The best thing that can be said about the “rebuilding” of the Canadian schooner Bluenose II is that is it is over and that the Bluenose II is a lovely vessel. Unfortunately, it took seven years and cost C$24 million (around US$ 20 million) to complete the “reconstruction and rebuilding,” which, in fact, was effectively the construction of a wholly new schooner.
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.
In 1963 a replica of Bluenose was built at Lunenburg, using the original Bluenose plans and named Bluenose II. The schooner was built 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. By 2009 the Bluenose II was severely hogged and in poor condition. Rather than attempt to repair the original schooner, it decided to build another from scratch.
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 schooner was built of different materials and different standards than the original.
The new/rebuilt Bluenose II was launched in Lunenberg in 2012 and expected by many to begin sailing shortly thereafter, but she was hauled back ashore in 2013 for additional work. Late in the process, it was decided that the schooner be should inspected by a classification society. The American Bureau of Shipping was chosen. Unfortunately, to meet ABS rules, an entirely new steel rudder and hydraulic steering system was installed. The new rudder proved to be so heavy that is risked damaging the schooner’s structure. A wooden rudder design was ultimately adopted but not before adding more than a million in building costs.
By 2014, Nova Scotia’s Premier Stephen McNeil was referring to the project as a “boondoggle.”
And then there were the lawsuits. In 2014, the provincial government settled a copyright infringement lawsuit with the the family of the schooner’s original designer for $300,000. The provincial government says about $1 million has been spent on legal costs since the case was launched.
The Nova Scotian government also settled a lawsuit with the Lunenburg Shipbuilding Alliance for just over $2 million.
But the schooner Bluenose II is a lovely vessel. Long may she sail.