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Follow Bluenose II’s 2021 Sail Past Summer through Captain Watson’s log entries
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Bluenose II: Captain’s Log
Jun 16, 2021

Schooner Bluenose II – Groves Point, Nova Scotia

 

Sailing under Seal Island bridge. Photo: James Forsey

 

We’ve just anchored off Groves Point Provincial Park here in the Bras d’Or lakes. As the crow flies we are only 4 miles from Northern Yacht Club where we lowered our topmast but that seems like years ago now. We of course made it underneath the Seal Island Bridge. The bridge is always a concern and I’m relieved we made it through.

 

Our first stop was Baddeck, a lovely and well protected town with a great anchorage. There are many thoughts as to the origins of the name, I like the idea that it is derived from the Mi’kmaq word Abadek meaning food set aside for someone. That would be in keeping with the culture here of sharing music, food and community. Baddeck was the home of Alexander Graham Bell who, besides the telephone, worked on hydrofoils. His hydrodome number 4 reached a speed of 70.84 mph, three years before the Smith and Rhuland shipyard launched Bluenose. I wonder what the talk at the shipyard was when they heard that news.

 

From Baddeck we moved to Nyanza Bay and the Mi’kmaq community of Wagmatcook. There are apparently about 700 people living here, almost the size of my little home town. Nyanza Bay is also the home of Big Spruce Brewery. Nyanza is named after an apostolic vicariate near Lake Victoria in Africa, basically an area named by the Catholic Church. I would like to say a special thanks to the folks ashore who set off fireworks to welcome us, and Elaine in Cow Bay who waved and posted pictures of our passing. 

 

Sailing with the rider set.

 

Today, with a strong wind warning, we set our rider, foresail and jumbo sail and had a lovely sail down the lake. At times we reached 14 km/h! The rider is an important sail as it is our storm sail. Hoisted aft in place of the giant mainsail, it helps us keep the ship steady in big seas. The crew have to be proficient at setting it so today was good practice for them. As we arrived at Groves Point, we saw a number of cars stopped to watch us approach and 8-10 kayaks waiting patiently to have a visit. 

 

 

As we sail around the Bras d’Or lakes and Cape Breton I am struck by the history that surrounds us. Looking over the coast, it feels as if you can see the pages of a book turning. For thousands of years the Mi’kmaq people ranged through Pitu‘pok, roughly translated as “long salt water”, followed by French, English, Scottish, Portuguese, and Black communities from all around the edges of the Atlantic Ocean. Some of these people came willingly, others were brought here. Fishers, soldiers, miners, foresters and First Nations — all of these people and their communities have ended up here today and make Unama’ki/Cape Breton the special place it is. The highlands, with their broad canvas of trees allow innumerable shades of green to be seen as the light changes— this is how I see Cape Breton history and modern culture. Individual trees, reflecting light in their own way, all combining to create this beauty around them, roots intertwined and firmly embedded in the bedrock of the island.

Jun 11, 2021

Schooner Bluenose II – Northern Yacht Club: North Sydney, NS

Good Afternoon,

“Docks” you say! Aren’t you supposed to be at anchor? Well yes, and no. We are still isolating on the ship and are not permitted ashore however we find ourselves in the position of having a ship that’s too tall. Our next leg on this voyage takes us into the Bras d’Or Lakes. There is only one way in or out for us and that is through the Great Bras d’Or Channel and underneath the Seal Island Bridge. With a maximum air draught (mast height) that equals our fore topmast the maintop must be lowered. This is of course a great deal of work for the crew and as we have just struggled to put it up, they are scratching their heads a bit. Such is the nature of our voyage. 

 

 

Our hosts here in North Sydney belong to the Northern Yacht Club. The club has been an institution in North Sydney since 1924 and moved to its current location in the 1950’s. The club members have always been most welcoming. Bluenose II Alumni Richard Deveau is an active member and always drops by when time and tide permit. The Commodore and rear commodore all dropped by today and the club gifted the ship a lovely welcome basket.  

 

Our passage along the coast was largely uneventful. Several crew members discovered the lee rail and declined to eat for a day or so. All part of the game here and as we like to say, “the sea is a great leveller”. We did come into the Sydney Bight early as the forecast was for 30 knots (60 km/h)  and 3 meter seas. All this was to come out of the north and would make for a distinctly unpleasant and difficult end to our passage. We passed through Main-a-Dieu passage inside of Scatarie Island and then out through Mira Bay. We managed to dodge the ubiquitous lobster traps as the sun set and we headed out to deeper water. In the dark we passed Port Morien, Donkin, Glace Bay, Dominion and New Waterford each in its own right a place of history. The coal mined in these towns supplied the east coast for generations. Historic photos of schooners in North Sydney can be found here and here

 

We will be here for tomorrow as well and then head up towards Baddeck. The views in the Bras d’Or lakes are as stunning as the history and I’m looking forward to watching the crew discover more of the beauty of Cape Breton.

