Old boat, new vision

Peter Osted stands by an early 1960s steel fishing boat that is being restored to be made into an outdoor heritage centre exhibit.
Angele Cano/NNSL photo

A boat that sat derelict on the shore of Great Slave Lake until four years ago is undergoing a transformation.

The 40-foot steel fishing boat from the early 1960s is currently being restored into an interactive piece of history at the Hay River Heritage Centre.

Last week, the boat was sandblasted of rust and old paint in the heritage centre’s yard, where it will eventually be an exhibit.

The boat, along with many fishing boats of the time period, was made in Riverton, Man. Once the boats were complete, they were transported one by one on a flatbed truck to Hay River.

“There’s a photo of this very sight inside the museum,” said Peter Osted, chairman of the Hay River Museum Society, which operates the heritage centre. “The picture includes some of the old-time fishing names like Miron and Lefebvre.”

The boats would go onto Great Slave Lake for a week or longer, while larger boats would come on a regular basis to pick up the fish and bring supplies. They would transport fish on ice to a packing plant, where fish would again be transported by truck or rail sometimes as far away as Chicago and New York.

“During that time, there were nearly 80 boats and around 200 people employed,” Osted said. “Now, there are over seven large fishing boats and around seven small ones. We’ve got 20 per cent of what we used to have out there.”

The vessel currently being renovated once belonged to Joel Nault and was donated to the heritage centre by his son, said Osted.

Always on the lookout for volunteers, he hopes to find someone to take on painting and outfitting the boat with an upper cabin as it would have had in 1960 – with a galley, a few bunks and a cook stove. Osted said the project, once completed, will help provide a window into life during the boom of the fishing industry and complement the historical record inside the heritage centre.

“Fishing is what got the town started,” he said. “Without a fishing boat, it’s all just pictures. But the material in here and the boat out there makes for a good story.”