My friend Wilson is the project manager of the “rebuild” of the Bluenose II, nearing completion in Lunenburg just a few minutes away from our base camp here in Nova Scotia. He was kind enough to give me a tour today.
I have the word “rebuild” in inverted commas, because the result of this project is really a new vessel that inherited the spars and some deck kit from the replica built in the sixties of the original Bluenose that is on Canadian dimes and is an important part of Nova Scotia’s heritage.
For those of you who don’t know the story, there were some races between the original Bluenose and several other fishing schooners out of Gloucester, Massachusetts that took place over 17 years, back before World War II. Who won, you ask? Let’s just say that most of those races did not end well for our friends south of the border. No offence you understand, I’m just sayin’.
The first thing that strikes you as you approach Bluenose II on the slip is the sheer size of her. That’s Wilson leaning against the prop to give you some scale. This is a boat where the keel bolts are over six feet long to hold together the immense sandwich of multiple baulks of timber that make up the keel and keelson, all put together by the craftsmen at Snyders Shipyard who built the hull.
That’s Wilson, on the right, discussing one of the bazillion details that go into a project like this with Kevin, a manager at Lunenburg Foundry, one of the three companies that banded together to rebuild Bluenose II.
Wilson’s job is to coordinate everything and liaise with the owners, designers and engineers, which goes to prove what frequent readers of this site already know: Wilson is crazy and likes pain.
He’s a fine seaman though and, I suspect, an equally good project manager, particularly for this build since he built his own wooden plank-on-frame boat—see, I told you he’s crazy.
Bluenose II is a traditional salt-banker schooner on deck, but below she is a complex commercial grade ship.
This shot shows her massive laminated ribs, built by Covey Island Boatworks—who also did the interior fit-0ut—that are then covered with a structural ceiling to add further stiffness and avoid the problem of hogging (drooping ends) that plagued both her predecessors and most big schooners of their time.
Looks like they got the structure right, since when she was re-hauled for equipment installation, after her ceremonial launching, the hull deflected less than an inch, bow to stern—pretty impressive for a vessel built of wood that is 150 feet long and just 26 feet in the beam.
When the project was first started I did suggest to a couple of people that the province could save a bunch of money by just building her 80-feet long and that the tourists would never notice. I quickly learned what I should have known: new arrivals should not make stupid suggestions about local legends!
Building a traditional vessel like Bluenose II to commercial class is not without its challenges. The American Bureau of Shipping, the classing authority, were not comfortable with the comparatively light wooden rudder that served both her predecessors and so this super-strong steel rudder weighing several tons was designed and built. Which begs the question, how do you line up four massive pintals to dead-nuts accuracy? The answer is with two lasers and the skills of alignment specialist Corrie, shown explaining progress to Wilson.
That, and the lunch filled with wide ranging technical discussion I had with Wilson and two of the engineers on the project, reminded me once again that we in the yachty community, and the yards that support us, can and should learn a lot from the commercial world.
For example, I had no idea that a stainless steel assembly that has been welded should then be treated with heat very carefully over a period of hours to relax the stresses that the welding process has added. That might explain several of the failures I have seen over the years, since I have never seen heat treating after welding done in a yacht yard.
The re-building of Bluenose II has not been without controversy, particularly given the financial challenges that this province, like most every government, have faced since the “Great Recession”. And yes, she is overdue and over budget. A situation that, as a Nova Scotia taxpayer, is of personal concern to me.
But she is beautiful and to my mind, a project that is worth doing in so many ways and a tribute to the Nova Scotia craftsmen that built her. I look forward to seeing her sailing, or better still, getting out on her.
If you come to Lunenburg, you will be able to get out for a sail too, since Bluenose II will take paying-passengers for day-sails.