Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, N.S.
Well the crew are gone and the ship lies empty. They have left their stories behind, their laughs, their successes and failures. Each one will go on and belong to the 600+ crew members who have made up the crew over the last almost sixty years. I wonder if the Oland family could ever have imagined the course of the vessel they built and launched and how many lives she would change.
This year was year two of the Covid lockdown. I don’t need to tell you that, you are well aware and the pandemic has changed your life as much as ours. For Bluenose II there has been a silver lining as we have changed the program that we undertake. Some things have remained the same. We still do interviews for crew positions through the winter, technicians crawl over and through the ship while the snow falls, tweaking and servicing and maintaining the myriad of systems aboard and the ship lies quietly waiting for the crew to return.
This year was broken up into several legs as we visited different parts of the province while also arranging to be in Lunenburg to support Bluenose 100 events. Deciding on a schedule in January with the unknowns of a pandemic and weather and politics lying months into the future is incredibly difficult. Fishing seasons, community celebrations, seasonal weather all come into play. Our first leg this year was along the eastern shore and into Cape Breton. With a small snow squall welcoming us into North Sydney we were thankful for our modern layered jackets and long underwear. Topmast down, we motor sailed around the Bras d’Or lakes and witnessed the majesty of the Cape Breton Highlands.
From Cape Breton, we sailed westward and into the Bay of Fundy pushing almost as far as Halls Harbour before turning south and heading towards Yarmouth and the south western shore. The bay treated us to an absolutely stunning sunset, the first of many we saw this year.
We spent time in or near Mahone Bay’s sheltered communities of Chester, Indian Point, Tancook, East River and Sunnybrook. An idyllic week was spent in one of my favourite parts of the world. We also visited all the shoreline of St. Margaret’s Bay and communities near Peggy’s Cove. Sailing along with the schooner fleet during their race week was a lovely sight.
With a longer trip east and then north to the Northumberland Strait with three stops in PEI, we stretched our legs a bit and for the first time since 2019, left Nova Scotian waters. The ship was well received in PEI and Atlantic Canadian hospitality was proven strong once again.
With a last trip along the Eastern Shore, we were again reminded of the diverse geography and people of Nova Scotia. Guysborough County is a wild, beautiful place and the landscape could be from any time in the last several thousands of years.
My favourite event this year? Sailing into Lunenburg with Elder Todd Labrador and his daughter Melissa alongside their voyaging birch bark canoe. It was such a powerful moment as two moments in history briefly coexisted. At the foot of the hills of Lunenburg it was easy to imagine the history of Nova Scotia unfolding in mere moments.
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, N.S.
There, it’s done. By the end of the day Bluenose II will rest quietly and alone. The voices of the crew are gone but their spirit and stories will live on to be part of the ship’s story. For me, this was my 35th season of being involved with the ship in some capacity. Where does the time go? Blown away with the wind I suppose. It’s no good being melancholy, it was a great year with a wonderful crew.
Over the past week the crew have been busy down-rigging and storing away the ship’s equipment for the winter. Sails and rope are the easy part. They are stripped, labeled, and hung up with care. Then comes the million other parts of the ship. Every year we try to be careful and note where everything goes. Some of it invariably ends up in the wrong box on the wrong shelf. Life jackets are hung in the warm and dry, bunker gear (fire suits), survival suits, and rain gear are laid out neatly. Safety gear is gathered, the expiry dates checked and added to our database and winter purchase orders as necessary. Flammable materials are stowed carefully or disposed of. Dirty rags are cleaned, dried, and sorted, and paint slops are disposed of through the Fisheries Museum.
