The Schooner Niska

In addition to being the co-owner of the rum Runners Roost, Heiko Bank is also an accomplished mechanical engineer and naval architect.

Through his career, it had always been his dream to design and build his own tall ship from scratch. In [YEAR] he decided upon building a ship which was an adaptation of the 1850’s clipper schooners of he East Coast of Canada and the United States. She is a class of schooner that is smaller, and faster than the larger fishing schooners that are normally found on the Atlantic coast. This is of course why such ships were used by the Rum Runners during prohibition – they were hard to catch.

By designing and building the ship himself, Heiko knew that the ship would be very seaworthy and much stronger than other boats that were commercially available. For example, her hull is 1 1/2 inches thick, and is made from cold molded, double diagonal wood/fiberglass which is epoxied together. This provides a strength and durability that is simply not achievable with traditional wood construction techniques.

In addition to strength and seaworthiness, Heiko’s vision was of a design that was also beautiful with aesthetically appealing lines. Therefore, he paid meticulous attention to every detail of his sleek, elegant, handcrafted ship. Niska features a traditional clipper bow which enables her to swim smoothly while maintaining a dry foredeck. She also features hand carved tailboards on the bow and quarter badges at her stern. Following a well established mariners tradition, the ends of her spars have been painted red to protect the ship from “evil spirits”.

Once Heiko had decided to build the schooner, he was then presented with an obvious problem. A boat of this size can not be built in a back yard! Therefore a suitable location had to be found for the construction. Eventually, the native Canadians of the Chippewa-Ojibway Reserve of Rama Ontario offered a solution to the final problem. They offered to lease Heiko the land, (at a very minimal fee), to undertake project of building his “masterpiece”.

As an gesture of respect and thanks to his new found native friends, Heiko decided to name his boat the NISKA. In the language of the Cree of James Bay, “Niska” is the word for “Canada Goose” – the national bird of Canada. The 11 foot tall Canada Goose in full flight on her mainsail sets apart from all others!

We plan to take charters on Notre Dame Bay, hopefully late this summer (2010).