WRITTEN BY JUSTIN BOYD – Owner of Crazy Ray Boat Tours & Island Adventures
My grandfather, Raymond George Boyd was born in St. Anthony, NL on April 30, 1921, the son of Thomas and Nellie Boyd. He grew up in St. Anthony where he went to high school and from there went to St. John’s where he attended Bishop Feild College to upgrade his education. Upon returning to St. Anthony, he decided to enlist in the military. World War II was in full swing by that time. However, during his medical exam it was discovered that he had contracted TB (tuberculosis). Instead of going overseas, he spent a year in a sanitorium (hospital for TB patients) in St. John’s. As a result of TB symptoms, he lost the use of one of his lungs. Upon returning to St. Anthony with a clean bill of health, he was recruited by the Grenfell Mission Association as a field worker to help with their efforts to organize a co-op for the fishermen on the Northern Peninsula – in order to secure a better price for their fish from the fish merchants. (This was a continuation of the work that was done by WM Coaker and his Fishermans Union some years earlier.)
Pop ended up being stationed in Flower’s Cove as an organizer for the co-op and his task would be to hold meetings and workshops in all of the communities from Ferolle Point to Cook’s Harbour in order to get the co-op established in the area. This would involve days of walking from community to community. During the summer and travelling by dog sled in winter, there were no roads along the coast in those days. As as result of his tireless determination, his upbeat personality and his amazing ability to bring people together, the fishermen’s co-op eventually became a reality. The Co-Op Store in Flower’s Cove is a spin-off from the effort that Pop put in to the organization. This store is still serving the area to this day.
On one of his trips to Cook’s Harbour from Flower’s Cove, he met a young teacher named Lucy Coulding from Jackson’s Arm. They married and started a family with the birth of twins, Rex and Pam. While working as a field officer and having to resort to walking from place to place (boats didn’t come here) – he saw the potential for a business opportunity. Pop decided that he would build a cabin cruiser and use it for charters around the coast.
That winter, he hired a couple of boat builders and over the winter, they cut all the timber. They sawed the lumber and started work on the boat in the spring. By late fall, the boat was finished – a beautiful 36 foot cabin cruiser powered by a Van Blerk CAS engine. However this engine didn’t have the power that he wanted so before long he removed it and put in a much more powerful Chevy Marquis engine – and so began his life long love affair with boats.
That next spring, my great grandparents, Tom and Nellie, decided to move from St. Anthony to Main Brook to create a small farming business to supply fresh vegetables to the Bowater Pulp & Paper Company that had set up a large wood cutting operation in the area. Excited about all the work that was going on, they sent word to Pop about all of the great job opportunities that were available in the new “woods town”. After living a few years in Flower’s Cove and having accomplished what he set out to do with the organization, Pop was ready to move on. So he loaded the new family and possessions into his boat and headed for Main Brook.
He took a job with Bowaters first as manager of their retail store. Eventually, he moved into the main local office as accounts manager. However, being stuck in an office all day and being accountable to other people soon wore on his nerves.
Bowater had a large operation at the Depot near Main Brook but they were also operating around a dozen logging camps around the area. Each one employing anywhere from 50-100 wood cutters. Most of those men came from various communities around the Northern Peninsula and they were stuck in those camps from late fall until late spring. The only roads at the time were basic supply roads into the camps from the Main Brook Depot.
Always an opportunist, Pop got to thinking that with this many people isolated in those camps for months on end with no entertainment or recreation, there must be a business opportunity here. After watching some news reels that Bowater brought in for their office staff, he thought to himself “This is it! I’ll buy a movie projector and show movies at the camps.” So he worked out a deal with the company to let him show the movies and then bought the projector and also a 1949 Studebaker pick-up truck to transport his equipment. Over the winter, this little enterprise turned out to be a money maker. This got the wheels spinning.
So in the spring, he decided to expand the little business by using his cabin cruiser (which until now was just a pleasure boat) to take his movies to all of the small isolated villages around Hare Bay (Lockes Cove, Ireland Bight, Goose Cove and Fishot). He travelled as far as William’s Point in White Bay.
Because he was still working with Bowaters at the same time as he started showing his movies – he would leave Main Brook after getting off work, steam across Hare Bay (16 miles), show his movies and then set out for the 2 hour steam back home. Always in the dark and often in a gale of wind, rain or fog. He had nothing for navigation – only his chants, a compass, his watch and a search light. The show had to go on. He had to be back for work in the morning.
Having had a couple of years trial run with his travelling movie business, he decided to take the plunge. He quit his job with Bowaters and set out on his own. In the fall, he bought a 12 passenger Bombardier snowmobile and over the winter, he cut and hauled home enough logs and sawed enough lumber to build his own movie theatre, right in the middle of Main Brook. Right next to the Government Wharf.