This year we had the weather to complete some extra maintenance, which was a blessing. We spent a week servicing the rigging, hull, boats and anything we could get our hands on. We were even able to get some oil on the deck to help protect it for the winter. Every millimetre of paint or oil on a surface will help keep fresh water out. Fresh water is dangerous to ships for a couple of reasons. The first is that it creates a warm damp environment for rot spores to settle. The second is that it will fill up a small crack and then freeze and expand and then fill up again. These small cracks in the wood get bigger and bigger and then there is more space for warm damp homes for the rot and the process is endless. Taking care as early in the process makes a big difference in the maintenance cycle and eventually the life of the vessel.
One of my projects in the fall is to supply the crew with the appropriate paperwork to leave us and possibly move on with their marine careers and education. I date and sign their discharge books, fill out and sign their certificates of discharge and issue a steering testimonial. These three documents show how many days at sea, how many drills, how many hours at the wheel, the extreme ports of call and their position on the vessel. This year we spent 80 days at sea and the crew averaged about fifty hours each on the wheel. We travelled 3900 nautical miles between the upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy and Summerside, PEI and dozens of ports in between. My personal highlight was sailing into the Lunenburg harbour with Elder Labrador, his daughter Melissa and their voyaging birchbark canoe during Bluenose Days.
The 100th anniversary of Capt. Angus’ exploits with his ship and crew have been a great success. The committee, headed by Alan Creaser and Emily Sollows, have captured and recorded some history that may well have been forgotten. They have left a mark that will help the Bluenose story pass well into the next 100 years.
I’ll end with a very public thank you to Bluenose officers Erin, Vandon, Jay, Heather and Dale. I drink coffee and complain — they get the work done. They are the reason for our successes this year. Having this wonderful crew has allowed us to support the Bluenose story and promote the province.
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, N.S.
It’s raining halyards just now. Taking the lines off the ship is much, much quicker than carrying them aloft. Gravity, usually a concern for us, is our friend these days. To un-reave the halyards, we simply clear the decks and pull on the bitter end. Each time around they get 70 or 80 feet longer and the sound they make is particular, a soft whirring and the line falls and then a thwack as the bitter end snaps onto the deck like a whip. The last pull of the peak halyard is almost 600’ long, that really makes a satisfying sound.
Prior to the halyards coming down, the sails are carried off and then the booms and gaffs are swung ashore. This is all interesting work as we repurpose block and tackle to lift these heavy Douglas fir timbers onto the wharf. The biggest one we do ourselves is the main gaff. Weighing in around one thousand pounds and fifty odd feet long it’s a big timber to swing around. I have certainly made a mess of it in my time so I am extra careful when we are handling it.
The training for the crew continues as does the team work. Learning to rig block and tackle in new ways and how to control heavy loads on a belaying pin is a skill not many have these days. They also continue to work together as a team. The main sail, which is 4100 square feet, about 76 feet long and weighs about 1000 lbs, requires everybody to handle it into the truck. As always, many thanks to Mosher Motors for helping with the shore based dory which is so helpful in carting sails and lines around to their winter storage sheds.
We did manage to get all the sails but the mainsail off when they were dry. With gallons and gallons caught up in the furled sail, we had to go out into the bay with just the mainsail set. Blue Rocks must have been puzzled as we sat nose into the wind, close to still for over an hour. I’m sure we were a sight to behold! The crew sat and enjoyed the sunshine and lack of work, just happy to exist in the moment. Once the sail was down the mate had them cutting lines and bundling up the sail. As we motored past Feltzen South for the last time this year, the sail was all but off the boom and just about ready to be lifted ashore.
This morning, (Sunday) we moved to our winter berth behind the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. This is closer to our rigging shed and makes for quicker work as we can use a hand cart to move the blocks and halyards ashore. The museum, although a separate entity from the ship, is managed by the Lunenburg Marine Museum Society. This volunteer board manages both the museum and the Bluenose II. The staff at the museum are always friendly and accommodating and it’s a pleasure to be here. The ship keeper was aboard the Theresa E. Connor this morning as we slipped past on the mirror smooth harbour and was quick to yell a quip at us. He caught me with my hands in my pockets leaning on the lifeline as we approached the dock. I guess I wasn’t working hard enough! Even with the distraction we managed to tie up with little fuss.