Jun 9, 2021

Schooner Bluenose II – 25nm east of Canso, NS

Bluenose II leaving Lunenburg. Credit: Communications Nova Scotia

 

Well, the day that the crew thought would never be finally was. With a small crowd of families on the wharf, we finally slipped our lines and backed out of our slip at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. As our bow slowly turned Eastward to point down the channel the crew hoisted our bright orange rescue boat aboard. I fired the cannon in salute to the town and pushed the throttles ahead. Adams and Knickle, Zwicker Wharf, Ocean Gear, Picton Castle, and the railway wharf, home of the mighty Nellie Row, all slipped down our port side. Then the Lunenburg Foundry Marine Railway and Highliner Seafood marked our progress. At one time Highliner, a Lunenburg institution, was the second largest seafood plant in the world! And then finally we passed Battery Point Lighthouse — the mark of the Lunenburg harbour entrance. I wonder how the young schooner crews of the past felt at this moment. Our crew are in their 20’s, mature with many life skills. Can you imagine doing this for the first time at the age of nine?

 

I stopped the ship by the lighthouse and mustered the crew to give them a few words to chew on. I thanked them for their hard work and long hours and for their service to the ship. Having no context, the new crew often have no idea why we are doing a specific task. Why are we cleaning this or painting that? The new information comes at them so quickly that they often can just carry it and will unpack and process it as the season goes on. I also spoke about the next step, about being at sea. This means seasickness, being scared in a new environment, having your gigantic, internet-connected world shrink to 143’ x 27’. Instead of news of the world, you get news of the watch before. Did you see whales? Did any ships pass close by? Does it seem to be calmer now? And of course, “Who’s got the food snacks?” In years past, alumni Bart S. was always the answer to that question. I wonder who will pick up the mantle this year.

 

 

We did have a few special visitors prior to departure this year. We were pleased to welcome Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage aboard with John Meisner, President of the Lunenburg Marine Museum Society. These two represent the owners and managers of the ship. We the crew actually work for the Lunenburg Marine Museum Society. Both were kind enough to join us the day before departure instead of in the madness of departure morning. We also had a visit from the harbour master who is a great supporter of the ship and specifically the crew. 

 

 

Our next stop? North Sydney. We are making our way up the coast accompanied by a fleet of small fishing boats— crab boats and long liners I suspect. We have seen the occasional “steamer” or large commercial ship. Tankers, container ships and general cargo ships travel up and down our coast all the time.  They are just over the horizon when you are standing ashore and just out of sight to you. We see them and pass by, a 1920s schooner and a 2021 freighter leaving the shearwaters to fly on in their never-ending search for food.

May 30, 2021

Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, NS

I’d tell you it has been a busy week but all my logs start that way and I’ll start to sound like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. I’m sure you get the idea by now, the crew work hard, they work long hours  and get up and do it all over again, day after day. This of course isn’t the hardest part of the job these days, isolation and the inability to go home or see loved ones affect many members of our crew as it does everybody during the pandemic restrictions. We continue to wear masks and isolate as best as possible. In great news, the director spent hours on the phone and computer and organized vaccinations for all of the crew prior to our mid-June departure. The responsibility of looking out for our crew has been wearing heavily on me and the relief is palpable.

 

In rigging news, the topmasts are up and we continue to work at tuning the rig. The crew lifted the mainsail onto the ship yesterday. This is no easy feat as it weighs more than 1000 pounds and covers 4000 square feet. Its greatest length is along the 81-foot boom. It’s unwieldy and it is a relief when it’s in place. The last project today is to tie or “bend” the sail onto the mast hoops. These 18-inch ash or oak strips sit around the mast like a key chain. Making them is not easy. If you have a look at bluenose100.ca there is a great video in which Elder Todd Labrador talks about his great-grandfather making hoops for Captain Angus. It’s a great story told by a great raconteur and teacher. 

The other big project for this week involved training the crew in preparation for American Bureau of Shipping annual inspection. This involved mock scenarios including crew overboard, fire, abandon ship and anchoring. When we move into the overboard drill I use a basketball as the person. It’s about the size of a head and gives the crew an idea about how small you are when you leave the ship. At the more advanced stages of drill there is no advance warning for the drill. The basketball goes over the side and the crew are expected to raise the alarm and deploy the safety gear. This would include life rings, lights and a flag. There is no question, the primary safety plan is to stay onboard the ship. 

