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40 Years of business at Grand Manan Boats Ltd.

Grand Manan Boats Ltd. started out adding a modern touch to old-school boats. "We were sheathing wooden boats in fibreglass," says shop owner Duane Tate by phone, "it worked great. It extended the life of the vessel for another 15 or 20 years."


Mostly local wooden boats would be brought in the shop, sanded and dried out, and coated with fibreglass. They'd hit the water with a new layer of protection from the elements.


Photos contributed by Grand Manan Boats Ltd.

Some of the boats they worked on are still on the water.



"We did a few for Connors Brothers in Black's Harbour. We did four of their sardine carriers here," says Tate, "they're still out there, and some of those boats are well over 40 years old."



Change has been gradual since Tate joined the shop in 1985. Fresh out of a two-year boat building program in St. Andrew's, he was familiar with wooden boats. The company has usually worked on commercial boats. "that's what we prefer to do," He says. As time passed it became clear fibreglass would be popular, and things would get bigger.



"When I started here fibreglass was still a relatively new thing in this area," he says, "so it just kind of evolved over time. There was only maybe two fibreglass boats on [Grand Manan] island. Everything was still wood."



Fibreglass became dominant, and everything grew. "When I started here the boats were 40 feet long and maybe 15 or 16 feet wide," says Tate, "now we've done up to 60 foot and up to 27 feet wide."


The shop has grown in length to accommodate the boats, 25 feet added to one end and 27 feet to the other end, with larger overhead doors to let them in.



Grand Manan Boats Ltd. has always done their boat finishing work by hand. It ensures the quality of their work. Without big machinery to depend on, "the equipment is cheaper," jokes Tate.


The island of Grand Manan is rustic, with lots of beaches, hunting and hiking available to locals and tourists. It's a great place to visit if you like the outdoors. The fishing industry keeps the boat shop busy.


"We've got a pretty good-sized fleet here so there's always repair work to do," says Tate, "and we've got a crew here of about a dozen guys and we can keep pretty busy most of the year."


As for adapting to work on boats with possible future innovations like electric propulsion systems or alternate hull materials, Tate says simply, "we'll have to get involved in it and figure out what our role is."


And if things get even bigger?


"I'm nearing the end of the road," says Tate, "there's some younger guys here who'll have to make that decision, I guess."


If you'd like to learn more about Grand Manan Boats Ltd. you can visit their Facebook page or call them at (506) 662-8175

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