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, N.S.
This is always bittersweet for me. The technical aspects of managing the ship are challenging and there is a true sense of satisfaction in keeping the ship and crew safe. The “dry and warm” usually associated with “safe” are not always possible! From weather management, logistics, communications, passage planning, mechanical and hotel services, the logistics of feeding the crew and the physical moving of the ship the officers are a team that keep us moving along and all paddling in the same direction. Keeping everybody happy is another kettle of fish altogether. Interrupted sleep patterns, physical adversity, either being cold, or wet or mentally tired, all from the six month uninterrupted season wear on all of us from time to time. This aspect of the job is beneficial to our crew as they get older and move into different periods of life. Living in close quarters, being challenged to do your best or your best at the moment is great training, learning to lean against your troubles and push with your shipmates is a great life lesson.
As I’m writing, I also reflect on how privileged we are to have the Bluenose experience both from a modern perspective and from a historical one. Our last leg of the summer was on the Eastern Shore, beautiful, remote, underpopulated and yet another part of Nova Scotia geography. To have a chance to explore the coastline aboard a national icon is still life-changing. With good rain gear, fresh hot food and the occasional shower, life is pretty good on the ship. Looking at things from a historical perspective is even more amazing. We have lots of clean fresh water, down below is dry and warm and the bilges are sweet. Most of the crew have tablets or phones and the ship has a library and a stock of movies. The watches are ever-ongoing but certainly not six hours on and six hours off. Compared to a fishing schooner of the 1920s, we live in the lap of luxury. I asked Capt. Matthew Mitchell once, “how did you do it? How did you survive aboard a schooner for months at a time?” After a long pause his answer was, “We didn’t know any better.” I suppose that was true for all of our communities at the time. Kids came out of school at ten or twelve and went fishing or went to work. It’s just the way it was, and it was hard.
I’ll close this week and note the passing of two notables in the Bluenose family. The first was Lisa MacIssac. Lisa worked for Tourism Nova Scotia for years and was a great friend to ship and crew alike. Always with a smile and a joke she was a pleasure to be around and great company.
The second note is about Noble Gignac or ‘Gigs’ as we knew him. A long time cook on the ship, Gigs had a deadly sense of humour, and rarely missed a chance to throw a quip at a crew member. From roast beef dinners with all the fixin’s to homemade French fries, Gigs kept years of shipmates fed and entertained. Quick tempered and even quicker to smile, Gigs is a part of Bluenose II lore and his stories will be recounted for many years to come. Rest easy, Gigs.
Bluenose II is anchored near Hacketts Cove, St Margaret’s Bay this evening. It’s cool and clear with a nearly full moon hanging overhead. The wind is from the southwest and didn’t go down with the sun as it usually does in the summer. Today was a cracker as we sailed past Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse with the main gaff topsail and flying jib pulling over the regular four lowers. It’s always special to sail here and check in with such an iconic part of Nova Scotia’s tourism image. The rocks were of course covered with people enjoying a fine day.
Over the past week we have been visiting the Eastern Shore, a wild and rugged part of our fair province. The land here is again different with little glacial moraine or drumlins. As the song goes, “rocks and trees and trees and rocks.” With a weather delay to start our trip, we scooted up the coast for a quick tour around Tor Bay, a circle in front of Larry’s River and then off to Country Harbour for a similar visit and to have a look at the new ferry, THEODORE O’HARA, named after the first light keeper in Port Bickerton. After an exchange of whistles and a quick talk on the radio we went off to our first anchorage in Fisherman’s Harbour.
After Fisherman’s Harbour we dropped into Port Hilford for a lunch time anchorage and then with a building breeze, we headed to Liscomb to find some shelter for the night. Given the weather reports, it was a good decision.