We also have our own fire department aboard complete with hoses, fire suits and air packs. Moving around in a small confined space with an air tank on your back and wearing a bulky suit isn’t easy and requires practice. All the officers have advanced fire training and keeping up this training requires work. The same goes for the immersion suits, often referred to as Gumby suits which we would wear in the event of having to abandon ship. The middle of the night, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of an emergency is no time to be trying to figure out how to wear your suit.

Have a good day! 

Capt. Phil

May 22, 2021

Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, NS

 

 

May 22nd… can’t be. How? Oh my. The season rushes to us with no hope of refuge or respite, like an oncoming squall we must stand against it and move ahead. 

 

Today we are considering a length of 125 feet. At a glance, it’s not a particularly big number, it’s shorter than the length-on-deck of Bluenose II. It somehow changes when you pick it up and stand it vertically. That’s what the crew did on the Lunenburg waterfront yesterday with the topmasts. Of course the Fisheries Museum parking lot was full of the movie crew filming the TV series, “The Sinner”. The radio channels were full and at times we resorted to shouting while the movie crew used the radios. In any case, we lifted our fifty four foot, 1200-pound Douglas fir topmast off the wharf and sent it up to its full height. From the top of the mast to the water is 125 feet. Looking up from the deck is impressive – looking down from aloft is often life changing. 

 

I should note that at times throughout this process, the team aloft was all women. That is largely a shore side way of looking at life. At sea we are all crew, we are measured by our work ethic, our willingness to work for the ship, our ability to work as a team. It hasn’t always been this way of course — times change, we get better.

 

This week’s Bluenose 100 video was an interview with Elder Todd Labrador. I will admit when the filming was scheduled in February, I made sure I was in the office so that I could meet him. Todd has made it his life’s work to carry and teach the traditional ways of the Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia, in particular by building canoes. Carrying this knowledge can not be easy. I’m sure there are fine details that have been lost over time and have to be relearned or discovered. Each strip of birch bark harvested and canoe built will add to his knowledge. 

 

To put this in perspective, do you have your grandfather’s skills? Could you run a horse team in the woods, or convince Bright and Lyon the oxen to plow a field? It’s the same for us on the ship, the fine details of how Captain Angus used Bluenose have to be relearned and the history shared. Todd Labrador pushes ahead and shares his knowledge with all who are interested. I would encourage you to watch the video and learn about how he is connected to Bluenose, and beyond that, search out the Lunenburg School of the Arts. Todd Labrador is going to build a 16’ birch bark canoe there in the fall!

 

Have a good week!

Capt. Phil

May 16, 2021

Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, NS

Briefing the crew before moving to the summer berth.

 

Good morning all,

 

“Check (hold) the stern line”, I ordered, wondering if my excitement was reflected in the voice command given to the mate. With the engines dead slow astern I watched the bow swing away from the wharf as we pivoted on the last mooring line. Once we had a clear path around the museum ship Cape Sable, Ryan and Noah from the museum dropped the line and we were free. After a long, isolated winter, we were free! Unfortunately, we were only heading 200 yards down the waterfront to our summer berth and there was a lot of work to be done in the 10 minutes it took. Tires, fenders and 6×6 fender boards were hoisted up over the side only to reveal the winter’s wear and tear. Poor old girl looked a bit like the 1942 version of Bluenose as she was readied for the Caribbean trade. I wonder if the 1921 crew were as excited as our 2021 crew were to be away from the dock? 

 

However, that was all a week ago and in the life of spring refit, a lifetime ago. Since then the port side of the hull has been scraped and sanded, primed and then received a top coat of shiny black paint. She looks much better now. This morning the 2nd mate, Jay is supervising waterline, cove line and Plimsoll marks touch ups. While the mate Erin gets ready to send the jib halyards and blocks aloft. We have already rigged the fore boom and gaff and the main throat halyard. I am hoping that we are now coming towards the end of the painting part of refit. I’m guessing the crew finishing up the painting on the raft are hoping even more than I.

 

Crew painting the port side of the hull.

 

The letters ABS appeared on our calendar the other day. The American Bureau of Shipping are the regulatory body who inspect the vessel and ensure that we comply not only with Flag State (Canadian) regulations but also with their international regulations as well. Transport Canada does not do annual ship inspections any longer and their duties have been passed on to Classification Societies such as ABS, Lloyds or Bureau Veritas among others. We look forward to having ABS aboard and having an outside set of eyes make doubly sure we are safe to sail. Transport Canada and classifications societies have important roles to play in maritime safety and are part of the group effort that works toward successful voyages. 