To make ends meet, he continued his logging and sawmill operation. He hired a number of local workers and turned it into ta commercial enterprise, selling lumber around the community. He also participated in the commercial salmon fishing industry. The salmon was caught in nets, split down the back, salted and packed in wooden barrels for shipment to points around the globe.
Aside from all this, he still had the boat. He still showed a few movies around the bay. But because there was still no road to St. Anthony, he was getting a lot of charter work back and forth to the hospital. Also, people needing supplies. Plus, he did much business with salesmen who needed to travel to the isolated communities to sell their merchandise.
As he did with his movie business, he would set sail day or night, good weather or bad. When he got the word to go, he was determined to make the trip regardless of the conditions. Father remembers one time, when he was only 5 or 6, Pop left St. Anthony in the middle of the night during a storm of wind and rain. There was Father, Aunt Pam and Nan Lucy. It was a viciously rough night. They were all throwing up except Pop. At one point, a huge wave his the boat and the small wood stove that heated the cabin, came flying off the floor. The pipes fell down and the stove ended up upside down on the floor. The cabin filled with smoke and the embers in the stove caught the floor on fire. They were all crying and scared. Pop casually walked down into the cabin with a bucket of water and doused the fire and told us not to worry. Everything was okay. He climbed back into the wheel house and kept steaming through the storm until they made it safely home. The next day and night, Pop set out on another charter. The incident the night before never scared him one bit.
Pop’s old two-storey house was located on a hill in Main Brook that had a great view of Hare Bay. Father remembers how he and Aunt Pam would spend hours looking through the upstairs window watching for that big old search light coming across the bay. Pop would always blink the light twice every once in a while to let everyone know that ‘Everything Was Okay’. Yet, Father and Aunt Pam would always stay up to hear his stories about the trip and to see what treats or souvenirs that he brought back.
When Great Grandfather Tom Boyd moved to Main Brook, not only did he set up a small farm but he also opened a grocery store. Located where Less Gaulton’s house is now. When he got close to retirement, he decided to turn the store over to Pop. But Pop decided that the store would do better if it was in a more central location. So, he bought a piece of land and a big shed from Walt Bowers next to the Government Wharf (on the opposite side of the wharf from where the theatre was located). On this piece of land, he rebuilt the shed and turned it into a 3 bedroom house. Then on the end, towards the wharf, he built an adjoining building which became the new grocery store. Both the store and theatre turned out to be profitable businesses and provide lucrative income for quite a few years.
Although Pop had quite a few accomplishments under his belt by this time, he felt that it was time to start a new chapter in his life. Always one who wanted to be in control of his own destiny and never afraid of making changes in his life that would let him realize his dreams: At age 40, Pop packed his bags and left Main Brook and headed for Ontario to make a new start.
It took him a while to get his feet on the ground. He worked quite a few jobs in different towns all around southern Ontario. Eventually, he landed a job in St. Catherines as a wine store manager for Chateau Gai Wines of Niagara Falls. Content with his job and ready to move on with his life, he married Janet Warren, a nurse from England and started a new family with two sons, Stuart and Raymond. They ended up buying a piece of land in Vineland where he built a house and shed. He eventually became promotion manager for the wine company and this was his career until he retired.
As the saying goes, you can take a person out of Newfoundland, but you can’t take Newfoundland out of the person and so it was with Pop. He never lost his Newfoundland accent, his humour or his charm. He was a breath of fresh air for all of his clients and neighbours and anyone else that came into contact with. As he would say “I never met a stranger that I didn’t like”. In a land where people were not easy to befriend, he charmed his way into the lives of hundreds of people who forever saw him as a special character and a close friend.
Even though he was far away from Newfoundland and the salt water, Pop never lost his love for boats. I don’t think he ever saw a boat he didn’t like. He was always on the look out for a ‘DEAL’. Something in need of repairs or something going cheap. At one time, he had 6 boats sitting on his property. It was always a curiosity for passersby. Many would drop in and want to know why all those boats were scattered around like monuments miles from the water. Of course, this would be right up his alley. So with a grin on his face and all the charm that could muster, he would tell them how he found each boat, what kind of a bargain he got it for, and what his plans were for each one. Their curiosity satisfied, many a total stranger would walk away feeling good about this chance encounter and more often than not ended up being a ‘willing victim’ in his circle of friends.
Although he enjoyed all of his boats, Pop still had an itch for speed so he was always trolling for a new project. He finally found what he was looking for – a 36′ boat with a planing hull. There was just the bare hull and nothing else so for the first time he had a clean slate to work with. This boat would be his own creation from the keel up.
The end goal was that this boat had to go fast. This hull was built for speed so now he had to find an engine with the guts to make the boat look good. He put word out to all of his boat buddies and eventually tracked down an engine that would do the job: A 454 Merc Cruiser – not just one but two. The motors were in New York State so him and his buddy, Casey headed across the border and brought them back. He was satisfied that this hull and those two motors would be the perfect recipe for speed. The boat was nearing completion and he was itching to impress his nautical neighbours.
