For a second time in almost a year, the Bluenose II is back in the ocean.
The famed replica of the historic fishing and sailing schooner, displayed on the Canadian dime, began its hour-long immersion at Lunenburg, N.S., at high tide Friday morning.
Although officially launched on Sept. 29, 2012, the ship had to return to dry dock for construction to be completed. Among other necessities, the boat needed a rudder.
“Every fishing schooner that has ever been built in Lunenburg, and probably everywhere else, has had a wooden rudder,” explained Kevin Feindel, general manager of Lunenburg Industrial Foundry and Engineering Ltd, one of three shipbuilders involved in the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance. “And the classification society, the American Bureau of Shipping, decided that that wasn’t strong enough. The designer came up with a steel rudder that satisfied their requirements for strength.”
The ship’s launch a year ago was a much heralded event, with speeches by representatives of all levels of government and an estimated crowd of 10,000 spectators. Tradition dictates that a ship is launched when it first hits the water.
Friday’s “undocking,” as the provincial government, which owns the ship, has termed the day’s event, was comparatively low-key.
About a thousand people gathered under a cloudless sky to watch from the shore, surrounding wharfs and in boats dotting the harbour. When Bluenose II was finally afloat, a few boat horns were sounded in its honour.
The project to rebuild the famed schooner has been controversial, and the expense of the undertaking has come under question. Although initially estimated at $14.9-million, the budget had risen to about $16-million by September, 2012, the increase largely a result of complying with the demands for the ABS classification.
Leonard Preyra, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, said additional labour costs, associated with the dock and sea trials, will only be known at the conclusion of the trial period.
He said that, while ABS certification was a requirement of Transport Canada, it also gives the province needed confidence. “We need to be assured that the Bluenose is a healthy and safe environment and that the investment itself would be protected.”
Many walking the Lunenburg waterfront Friday morning were simply happy to see the Bluenose II back in the water.
“I just think it’s historic and it will likely bring in in tourism,” said Judy Snell, visiting from Margaretsville, N.S., with her daughter Lois Plaunt, who had just taken pictures of the ship for a friend in Ontario.
The Bluenose II still must undergo dock trials, which includes testing all the systems, such as propulsion, and making adjustments as necessary, said Mr. Feindel. The boat will change shape slightly, he explained, as it is a wooden boat and the wood will swell as it absorbs water. That change may require a realignment of systems, such as the engines.
He’s leaving nothing to chance: The ship will be under 24-hour surveillance, and the bilge pumps will be checked every two hours to ensure they are functioning.
When dock trials are over – possibly in a month – the ship will undergo sea trials.
Editor's note: In an earlier version of this article, Lois Plaunt was misidentified as Lois Plant.