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Shawn Hayward
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Henry Vokey returns to shipbuilding after honorary degree

An honorary degree and his 84th birthday weren't enough to keep Henry Vokey away from the work that's earned him awards and a reputation as one of the best wooden shipbuilders in the country.

Henry Vokey

Vokey, a master boatbuilder, received an honorary doctorate of laws at the Corner Brook campus of Memorial University on Oct. 4, two days before he turned 84.

Now Vokey is back in his hometown of Trinity, working on another wooden schooner, this one a 57-footer, over 10 feet longer than his last creation, the Leah Caroline, launched in 2012.

"I felt great," said Vokey about his honorary degree. "Nothing wrong with it."

Vokey has the frame for the vessel underway and is getting set to work on the planking. He expects to have it finished in two years. The wood comes from a local sawmill and Vokey says he works on the boats mostly by himself, with some help from his son.

The Leah Caroline was supposed to be his last vessel. He started it in 2009 and named it after his great-granddaughter Leah and his late wife Caroline. The schooner is still enjoyed by Mr. Vokey and his friends and family.

In 2007 Mr. Vokey received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2008 he was awarded honorary life membership in Newfoundland and Labrador's Wooden Boat Museum and in 2012 was inducted into the Atlantic Canada Marine Industries Hall of Fame.

Vokey began to take a serious interest in boatbuilding at age 25, and after moving to Trinity in 1964, his business flourished. During the 1970s Henry Vokey and Sons Shipbuilding employed close to 40 people. He has been active in the construction of more than 1,000 seafaring wooden vessels ranging from a 12-foot rodney to 65-foot draggers.

shawn.hayward@thepacket.ca Twitter: @Shawn_M_Hayward

Organizations: Wooden Boat Museum, Atlantic Canada Marine Industries Hall of Fame

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador

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