 

It’s all coming together, maybe a bit behind schedule but it always seems we finish on time. The topmasts are waiting patiently on the wharf as is the main gaff. We will soon lift these big 50 foot timbers onto the ship as we progress. The crew are slowly grasping the importance of being careful around the big weights we handle on a daily basis. As Transportation and Infrastructure says in their great winter snow plow ads, “This ain’t no feather duster I’m driving”.

 

Stay well,

 

Phil Watson

May 9, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS

 

Crew sand the 80-foot Douglas fir main boom. Note the end lift with baggywrinkles on the right.

 

Good Morning Everybody,

 

There was an incredible sky here this morning, certainly worthy of a page in Sherman Hines book, “Extraordinary Light”. A dark grey stratus layer with fluffy cumulus clouds under lit by the rising sun. Very ominous and foreboding but somehow the sun added a bit of warmth and a small promise of a better day to come. After yesterday’s strong north easterlies and driving rain we will accept any small promise with gratitude. Of course the mate, Erin, is sitting at the table with a puffy coat and Bluenose toque drinking coffee to keep warm so apparently we each have our own interpretation of the day.

 

We had a pretty good week here on the ship. The winter cover has been completely removed and the starboard side of the hull has been scraped, sanded, primed and received a topcoat. The crew have also sanded and painted the cove line. This small yellow line helps define the hull shape and really breaks up the visual of black slab of the hull. It’s a pain to paint, no question. In my day we used to steal pillows and tuck them under our shirts to help with resting on the rail as we leaned out over the hull. Some would say I’ve forgotten to return my pillow but that is really the work of our cook!

 

Painting the yellow cove line.

 

We have also loaded the anchor chain aboard, stripped the main gaff and started to rebuild the varnish coat. The real excitement for all of us is that we have started to hang the rig. The first bit to go up was the main boom end lift. This is a heavy piece of wire and it requires three people on the block and tackle to lift it into place. The end lift looks really good with a freshly brushed and oiled wire and new baggywrinkles. Baggywrinkles are the fuzzy covering on the wire that help prevent chafe on the sail. They are made of old rope and some twine. See, ships have been upcycling for hundreds of years!

 

I’ve been doing a bit of work this week as well, which will come as a surprise to our readers I’m sure. The first was a previously recorded live stream conversation with Capt Keith McLaren. Capt McLaren, is the author of  A Race for Real Sailors and a Bluenose II Alumni. A true gentleman, a master mariner who can see the art in day to day life. It was a privilege to speak with him. The conversation can be found on the Bluenose 100 website and the book can be purchased through the company store. If you are going to read one in-depth Bluenose book, this is it.

 

The second bit of news for me is that I recorded a reading of Bluenose Adventure by Jacqueline Halsey with illustrations by Eric Orchard. This was recorded in support of Canadian Children’s Book Week and with the support of South Shore Regional Libraries. Many thanks to the author, Illustrator and Formac publishing for their support as well. It’s obvious from the story that a great deal of research went into the book and I certainly enjoyed reading it. The reading was recorded in the new Bluenose gallery at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. It was easy to put myself into the book as I was surrounded by so much history. You can watch the recording here, and Bluenose Adventure is also available through the Bluenose II Company Store. 

That’s all for today,

Capt. Phil

May 2, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS

Good afternoon all,

Today is a big day here on Nova Scotia’s big black schooner. Today we are taking the winter cover off and exposing the deck to the weather. This is a big decision point for us in Covid times. We have essentially said we are going to move forward and rig the ship to sail.

 

From the wharf it just looks like a pile of lumber, from the deck it is hope and a way forward. Judging by the news we all have difficult times ahead. Dr Strang says link arms and roar back which is a fine way to express strength and community. Here on the ship we might look at it as reefing down, going slower, and weathering the storm. Either way, storms can be survived, sails hoisted again and ports visited. 

 

In other, much less glamorous work, one of the watches is wire brushing and chipping the anchor chain. We anchored more than usual last year but the chain seems to have held up well.   Armed with coveralls, masks and safety glasses they are using chipping hammers and wire brushes to remove the worst of the rust. We will apply a protective coating to the chain prior to stowing the chain away in the chain locker. 

 

 

‘They clean their anchor chain’, you ask yourself? Well, yes we do, actually we scrape, sand, prime and finish coat the entire ship from waterline to the top of the masts every year. Sometimes, more than once.  We try to go over every square inch of the ship. We look for small issues far ahead of them becoming problems, this helps with safety and with the maintenance budget. 

 

And in a rapid tack, I just grabbed three deckhands and drove to Bridgewater where we had rapid testing done. Our director went with her family to be tested and called to say the line was small. With some thought as to loss of productivity, away we went. We were tested and back in Lunenburg in about an hour. Three of us had our test results before we got out of the car in the rigging shed. Friendly volunteers, good use of space, easily done. 

