Setting sail on the Johnie Finn

September 2, 2021

Since the beginning of the pandemic, lockdowns and other restrictions have kept us at home for longer than anyone could have imagined. For many, it has presented an opportunity to spend more time with family, get creative and out into nature more often – and if you’re like Hunter van Leeuwen, EXP’s BIM lead in eastern Canada, pursue a passion project that combines all three. In a time that saw the rise of the sea shanty, Hunter decided to build a boat.

“I can’t be idle for long,” laughs Hunter. “I needed a project to keep me busy!”

Hunter has always been handy and good with tools. He’s a good person to know if you have a small renovation to do, or furniture to build, as he has a well-equipped workspace and plenty of experience with all sorts of repairs. But this project was on another level.

Learning as he went, he spent most of his weekends and PTO reading up, researching on web forums and asking questions to those who were in the same boat, so to speak. Once he began to piece it together during the summer of 2020, he got a lot more attention than he ever expected. His neighbors – and local media – wanted to know more about the man who was building a boat in his front yard.

​​​​”I’ve been around boats all my life, so I was always confident that I could do it,” recalls Hunter. “If I can see it, I can do it. And I was determined to get it done. I didn’t want to be the guy who gave up and didn’t​ finish!”

No worries there. Hunter’s boat is now complete and seaworthy, incorporating a few customizations, and making a couple test runs to and from Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia. He even has big plans for its maiden voyage with his family to Bras D’ors Lake in Cape Breton, all the way from his home near Halifax.

Dubbed the Johnie Finn, an amalgam of his wife’s parent’s names, the boat is starting to gain a life of its own! Also known as the ‘COVID Boat’, you can follow the adventures of the Johnie Finn from its own website, including a travel blog that will take you all around the south shore. The entire project was a perfect blend of Hunter’s natural talents, interests and professional expertise.