the way theyâre colourful and everything else. Years ago theyâd be all whiteâ¦Now every boat looks different and theyâre all different colours and pictures. I must say, theyâre nice.âGetting noticedJeffâs second project was a replica of the Twillingate fishing vessel the Polar Venture, commissioned as a birthday gift for the boatâs owner. Jeff posted a photo of the finished product on Facebook, âand it went from there,â he says. His Facebook page, âJeffâs Little Boats of NL,â has amassed more than 2,000 followers from all over the world - publicity thatâs brought model boat orders in droves. Jeff has completed 10 boats so far, and heâs already committed to several others - orders he estimates will take him more than two years to fill. (Jeff is a father of two children and works full time, meaning boatbuilding is relegated to evenings and weekends.) Lately, heâs been forced to turn down requests, not because he plans to quit his beloved hobby anytime soon (he says heâll âkeep this up until Iâm 80 years old if I can do itâ) but because you never know what the future holds. âYou could get sick or anything at all,â he says.Perched on the shoreline, Jeff's model boat looks like the real thing.Jeff charges $500 to $1,200 (or more, depending on the size of the model) per boat. Considering the time, effort and the level of detail he pores into the creations, he says many of his customers admit they consider their purchase a steal. But itâs not about the money for Jeff. âThe most rewarding part of this for me is seeing the expression on peopleâs faces when I give them their boat,â he says, adding many people are stunned to learn he doesnât use a kit, only photos snapped with his iPhone. And while Jeffâs models may look exactly like the real things, he says they arenât made to scale but according to his own judgement. Nevertheless, he says he hasnât had a complaint yet - except from his wife, that is. âMy wife says, âYou got no time for me, canât you just give this up for the night and come watch a bit of TV with me?ââ remarks Jeff with a chuckle.âItâs a pretty good hobby, I must say. I love it actually.â - By Ashley ColombeIn the February 2015 issue of Downhome, read about four more individuals who are pursuing their passions.