History of Clarenville Shipyard

During the Second World War I Newfoundland began to experience a shortage or coastal ships and in 1942 the Commission of Government decided to build 10 new vessels using local materials. Clarenville was chosen because of its proximity to the railway and because many men in the area had wooden boatbuilding experience. Halifax ships’ architect William Roue produced a design for a 322-ton capacity wooden, single-screw vessel 135 ft. long with a 28ft. beam, powered by a 600h.p. diesel. At a time when most ships were built of steel, the use of wood was unusual and led to the ships’ being called the “Splinter Fleet” even before the first vessel was launched.

Ten vessels were completed between 1944 and 1947. Clarenville, Trepassey, Glenwood , Placentia, Twillingate, Ferryland, Codroy, Burin , Bonne Bay, and Exploits. The M.V. Clarenville was the first launched 12 July 1944, and was immediately commissioned by the Newfoundland Railway to carry freight and passengers on the northwest coast. A year later she was rammed by the S.S. Kelowna Park in the Bay of Islands and almost lost.

The Splinter Fleet carried fish to the Caribbean and returned with coal, molasses, rum and salt. The M .V. Trepassey went to London and was chartered by the Royal Navy as a supply ship to bases in Antarctica.

In 1949 the government sold the fleet. The M.V. Clarenville was sold to CN and used as a passenger/freight vessel. Later she was sold to S.W. Miffin Ltd of Catalina as a fish collector boat.

In 1976 Burry’s Fisheries of Glovertown acquired her and ultimately sold her in 1981 to Ontario businessman, Hank Buitendyk, who operates her as a floating restaurant moored at Owen Sound, Ontario . Today the M.V. Clarenville is the last surviving member of the Splinter Fleet.

The government sold the shipyard in 1948 to Spencer Lake and Basil Fearn and it was renamed the Newfoundland Shipyard. The first ship built under private ownership was the Philip E. Lake considered the last of the true bankers. She was about 140ft. long, had two 80 ft. Masts and two diesel engines and was built for Lake and Lake of Fortune. In the early ’60s a dock was installed that allowed vessels of up to 500 tons to be hauled up.

The shipyard changed hands again about 1968 when it became Clarenville Industries. One fishing boat was built, then the shipyard lay idle for some time until 1971 when local businessman Ralph Mercer and shipbuilder Eleazer Hiscock acquired a 10 year lease on the property from the federal government. There followed a 12-year period of intense building activity when 53 fishing boats of between 45 and 50 feet were constructed. The shipyard was recently sold to Burry’s of Glovertown.

Source: Decks Awash March – April 1985