Bluenose II — No Way to Restore a Schooner

Photo: Andrew Vaughan

Photo: Andrew Vaughan

The new construction/restoration of the Canadian schooner Bluenose II has not gone well.  Years behind schedule and millions over budget. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is calling it a “boondoggle” and is demanding an investigation into the project.  Recent lawsuits involving the schooner have cost more in legal fees alone than the cost of the original Bluenose II in 1963. The total cost of the current project is $16.7 million dollars and expected to rise still further.

The original Bluenose was a Canadian fishing and racing schooner from Nova Scotia built in 1921. The schooner became famous for winning the International Fishing Challenge Cup off Gloucester, Massachusetts for many years.  The Bluenose is considered by many to be an iconic symbol of Canada.  The schooner appears on the Canadian dime and the current Nova Scotia licence plate.

The Bluenose II was built in 1963 by Oland Brewery for roughly C$300,000 as a marketing tool for their Schooner Lager beer brand. In 1979, ownership was transferred to the government of Nova Scotia.  In 1994–95 the ship’s hull was restored.  Around this time the management of the schooner got caught up in what the Canadian Sponsorship Scandal when the federal government allocated $2.3 million for the schooner through a consulting firm but only a small amount of the money reached the vessel.

In July 2010, the Nova Scotia government awarded a $12.5 million contract for the restoration of Bluenose II to a consortium of three Nova Scotia shipyards. The total project budget was $14.4 million.  The word “restoration” is a something of a misnomer.  The original schooner was largely scrapped and the “restored” schooner was built from keel up with new materials. Some equipment and sections of the old schooner were retained, but the schooner is essentially a new vessel.

The new Bluenose II was supposed to be sailing in the summer of 2012.  She was launched in 2013 and then hauled back ashore for additional work. The schooner is currently tied up at at a wharf in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Recently, the provincial government settled a copyright infringement lawsuit with the the family of the schooner’s original designer.   In 2012, the Roue family launched a lawsuit against the provincial government alleging that it infringed on their copyright by using William J. Roue’s drawings in the Bluenose II restoration.  The government settled the suit for $300,000, including legal fees. The provincial government says about $1 million has been spent on legal costs since the case was launched.

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9 Responses to Bluenose II — No Way to Restore a Schooner

  1. jan koch says:

    to restore a wooden ship costs what it costs to do it propperly.

    the burocrats should be happy that shipwrights still exist and that they are willing to do the hard work of restoring a piece of history.

  2. Rick Spilman says:

    That is still a very large sum to build a single schooner. I believe the brigantines Irwin and Exy Johnson cost around $8 million for two just over 10 years ago.

  3. CY says:

    They are also not being held to 1963 standards, but to some concept of “modern” standards where much of the vessel was not simply replaced “in kind” but with different materials, technology, etc. For example, a steel rudder.

  4. Rick Spilman says:

    That is certainly true. Nevertheless, by all appearances, the regulatory bodies were brought in toward the end of the project rather than the beginning. The unnecessary rework that resulted could have been avoided, saving time and money. Likewise, if the issue of the ownership of the plans have been established at the beginning, a million dollars in legal fees might have been saved.

  5. Shawn Hicks says:

    I’ve had the priviledge of working on many tallship builds around the world. The two famine ship replicas I worked on in Ireland suffered the same problems with department of marine demands. It seems a recurring problem that many aspects of tallship construction come to light AFTER the ships have been built or are near completion. I understand that departments that take the responsibility of final seaworthy acceptance of such vessels are naturally wary of traditional construction. What I don’t understand is why these concerns are not raised before the keel is laid.The public has a right to be angry about cost overuns, what theydon’t know is how easily overuns can be avoided with proper co-operation between builders and departments of marine.One would hope that with a project as important as the Bluenose, extra co-operation would ensure sucess instead of mire such builds into unfinished purgatory. The Bluenose is special and worth finishing. If you want insperation, come over to Europe where tallships are a dime a dozen.

  6. Bruce Barry says:

    what am I missing here? why not scrap the steel rudder and use wood? in light of safety concerns over the steel rudder once the retrofit is complete, wouldn’t it just make sense to use wood?

  7. Rick Spilman says:

    This seems to an example of why doing the engineering review and getting regulatory approvals should be done prior to building the vessel.

    From the FAQ Bluenose II Restoration:

    “Why is the rudder made of metal instead of wood like before the restoration, or the original Bluenose?
    The rudder and many other parts of Bluenose II are designed for a 21st century sailing vessel that’s built to carry passengers. This is not the same fishing vessel built in 1921.

    Bluenose II’s steering has three components: the steering gear, the rudder stock and the rudder blade. At the beginning of the restoration, the intent was to fit a wooden rudder stock and blade, similar to what was installed before the restoration. However, it was determined that the diameter of the rudder stock required by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) would be 21” as compared to the 11” stock that was used previously. Since accommodating a 21” stock would require significant revisions to the vessel’s hull structure, it was determined that a steel stock would be better suited to fulfill the ABS requirements.

    It would be difficult for ABS to approve the use of a wooden rudder blade given the complexity of fitting a wooden blade to a steel stock. It was decided to move forward with the current design of a single steel blade rudder. The weight of the steel rudder was factored into the calculations for the overall weight of the vessel and new steering gear was designed and installed for the restoration.”

  8. Elroy Tanner says:

    I was just reading some comments made, about THE GREAT Bluenose that has gone out of site. Would Capt. Angus believe, it would take such B/S to sail the ship like he sailed for years with a wooden rudder and turn the wheel loaded full of salt fish with one person such as he did and his fishermen.I read David Darrow Deputy Minister was in Lunenburg as of June 24 2014 and made a comment he tried to turn the wheel of Bluenose
    00 and got nowhere in doing such, he stated it would take more than 3 times the amount of 30 pounds OH yes and lets add another 200 to turn the wheel. Would any one believe it would take such crap as a hydraulic system to turn a ship and return to where it left. The day of the great wooden ship as far as this one has got us left in wonderland, where does this take the GREAT Bluenose 11 shredded up and down the drain go from here. Please sell all you can of it dear Government of Canada and use the monies for our HEALTH SYSTEM Regards Elroy Tanner Blue Rocks from where I watched the Great One sail past my home for many years All the Good sailing days are GONE FOR the PRIDE of my days and thousands more.

  9. Corky Wood says:

    I have read that the Columbia has arrived in Lunenburg,now the people can see how much they have been ripped off by some of Lunenburgs finest .
    The junk that has been used on the Bluenose is a disgrace,and nothing more than CORRUPTION at it,s best .It is not only in the third world that it thrives !!
    For the cost of this schooner ,she should have had the best of everything.
    A friend saw the Columbia and said the Bluenose is a disgrace when you look at both schooners.
    I saw the clip of Columbia sailing into Lunenburg harbor and for a light breeze she looked fast ,I don,t think the Blunenose could even stand a chance .