Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

History taking shape east of Port City

Jamie Roach/ Special to the Telegraph-Journal
Harry Dunfleld chains a felled white pine for yarding.

Thursday, February 19/04

   FUNDY PARK ROAD - Perry Crawford circles a 100-year-old white pine, kicking, the snow around its voluminous stump, arching his back as he gazes skyward mea suring the tree's powerful presence.
   His chainsaw feasts on the timber buffet - whirring, growling, chomping. The wedge is out. A few more cuts. Crack!
   Mr. Crawford darts for safety. There's a powerful rip through the bush as the pine clears its own path from vertical to horizontal. It's down.
   For the last two weeks, this has been the sound of history taking shape for Mr. Crawford and Harry Dunfield - and for Saint John's shipbuilding legacy.
   The two have been harvesting timber on the Mr. Dunfield's property just off the Fundy Park Road near Penobsquis.
   They are part of Saint John High School teacher Barry Ogden's project to build a one-third scale replica of the Marco Polo.
   This version will be non-sailing, and 27 metres (90 ft.) long with an 18-metre (60-foot) main mast.
   Mr. Ogden expects it will take about five weeks for Mr. Crawford's team to cut, haul and mill the 40 pairs of pine ribs.
   They'll eventually go to Simonds High School where they will be shaped by students of teacher Mike Boyle.
   Then they'll be taken to Long Wharf, where people will be able to see the construction start.
   Mr. Ogden hopes to announce soon the name of an organization that has offered to build the replica.
   Back in the woods, it's old-time work for Mr. Crawford and Mr. Dunfield - low-impact, lowmaintenance, they call it. Except for chainsaws, they are using horses and basic sawing and yarding tools. No skidders here.
   Kate, a Belgian work horse nearing her 20th year, digs in as she hauls a 16-foot piece of dead weight to the yard. With warming air on the eve of a nor'easter, her sweaty coat seems all the more noticeable.
   Kate will yard about two or three trees per day as well as haul the sleigh carrying her two workers to and from the parking area and horse shed by the Fundy Park Road. It's a 10minute trek, through a valley, on a snowmobile trail, over the South Branch River, up a hill, down a hill, and occasionally belly-deep in snow from a previous night's storm.
   "You have to keep your eye on her though," Mr. Dunfield laughed. "(When she's not busy) she likes to head back to the shed without us!"
   Two other horses, identical sisters of a Clydesdale/Quarterhorse cross, will handle the sledding chores to a makeshift sawmill on the property.
   Mr. Dunfield's 160-acre woodland has been in the family since his great great grandfather. He grew up here, left for the navy as a young adult, and eventually returned to the region to work in the Saint John frigate program.
   He also happens to be a neighbour of Mr. Ogden in the Kennebecasis Valley. One day the two were talking and the conversation turned to the Marco Polo and the idea to build a replica.
   "I said, `Well, I have some lumber at my place,' " Mr. Dunfield remembers.
   It's an impressive stand of white pine that Mr. Dunfield said has probably never been harvested. One of their felled logs sports a butt diameter of 30 inches.
   Mr. Ogden's plans call for 80 logs, eight feet in length, and 10 inches by eight inches square. He also needs 40 16-foot logs. The yard is half full since starting Feb. 2.
   Mr. Ogden can hardly believe his dream of building a replica of the famed clipper ship is taking shape.
   "I am just totally overwhelmed by the support in the community. It is just fantastic," he said. "Everywhere you go, people want to talk about it. After 17 years, it's nice to see it start to come together."
   He said the effort to raise $180,000 to $200,000 toward the cost, in cash or gifts in kind, is going well.
   "The first stage was $25,00 and things have pretty well fallen into place," he said. "Then, we have the organization that has offered to build it for us."
   Donations to the Marco Polo Project can be made to any branch of TD Canada Bank, Bayview Credit Union or Royal Bank. People can also support the cause by taking their recyclables to any local redemption centre.
   Once built, Mr. Ogden said the vessel itself could be used as a stage for telling the story of the Marco Polo. "It would be a great place to stage a musical to tell the story, so many times a day," he said.
   The original Marco Polo was launched at Marsh Creek in 1851. On her most famous voyage, she sailed from Liverpool, England, to Australia in just 76 days, making her the fastest sailing ship of her time. Previous voyages had taken 100 to 120 days. The ship sank in July 1883, off Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.
   Mr. Ogden has even bigger dreams for the board of the Marco Polo Project.
   "As soon as it's done, let's take on some more projects and lets get this community rolling," he said. "The whole trick here is to pull together, and then our ship will come in."