Canadian Painter Recalls Tragic Shipwreck in Artwork

As published in The Kincardine News (May 24, 2011).

Patric Ryan at Victoria Park Gallery

By Jennifer Schleich

It started in Kincardine in 1978 with a freighter named Avalon Voyager II.

A ship no longer seaworthy, but being sailed to new owners with minimal patching, proved to be the inspiration to a body of artwork numbering over 600 paintings, etchings and drawings, as well as five novels, two screenplays and many short stories. Of that collection 11 works are on display at the Victoria Park Art Gallery for the rest of May.

“The paintings are just beautiful and the Avalon Voyager, which was from Kincardine, started everything,” said Colleen Jacob of the Victoria Park Art Gallery.

Patric Ryan, author of those works, was the Captain aboard the W.A. Spears on October 31, 1980 when the Avalon Voyager II sunk near Tobermory. She was originally built in Newfoundland in 1947 and christened Twillingate.

“In a full gale we rescued the crew of the Avalon Voyager from the rocks of Cape Hurd Channel near Tobermory and received the Governor General’s Medal of Bravery,” said Ryan.

The Avalon Voyager had belonged to Hank and Thelma Buitendyk who owned the Highland Cove Marina. The vessel had been the intended premises of a floating restaurant, which was later built upon the M.V. Clarenville.

To acquire the Clarenville in the wake of the disaster required a trip to Newfoundland, and the Buitendyks asked Ryan and his wife along for the ride, said Jacob.

The Clarenville was a 124-foot wooden-hulled Newfoundland schooner, which was built in 1944. She needed restoration work and to be outfitted with the requirements of a modern restaurant before being brought to the Owen Sound harbour, where she remained until a fire in 1989. She was the last remaining ship of the Splinter Fleet, which included the Avalon Voyager II.

Ryan did not return to Ontario with the newly renovated ship. Instead, along with his new bride, two sea dogs and a cat, they commenced their married life aboard a fishing schooner of their own.

“The artwork and writings I have produced are a happy consequence of our adventures in Newfoundland, the return voyage to Ontario and several trips back to The Rock,” said Ryan.

The boat became an art studio and home to their burgeoning family as they travelled up and down the Newfoundland coast, where Ryan produced a large amount of art.

“We were very much under the spell of the Newfoundland mystic,” he added.

He now works in a variety of mediums in his home on the Bruce Peninsula, including painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery, print making, writing and woodworking. He is a skilled craftsman and has built five wooden boats in the traditional art. Ryan is also a permanent artist at the Gallery de Boer in Owen Sound.

The current works on display at the Victoria Park Art Gallery are comprised of paintings in acrylic and oil, and three ink and watercolour drawings.

This fall will be the 30th anniversary of the Avalon Voyager II wreck, and Ryan plans to mark it with the release of a new book about the ship.

One of the ink and water col-our pieces on display at the Victoria Park Art Gallery is an illustration Ryan created for the new book.

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