The boat was finally finished, this was now his pride and joy. The only thing that was missing now was a name. He needed a name that was worthy of all the work that he had put into it. He pondered for days, trying to come up with something to fit the bill. Then one day his buddy, Casey Schele came along and said “Ray, over the years you’ve done some crazy stuff. Things that I could never have gotten away with and you made it all sound like fun including building this boat. Not only that but half the people around here think you’re crazy because you’ve created a boat yard here in Camden, miles from the water. You should call this boat the ‘Crazy Ray’.” Pop thought it over for a while and said “I think that you’ve come up with a good idea.”. And so the name “Crazy Ray” was born.
The “Crazy Ray” never disappointed. It was comfortable, stable and fast. It could get up to 36 knots (56 km) in seconds. Certainly an impressive speed for a 36 foot cabin cruiser. It sure as hell gave him bragging rights at all the local marinas where everyone wanted to show off their fancy factory-built boats.
Pop never got tired of showing off his boat whenever he got the opportunity. One of his favourite pranks was to troll along at normal speed and wait for some fast speedboat to come up along side. At that point, he’s jam the throttles wide open leaving them in his wake and scratching their heads wondering “What the hell happened there?”.
Over time, the “Crazy Ray” started to deteriorate so Pop (now in his late retirement years) decided to start another boat project. He bought a damaged fiberglass hull that had been cut in half, joined it back together and set about to build a newer and bigger version of the first “Crazy Ray” and he would call this one the “Crazy Ray 2”. However, time caught up with him and unfortunately he past away before the boat was finished.
Pop Ray was always a risk taker. If someone said it couldn’t be done then that meant that he was definitely going to have a shot at it. He was never one to back down from a challenge and if there was an element of risk involved then he was drawn to it like a magnet. Over the years, whether by choice or by accident, he managed to pull through quite a number of precarious situations any of which could have earned him the name “Crazy Ray”.
Aside from things already mentioned, I will throw in a few other misadventures involving boats where a cool head and lots of luck kept him on the right side of the sod:
One time when crossing the Straits of Belle Isle in a small open boat from Flower’s Cove to Forteau, a spark from the engine ignited the fuel that he was pouring in the tank and it caught the boat on fire. People from both sides of the Straits (11 miles wide) saw the smoke and went to the rescue, but before anyone got to him, he managed to put out the fire and continued on his merry way a bit shaken but no worse for wear.
Another time in the Straits, his engine broke down, the boat got caught in a tide rip (wind and tide going in the same direction). He drifted miles off course. This was in the days before they had radios for communication in small boats. As luck should have it, by chance, he was spotted by a passing boat that towed him safely into port.
After marrying Nan Lucy, they decided to go to Corner Brook for their honeymoon. There was no road, so they boarded a coastal boat called the “Clarenville” to make the trip. This was late in November. As they entered the Bay of Islands in the middle of the night, they encountered wet snow and dense fog. Close to midnight, there was a loud crash. The boat rolled up on its side. The passengers got knocked off of their feet. People got thrown out of their bunks onto the floor and water flooded the decks. Disoriented and in total darkness, they heard the call to abandon ship. Everyone scrambled for the life boats. They had been rammed by a huge cargo ship called the “Kelowna Park”. Everyone made it to the life boats and all made it safely to shore. Just outside of Curling. Their ordeal was still not over. Because there was no beach, they had to scale the cliffs in order to get a safe distance from the water. Here they hung on through the night until they were rescued early in the morning.
Not as dramatic, but still noteworthy – was an incident in Main Brook that happened during a gale of northeast wind, again in the middle of the night. Bowaters had a large boom holding hundreds of cords of pulpwood waiting for a ship to load for Liverpool, England. The boom broke loose in the gale and all of the wood was about to be lost. Because Pop had the most powerful boat in the bay, the company got a hold of Pop to see if it was possible to make an attempt to locate the boom and salvage the wood. The weather that night was vicious but he decided to give it a go. He enlisted 3 or 4 locals and set out in the storm. Somehow, they managed to find the boom and hooked on to it and eventually were able to tow it to a sheltered cove. If not for his determination, the wood would have been lost and dozens of people would have been out of a job.
As mentioned earlier, Pop was lucky enough to survive TB. Although, he had only one good lung – he took up smoking at an early age and was a heavy smoker all his life.
Pop certainly beat the odds. He lived a long and happy life. His friends were countless, his humour was infectious and his kindness was an example to all. Yes he certainly left his mark and he did it all ‘his way’. He was appreciated by all who knew him. He was definitely a ‘ray’ of sunshine.
~ Never To Be Forgotten ~
Raymond George Boyd died of natural causes at the age of 85, on December 14, 2006.