A steady hand and love of the sea: Corner Brook senior crafts model ships

·3 min read
Roy Lafosse, a seniors' home resident in Corner Brook, keeps a steady hand while applying pieces to his latest cardboard boat. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Roy Lafosse, a seniors' home resident in Corner Brook, keeps a steady hand while applying pieces to his latest cardboard boat. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

His hands firm, focus unswayed and fingers steady, Roy Lafosse has taken his love of boats to the craft table at a Corner Brook seniors home.

The 80-year-old is equipped with a box cutter, pair of scissors, glue and a razor-sharp memory as he constructs miniature boats. Lafosse started building the models in April.

"I was sitting up in the room watching TV and I was so bored it was unreal," Lafosee says. "I said to the wife, 'I've got to do something.' She said, 'Now what can you do in your shape and at your age?' I said, 'I don't know, but I've got to do something.'"T

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

Since then he's built about 100 of the miniature vessels, using cardboard, Bristol board and painting stir sticks that he splits to provide structural support, as well as for the sparring and rigging.

Lafosse doesn't use a mould but instead chooses a cardboard cutout of a boat's hull and a vivid memory of the life he had before retirement.

"I went to sea for 49 years and eight months," he said. "I thought I was going to get to 50 years but I broke off a cartilage in my left knee."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

He began his work life as a sailor — and later chief engineer — about two weeks after his 16th birthday, when he left his hometown of Francois, bound for Nova Scotia.

Following a couple years aboard different boats, he ended up back in Newfoundland to marry Violet, also from Francois, and they settled in Burgeo where they raised their family.

The ocean was Lafosse's calling and there was no place he would rather be than on deck, in the flat calm or raging seas.

He jokes that retirement was to include more time on the water, but it didn't turn out that way.

"That was my dream — to buy a small cabin cruiser when I retire and just cruise around Newfoundland. But my wife is not a sailor so to have pity on her I forgot about my dream and bought a car."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

His wife, Violet, is firmly behind his model boat building, however. And she's not surprised by how much time he spends in his makeshift workshop.

"I think it's wonderful. He spends most of his time here," she said. "Patience, patience. He's had patience with everything like that."

Most of Lafosse's creations are modelled after fishing boats, but he's taken on schooners and built one boat inspired by a Coast Guard science vessel.

"You can send me a thousand pictures, but unless I can see that boat and see the distance between each house, or derrick or whatever, there's no way I can make that boat."

Model boat building is his way of passing time. It keeps his hands supple and mind sharp.

The response to his cardboard boats delights him, and makes the eight or so hours a day building them all worth it.

"It makes me feel great," he said. "At least there will be something around when I'm gone."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

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