 

Thursday’s Bluenose 100 live stream was quite informative. What really struck me was the discussion of women and their rights and responsibilities in the 1920’s. I didn’t really think much until I noticed the entire group of crew watching were women. The mate and bosun are women, the director and assistant director are women. We have a long way to go in Nova Scotia. We have never been perfect here and are not now, but we have made steps down the road. We are better now than in the past and will be better in the future. Another good reason to link arms as we look to the future and move forward together.

 

Seems a bit of a Covid log today. I guess here in Nova Scotia we are all concerned right now. Caring for our community, shipmates and ourselves. Likely a good thing as there is only so much you can write about cleaning an anchor chain. 

 

Take care all,

Capt. Phil

Apr 28, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS

Good morning all,

Well, I’m taking advantage of 1,000,000 bored Nova Scotians and hoping to drive up my readership! Remember the phrase, “if you are not hungry enough to eat an apple you aren’t hungry”? Well, if you are not bored enough to read Capt. Phil’s log, you aren’t bored!

For those from away, who might not know, Nova Scotia entered a province-wide, non-essential services lockdown this morning. This of course created quite a stir here on the waterfront. My personal point of view is that the crew and I are safer here in the Western zone as a tested group with a very small bubble than we are shutting down the ship and sending everybody out across the province for two weeks. It appears that the managers, who employee the crew and I and the owners agree so we will keep working.

Of course we have sought advice on all levels of concern from mental to physical health of our young crew. So far, it is agreed by all that seeing Lunenburg Bay from the water will cure most ills and we should keep striving toward that goal! I wholeheartedly agree. 

So, what is happening behind the chain link and barbed wire that protects us, (or keeps us in)? The starboard side of the hull has been scraped and sanded. The bare spots have been primed and will be touched up again before the top coats will be applied.

In the shed, the portable bright work is being finished up and the name boards have been sanded and had a first coat. We have been at the dory oars and thwarts, the gangway landing, the dories, the anchors etc.

We also use this time to look deep into the cupboards and storage areas of the ship to make sure we are on top of everything. The deep cleaning is an every year event but we have the bonus of Covid cleaning this year. 

One of the varnish jobs happening right now is the aft slider hatch. The mate has decided it’s ready to be stripped back to bare wood and brought back up. The added pressure for Emma B, who has taken this on as a project is that I stand and look at this hatch all the time. If there are runs in the varnish, or spots that weren’t scraped enough I notice them, and complain. And I complain constantly – I’m mean like that sometimes. 

One of the great joys we have here on the waterfront is the friends we make at the museum. In the past, there was a whole crew of retired fishermen who worked to maintain the museum fleet and to share their own personal histories with all.

Those days have all but gone now, there is only one left. Philip works along on the Cape Sable chipping paint and cleaning up. He swears he is just waiting for the rest of the crew and will be leaving soon. I always ask if there is a chance for a young guy. Philip is the last of a line of men who all took the time to teach and mentor me. They would speak of storms and crews they sailed with, good catches and trips where they lost money.

 

Philip Morris aboard the Cape Sable.

 

It is always a privilege for me to spend any time with anybody who has toiled at sea. I’m sure the same is true of farmers, foresters and miners. Toiling with nature often gives you a larger world view. Sailors are often influenced not only by nature but by travelling to new places and interacting with new cultures and populations.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain 

Don’t forget to tune into the Bluenose 100 live stream on Thursday afternoons. 

Have a good day, get outside and have a walk, enjoy the sunshine.

 

Capt. Phil

Apr 23, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS

 

Good Morning!

 

It’s been a cold and blustery end of the week here in Lunenburg. Rain, a bit of snow, strong gusty winds all make for a quiet mood here on the ship. 

 

The crew have been puttering around on deck sanding and priming the black hatch coamings and metal work. In the shed the crew have been putting the finishing touches on the mahogany deck boxes, fire hose racks and various little bits and bobs. It’s always a struggle to decide how far to go with the refinishing. Do we scrape back to bare wood, do we remove the sun bleaching to expose the deep red colour that mahogany is known for? It doesn’t take many passes of a scraper to start to shrink a handrail or box lid. The process is slow and takes years but you certainly lose size and strength at a pace that is easily missed. The mates are often teaching crew that have never tried their hands at furniture refinishing or fine yacht work so we try to keep our expectations reasonable. We aim for “nice workboat” and not “yacht quality” which is also in keeping with the history we represent. 

