A reborn Bluenose II that was set to unfurl its mighty sails in Atlantic Ocean winds this summer is stuck on dry land as worries over bureaucratic delays and cost overruns mount.
The Canadian icon and symbol of Maritimes shipbuilding prowess, being rebuilt at the legendary shipyard in Lunenburg, N.S., is months behind schedule and no new launch date has been announced by the province.
The boat – a rebuild of the tall ship that first set sail in 1963, which in turn was a new version of the original 1921 Bluenose fishing and racing schooner – has run into some stiff headwinds on land as its builders struggle with a host of last-minute compliance requests from various government agencies.
“We have to meet all of the criteria they’re throwing at us after the fact,” said Peter Kinley, the chief executive of Lunenburg Industrial Foundry & Engineering, one of three Nova Scotia shipbuilding companies reconstructing the Bluenose II.
“We basically have to comply with all of the Transport Canada and [American Bureau of Shipping] requirements” regarding safety and operations, he said.
The delays and changes could result in cost overruns, he warned.
“If you go into a restaurant and order a milkshake and then say you want a hamburger and fries, it’s going to cost more,” he said.
The project is already about $1-million over its initial $14.9-million budget. Most of the investment comes from the province, which will end up owning the ship once it has gone through its sea trials.
The Nova Scotia government awarded the contract two years ago to the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance made up of the three local shipbuilding firms.
It was keen that the Bluenose II – in a new incarnation – live on to continue its work as a tourist attraction and ambassador for the province and the country.
The original Bluenose, dubbed the “Queen of the North Atlantic,” clinched its first trophy in the International Fishermen’s Race in 1921 and, over the next 17 years, never lost a race; its exploits gave rise to the famous at-sea rivalry with the Americans, and its likeness has been on the Canadian dime since 1937, on three different postage stamps, as well as on the Nova Scotia licence plate.
Bluenose’s days of glory came to an end in 1946, when it struck a reef off Isle aux Vaches, Haiti.
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said last Friday the information he has received indicates the project to build a new Bluenose II is not over budget.
Bluenose II was initially scheduled to launch in early July, coinciding with the the busy summer tourist period.
Philip Snyder, head of Snyder’s Shipyard – one of the three firms in the consortium – confirmed there have been delays.
“There may be some cost overruns, but on a project like this it’s a normal thing,” he said in a telephone interview from his cottage at Lake Mushamush, N.S.
Besides the concerns over scheduling and financial matters, the question of authenticity has also arisen.
Bluenose II was scrapped in 2010 after its bow and stern had fallen, a condition shipwrights call hogging. Only some of its original parts were kept to be integrated in the new version, including the rigging, masts and sails.
The new Bluenose II is structurally different, heavier, uses steel and is built to more stringent contemporary safety standards. And there is no locally harvested wood used this time around. Instead, rot-resistant hardwoods with exotic names like angelique, from South America, have been imported.
That has prompted some critics, notably Joan Roué, a great-granddaughter of Bluenose designer William J. Roué, to take issue with the extent to which the new and improved Bluenose II diverges from the original blueprint.
Mr. Snyder says the new vessel was never intended to be a replica.
“It’s a brand new boat. It’s not a restoration,” he said.
For his part, Mr. Kinley says the fuss over delays and costs is much ado about nothing.
“The beauty and the majesty of her image is respected globally and these are silly little challenges we meet on a daily basis to make sure she lives up to her reputation.
“She’s an icon for her accomplishments and Canadians connect with a winning project.”