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Paul Winter, originally of Corner Brook, stands next to the Rob Roy. It is a boat he plans to rent to people in Edmonton, Alta. - Photo courtesy Adam Millie/Rat Creek Press
Paul Winter, originally of Corner Brook, stands next to the Rob Roy. It is a boat he plans to rent to people in Edmonton, Alta. - Photo courtesy Adam Millie/Rat Creek Press - Contributed

Paul Winter would often catch himself staring at the North Saskatchewan River. 

It runs through much of Edmonton and splits the Alberta city much like the Corner Brook Stream does.

The 56-year-old Corner Brook native would look through the window of the cement truck he was driving and long for the northern water.

He would see the slow moving current and he felt the allure of the river.

Winter missed the ocean, and watching the river reminded him of the times he spent in an old dory fishing for codfish just off Weeboll in the Bay of Islands.

Winter would think about floating down the Edmonton river in a dory.

He’d bought canoes and took them on the Saskatchewan, but it was never the same as riding the ocean waves in a Lark Harbour dory — one he says has the finest design.

Someone can lay out in a dory, he thought.

Earlier this year, Winter stopped dreaming about floating a flat-bottomed boat down the river and made it a reality.

It started with building a boat. To be specific, he was going to build a dory.

Winter had never made a dory. He had constructed rafts, canoes and kayaks with his father. The first one he did was when he was 11. It was pram dinghy that he constructed in his father’s basement.

Most of those watercraft were for the cabin. He’d row them around Sandy Lake where the family had a spot.

“I always enjoyed rowing,” he said. “I felt like I could make the boat dance on the water. It is just fun.”

Quitting your job is one thing. Quitting it to take a chance on a new career well into your 50s is another. It takes guts to make a move like this one.

Moving to a new city and starting a new job are similar. While you're not exactly starting over, you are resetting the life you've been accustomed too for something unfamiliar.

Winter was working as a cement truck driver for six years in Edmonton, Alta. and making a healthy living while doing so. Last year, he requested two weeks off to return to Newfoundland for the summer.

His employer denied his request and Winter promptly quit. He was tired of working with no chance to get time off.

That was in May. It was also when he decided to follow his dream.

He was going to start a boat-building business in landlocked Alberta. The business is called L.A. Dories and for the last several months, Winter poured 300 hours into his first Newfoundland dory called the Rob Roy, and has started on his second one, which he plans to name Scott Free.

He plans to rent them out to people to float down the North Saskatchewan River. Eventually, Winter would like to take his dories to the Yukon River.

He wanted the first one to be perfect. He drew the design by hand, made multiple phone calls to renowned boat builder Roy Dennis of John’s Beach and even had parts of an old dory flown up from Newfoundland.

The 87-year-old Dennis built his first boat at the age of 14 and is still building boats. Just last summer, he made five of them in his shed. He’d be building now, but he says the glue won’t set in the cold.

Dennis said the design Winter is using is the one for a rowing dory called the Shelburne Dory. It is a small, sturdy vessel with a flat bottom and was used on the schooners that headed for the Grand Banks every year.

They’re seldom built now in this province, although they are in Nova Scotia.

In Newfoundland, history and culture is an important thing. Preserving those aspects is even more important to the people who live here.

It is for those reasons that Dennis approves of what Winter is hoping to accomplish with his business venture.

Winter’s design is 14 feet long and appears much like the dories throughout Newfoundland's history. He figures it can fit three people comfortably and will suit the rivers in western Canada perfectly.

He builds them from Douglas fir and spruce wood. The marine glue comes from Corner Brook.

The business name stems from the Newfoundland speech pattern that drops the ‘h’ from words that start with it. The L.A. stands for Lark 'arbour, as the locals might say.

The thing with dreams is that they can easily turn in a nightmare.

It is a certain type of person who has the balls to leave their high-paying job, enter into an area that you would call a hobby and place a bet on themselves.

So many things can go wrong and trying to predict how people will accept your product is always a gamble.

This fall, he took a job as a school bus driver to help with his bills. It also affords him much of the day and all of the summer to work on his boats.

 “It feels really good (to be chasing his dream),” said Winter. “It feels right. It is inside of me and it has to come out.

“It is going to work.”

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