 

SARS Covid-19 is also a constant shipmate these days. The pressure from the situation in Halifax, only an hour away, is real for us. Being weary of the pandemic is a much of a fact of life here as it is ashore. We all struggle with developing protocols that are designed to keep us safe. “The virus doesn’t care” and “You can’t change the physics of the thing” are phrases we live with. Living on the ship with one set of rules while the crew can go ashore and sit in a bar with another set of rules is a difficult message but we follow the best advice we can get. We, like all of you, want this over and done with and we, like you, will be good provincial shipmates and look after each other. 

 

Did you catch the latest Bluenose 100 livestream? Allan Browne, a local amateur historian, spoke about his research into the building of Bluenose. He spent 20 years of his retired life searching for the names of the men who took Roué’s plans from desk to slipway. I say amateur but dedicating 20 years to research is an accomplishment that should be noted. At 90 years old, Mr. Browne is vibrant and enthusiastic and shares a great story. The Bluenose 100 committee is doing a great job telling the story and preserving it at the same time. 

 

Hope for better weather, common sense and a willingness to follow good guidelines to prevail as we move forward this spring. 

 

Cap’n Phil

Apr 21, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS

Good morning shipmates,

 

It’s a beautiful day here in Lunenburg and the crew are making best possible use of the early spring weather. Beginning late yesterday afternoon the crew began preparing the deck for the spring application of our deck oil. We have been using Deks Olje on our Doug fir decks since before I started on the vessel. The clear oil provides protection from the splinters that can be an occupational hazard when working with untreated fir. It also protects the wood from fresh water winter freezing damage and from the ever threatening rot spores. Anybody with a wooden deck on their house knows it takes a lot of maintenance to keep them looking good. 

 

After coffee this morning they will don their PPE and begin cutting in the oil around the deck house coamings and black covering boards. It’s incredible the amount of cutting in there is on the deck. Fill pipes, deck fittings, deck houses, escape hatches all require attention. The main part of the deck is attacked with long handled rollers. The crew will also cover their shoes in plastic as the oil hardens rubber soles over time which eventually ruins our shoes. 

 

Old Town Boatworks  is attending the vessel this week. This is like a spring medical tune up where we fix up the small issues that arise through the winter and are discovered each spring when we scrape and get ready for paint. Fixing these small issues is a great way to stop bigger issues from forming. OTB’s shipwright is part of a local team that supports the ship. I’ll do a further post in the future about Paul, Dave, Wade, Shane, Michele and the others that keep us operating!

 

In the engineering department we have sent some pumps away to be looked at this spring. They will be back this week and in lots of time to be re-installed. We also had a washing machine door sensor fail which required some parts and expertise. Our poor machines run almost 24-7 and will do so once the rest of the crew join later this week. We certainly preach water conservation and doing wash in batches, in fact we also talk about how much water we use when we brush our teeth. In the spring, when we have access to water it’s a tough lecture to listen to, once we go to sea it becomes much more important. Did you know that our toilets flush with fresh water? We have a vacuum flush system that uses just a litre with each flush. This allows us to store black water for a much longer period of time. The lack of salt crystal build up means that pumps and valves last longer. All in all a good system. 

That’s all for today. On Thursday afternoon Bluenose 100 is releasing their next video. Check them out here.

Apr 18, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS

Good afternoon all,

 

Another grey and rainy day in Lunenburg as it is want to be. Last week’s warm and sunny days were a tease but we knew that to be the case. Our rigging shed and winter cover are a huge bonus in the early spring.

 

This past week we noted the date that Bluenose left for her first trip to the banks. We also noted that they rigged the complete schooner in less than a month. An army of experienced riggers, shipwrights and crew would certainly help things along. Even so, it should be noted that at the end of the age of sail, the skills still existed in Lunenburg to build and sail a schooner of Bluenose size.

 

For the past several weeks I have been pondering the logistics or delivering and moving hundred foot Douglas fir masts to Lunenburg and then to the waterfront and then lifting them into the ship. Like most of us living in modern times I wonder how they managed, “back in the day”. With a lack of regulations and fish cart full of experience and gumption they just got at it. 

 

Today, April 18th, marks a sad day in Nova Scotia history. Portapique has been given a tremendous burden to bear. We, those not directly affected, have a duty to support and hold up those who grieve today. That support will hopefully be added to our foundation of community care and support. Mining, fishing, war, mental health, pandemic, weather and the horribleness of humankind have all caused events that leave the people of Nova Scotia with scars that are often borne for generations.

 

We teach the crew onboard Bluenose II the mantra, “Ship, Shipmate, Self”. Look after the ship, it will look after you. Look after your shipmates, they will look after you. Life is easier when we each look after one another and service to a larger idea or collective is often beneficial to us all.  Today the lesson can be expanded to Province, County, Town. As Aristotle is quoted as saying, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. So, be kind today and support those around you. 

