COMFORT COVE-NEWSTEAD -
Take a trip into Frank Greenham's workshop and be prepared to be impressed by the skill he has shown in building model schooners and longliners.
Heading into his eightieth year this summer, Mr. Greenham is a retired fisherman who hasn't lost his love of the water and the various vesssels he has seen and experienced first-hand in his career.
Born on Twillingate Island in 1930, Mr. Greenham grew up with six brothers and three sisters. His father, the late Captain Andrew Greenham, was skipper of a variety of fishing schooners for nearly 50 years, making annual voyages up the Labrador Coast.
"And believe me, as soon as we were big enough to step over the schooners rail Father would have us on board," he said. "I remember my first trip on a sailing schooner with Father, at the young age of nine-years-old, when we went into the bay to get a load of firewood and wharf sticks.
"I guess I was there as a trial to get my feet wet and I remember that I certainly got my hands cold."
By the time he was 14 he was one of the crew, ". . . facing the sea and all of the hardship that went with it."
"Not really knowing what was in store for me," he recalled. "I guess by that time, in them days, I was supposed to be a man or at least take a man's place. . . not really sure if I ever got to that point."
While having left school at a young age is something Mr. Greenham regrets, he didn't have a choice in the matter.
But Mr. Greenham always had a great love for the water and the old schooners. He always wanted to be a fisherman and some day own his own boat. The work was hard for a fisherman in those days, going from daylight to dark and then some. But Mr. Greenham says that was all they knew. The fishing was much different then as well.
"There were very little or really no regulations," he said. "We were free to fish where and when we pleased and with no quotas to worry about.
"We landed lots of fish in those days, working with Father but of course no one got paid very much for this fish, other than the merchants of course. Eighty years later and absolutely nothing has changed for fish harvesters. Sad but true."
While growing up working in the fishery and not making much money, Mr. Greenham still considers them to have been good times.
"To us younger generations those old days were good times even though we had no money, we had no worries either," said Mr. Greenham.
His career in the fishery saw him employed as a diesel engineer on many different schooners in his early days, working at times in the coastal freight trade. They transported a variety of freight that included salt, fish, salmon, general cargo and things such as drums of gas and diesel fuel to ports all along the coast and up the Labrador Coast.
Mr. Greenham also spent some time as an engineer with his late brother Captain Wilbur Greenham trading quite frequently up and down the Labrador Coast with general cargo and supplies to fishing ports and bringing salmon back to Battle Harbour.
It was in 1950 that he moved from Twillingate to Comfort Cove. It was at this time that there was a major downturn in the fishery and he moved into another line of work, mechanics. He worked in many regions throughout Canada, including the North, first as a mechanic and then as a mechanical supervisor with different companies.
While he wasn't physically working on the water as a fisherman, the ocean still called to him.
"You know, the sea has a way of getting into your blood and my love of the sea and fishing lured me back," said Mr. Greenham. "Since 1977 my two sons and I have had many different vessels ranging in size from small 18 foot boats right up to the 65 footer that we now have."
Some of the vessels were constructed at shipyards while others they built and modified themselves. His sons continue to operate the family fishing enterprise.
That leaves Mr. Greenham time to pursue his interest in model boat building, something he has taken pleasure in for about the last 15 years. He completed his first model in 1999. After that he built another three larger scale models. The construction can take anywhere from eight months to two years to complete as is the case with the schooner Bessie & Carrie (named after his mother and wife) he constructed in 2002, a replica of his father's first schooner.
The skills he acquired in the fishery and his own attention to detail contribute to the masterpieces Mr. Greenham creates. He is self-taught, with no actual plan to follow, just an idea in his mind of how things will look. He crafts each piece by hand, right down to the anchors. He completes all the paint work and even includes interior features and lighting.
"I know I'm no expert in boat building and don't claim to be one," he said. "I just simply enjoy building model boats and I will continue to do so as long as the good Lord gives me the strength to do it."
These aren't the kind of model boats you can fit into a bottle. When displayed they are about the height of an average adult with all the rigging and details you would expect to find on the real full-scale vessel. It is a labour of love for Mr. Greenham.
"I love to be down in my workshop just doing things that I enjoy doing the most, such as building these model fishing vessels and coasters," he said. "Someone once asked me if these boats were for sale. And of course my reply was simply that anything is for sale if the price is right."
If you were to have the chance to see one of Mr. Greenham's works for yourself you'd likely agree they are priceless.