 

In shipboard work, the blocks are finally finished. There were a few that did not pass final inspection so went back to the shop to be re-varnished. There is always varnish work to do in the spring and we use the blocks as a training tool for larger surfaces. The larger surfaces today are the chalks that hold our life rafts and our deck boxes.

 

The deck boxes are a particular source of pride aboard BNII. They were built by local shipwright and Bluenose II alumni Bill Lutwick. Bill has a shop in Indian Point, just outside of Mahone Bay. His deck boxes are now thirty odd years old and still going strong. A testament to workmanship of build and ongoing maintenance.

 

The second mate has started passage planning for the summer schedule and the engineer has begun to bring up systems that have been winterized. As with everything these days, parts are slow coming and we are trying to be proactive in making sure we have necessary spares on hand. 

 

Bluenose 100 folks had another great livestream this week featuring the Curator of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Adrian Morrison. He spoke very well about the history of the fishery and shared some first-hand stories about life on board. Adrian also recorded a talk this winter on the social aspects of the fishery for the Mahone bay Island Conservation Society.  

 

Our store is open online Lots of great glassware to try this week, good for the new beers that have been launched.

Apr 16, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS

Good afternoon,

First of all, #1 priority, top of the list… A special hello to Elaine, who took the time to write from the lower 48 and share the stories of her family’s ties to Lunenburg and Bluenose. What an exciting letter it was indeed! Sail makers, shipwrights, & police chiefs, Elaine’s family was deeply embedded in Lunenburg’s history. Although she is far away from the sea I’ll bet if she was to hold a shell to her ear, it would be the shell that hears the ocean. Thank you, Elaine, for taking the time to write and share your story.

In ship news, nothing ever changes, it’s always the same. The crew continue to work on the blocks and to paint the bulwarks. When working on the blocks, we always talk about Arthur Dauphinee. His block shop, originally run by his father, was established in 1900 here in Lunenburg. A few decades ago he moved out to second peninsula and has been there ever since. I don’t know the future of a block shop in the days of Amazon and Alibaba but I do know it will be a marker in my timeline. Arthur has made blocks for Bluenose twice over and for many, many other ships. Columbia, Spirit of Massachusetts, Moshulu and countless others have all benefited from Arthur’s generational knowledge. 

Painting the bulwarks is another special job on Bluenose II. What could be easier than painting a white fence two and a half feet high? Ha! One of the stories that was passed down to me was when the owners sent out an auditor to find out where all the white paint was going. After complaining he eventually measured the surface area of the bulwarks, stanchions and rails and finally realized what a job it is! Scrapping, sanding, and multiple coats of paint sure take a long time. The crew are tired at the end of the day to be sure.

Bluenose 100 celebrations continue and provide us with a chance to look deeper into the history of Nova Scotia. The good and the bad. It’s all there if you look and shining light on the past is never a bad thing. When you live in an old house you should look at the foundations once in a while and fix what is broken.

Apr 13, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Lunenburg NS

Good Morning,

The weather rules the ship these days, as it does all days, but spring weather on the Lunenburg waterfront can at times seem capricious. We have had some warm, wonderful days lately, holding the promise of spring and the summer to follow. We also have stark reminders of the winter just past and how close it is around us. If the wind comes off the water Lunenburg immediately lowers in temperature. The near shore sea water is just over four degrees so any air that blows over it immediately cools down. Today the wind is out of the north and brings the message that winter is only grudgingly retreating. 

 

So what does all that mean for us? Lots of planning on the mate’s behalf to be sure. We have three basic work areas at this time of year. We have our rigging shed, the rigging yard and under the winter cover aboard the vessel. Right now all the ship’s blocks are hanging in the shed. They have been stripped apart, cleaned, inspected and sanded. Now they are being varnished under the watchful eyes of the mate and bosun. 

 

If the weather becomes really nice some of the crew are sent out into the rigging shed yard to work at the dories. We scrape and paint these every year as well. They are about 36-37 years old and are holding up well. The crew enjoy using them as we travel around and we use them more now than we have in the past. This is one of the legacies of Gail Atkinson’s time aboard as chief mate. A keen dory racer and highliner, her competitive spirit and work ethic encouraged the crew to strive to be their best. Gail can often be seen rowing her dory around Lunenburg Harbour.

 

Under the winter cover the 2nd mate has a team scraping the white bulwarks and black covering boards. No matter how careful we are, water is our constant enemy and slowly lifts paint from the wood. We scrape, dry and sand the wood and then leave it for a while. We then go back over all surfaces and make sure that we have good strong adhesion on the edges of the paint and then away they go with the primer. All this is done with a keen eye on the weather particularly humidity and temperature as we try to get the best paint job possible.

 

In any case the work continues and time is relentless, we are however up to the task and as was the case 100 years ago on the freshly launched Bluenose, we will carry on so that our crew can see what life is like on a schooner on the other side of Battery Point.

Apr 5, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Lunenburg NS

Good afternoon,

 

It has turned into a glorious day here in Lunenburg. One of those days that hold the promise of the spring to come. However, I well know the waterfront weather in Nova Scotia and the false promises of a fine April day. My crew on the other hand are young and optimistic and keen to get at it and to learn and do. Under the guidance of the mates, they have scraped the bulwarks aboard the ship and left them to dry for a while. In the meantime, the fores’le spars and the jumbo boom have been given three coast of varnish and been moved from the rigging shed to the wharf. This was in order to make room for one of our annual big spring projects. Every year we take apart every block on the ship and clean, inspect and re-grease it. Each of the 120 or so blocks is scraped and sanded as necessary and then given three coats of varnish. This will take the best part of a week but is necessary before we can begin rigging up.

 

We also uncovered our dories today. These dories are a foot shorter than the traditional banks or trawl dory. They suit us well and have been with Bluenose II longer than I have. The dory shop here in town has a great line of dories and you can compare size and use on their website. ”The Dory Shop” . There is of course the Dory shop museum in Shelburne

Dory Shop Museum where you can learn about dories and why the Lunenburg dory is superior. Sorry, there is a long-standing rivalry between Lunenburg with its grown knees and Shelburne with its sawn knees used in dory construction. The rivalry is a great way to learn about the heritage of the dory and how the differences in each community impacted construction. Of course, the Portuguese had a dory-based fishing fleet off Newfoundland until the 50’s. Portuguese Dory. Look up the Portuguese White Fleet sometime.

 

Now here is the point of today’s note. We can take a little piece of Bluenose II. Just a small boat that the crew row, sail and have fun in. From that little boat we can link to two museums, and a local business. I didn’t even mention our own Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and their Banks Fishery Display. 2nd Floor We could expand to look at where the wood came from, who made the nails or paint and what dories from around the world looked like. Maritime history is immensely fascinating and seemingly never ending. Our little ship here in Lunenburg is a great living lens to focus on our world as it was and how that relates to what is, both the good and the bad.

 

That’s all for today. Fair winds,

Capt. Watson

Apr 3, 2021

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Lunenburg NS

Good Morning All,

I’m sitting in the officer’s mess of Bluenose II contemplating life. It’s been years and years since I have been tasked to write a Captains log. I’m looking forward to exercising my long dormant creative writing muscles and hope to share an insight into our summer aboard the ship both from the technical side of the operation and also a look into our lives. If you have any questions, please send along an email and I will do my best to answer.

This year marks a particularly momentous occasion in our Bluenose life. One hundred years ago, Capt. Angus Walters and his crew, local riggers, blacksmiths, William J Roué and the crew from Smith and Rhuland shipyard were working hard to rig out a freshly launched Bluenose and make her ready for a salt fish trip. The Bluenose 100 committee have done an incredible job of collecting and collating new material and stories about our beloved schooner and those that helped her become the Canadian icon that was her destiny. There will be lots more about Bluenose 100 as we make way through the upcoming season.

Now, let’s move 100 years into the future. The officers and I welcomed the first of the crew on the first of April. Of course, the ubiquitous SARS Covid virus is always a present threat and we all showed up with a recent negative test. We have a very good medical advisor who keeps us on the straight and narrow. Covid fatigue is a thing, and he often reminds us that the virus doesn’t care, and physics is physics. The crew this year, as always, is a mix of new and returning faces. I’m very pleased to have the officers return en mass. As with any organization this makes for much better institutional knowledge and a safer ship all round. As we start to post video and photos you will certainly recognize some faces and I hope welcome the new ones.

First day back is always a flurry of activity. Names to be learned, forgotten and learned again. Bunks to be chosen and made up with fresh bedding. In the afternoon there was a load of groceries to be passed aboard, likely more groceries than any new crew member has ever seen. Starting on a long weekend makes life difficult but to quote Chaucer, “time and tide wait for no man”. We will get around it all. Of course, we don’t just show up on a day and turn on the lights. Dale and Vandon, cook and engineer, were aboard through the week getting everything ready. Fridges and freezers were activated, water systems run through and new filters put in place. Of course, a new load of fresh water was taken aboard, the two worked hard to make sure the hotel systems were up and running and ready.

That’s it for today. I’m glad to be back aboard. I’m looking forward to the coming months and to sharing our adventures.

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