I can’t imagine, or perhaps I can imagine all too well the worry of being on a large schooner in the 1920s in a small bay and sitting through the night hoping your anchor would hold. I have experienced this a few times and with modern electronics and engines found my way to the next anchorage with relative ease. The thought of having to raise sail by hand and then hoping the first tack was to windward is enough to keep me up at night. Even with all the modern help I still lie awake and listen to our schooner talk. When the anchor slips across the bottom, even just a bit, you can feel it. It starts with a slight heel as the vessel shears away from pointing into the wind. Then there is a shudder, a slight jerk, and a ripple of vibration through the hull, and you know you are several feet closer to the shoreline behind you. Repeat this over and over, check the position, wind direction, forecast, barometer and then it’s back to the bunk to continue the conversation with the schooner. Eventually, morning comes or the wind eases, but sleep is not so easy.
We had a great time exploring the Eastern Shore and sharing Bluenose II with such a beautiful part of Canada. Port Dufferin, Spry Harbour Ecum Secum, Owls Head and a last stop in Jeddore to say hi to Sarah from @SmallHistory. Tomorrow we will slip into Lunenburg and continue with our open house schedule. Why not find a nice day and pop over to Lunenburg and meet the crew! Call first or check online as we have one or two sailing commitments over the next week. A sincere thank you to all who took photos of the ship and posted them online or shared them with us.
Schooner Bluenose II – Port Hilford, NS
Good day from the ‘Artinsula,’ or Port Hilford as we know it. It’s been a busy two weeks onboard with a few stories to share! After Bluenose Days in Lunenburg we headed down the coast towards the Canso Causeway and the Canso Lock. As our departure was delayed for an hour or so, we passed through Chedabucto Bay with a setting sun and reached the lock after dark. The swing bridge and lock in the causeway between Cape Breton Island and the mainland allow ships as long as seven hundred feet to pass, saving the time and expense of going around the north end of the island. As the lock gates opened, I felt the bow lift to the swell born by the north wind. With a cheery goodbye to the lock keepers, we cast off our lines and headed out into St George’s Bay.
The forecast we had was marginal but would have been ok, but the wind we received made life somewhat uncomfortable for the night. With sheets of white spray covering the foredeck as we plunged into the oncoming seas, the crew were transformed from summer job employees to sailors. They faced the same conditions that schooners going to look for fish have faced for years. Happily, we finally weathered Cape George and were able to bear off for Pictou and a safe anchorage.
After Pictou, we headed northwest and underneath the Confederation Bridge to land in Summerside for the night. We managed to carry some sail into the harbour, hopefully representing Nova Scotia well. The next morning we let go our lines and headed to Charlottetown where we were met by representatives from provincial and local governments. The cook was presented with 100 pounds of hand dug PEI potatoes. “Bud the Spud,” as Stompin’ Tom would sing!
The following day we had open decks and over 1000 people stood quietly in line to have a look at our national icon. Also of interest to our visitors was our travelling museum and pop up store. Longtime Bluenose friends Greg and Jeff filled in the details of the history of Bluenose and sold some T-shirts and hats as well!
We left the dock the next morning and were half way through putting our sails up when a 700’ bulk carrier slipped her lines and left the wharf on her way out the harbour. This caused quite a stir on our little ship. Unfortunately with the wind coming off the dock and Bluenose II making headway to a point in front of the ship I had little choice but to accelerate away and use the wind created by forward movement to finish setting the sails. As we headed out the channel making 9.8 knots we could see a big steel bow chasing us at 10.2 knots. We quickly found a lay-by and pulled over to let them pass.
Georgetown, Port Hawkesbury, Arichat and Sheet Harbour all supplied safe ports for us. Arichat was particularly nice as the local wharf owners, Premium Seafoods, allowed us to dock for the evening and several of us were entertained by friends we have made there over the years. We took advantage of the wharf and again opened decks for visitors to come aboard.
Currently we are on our last leg of our summer schedule and cruising Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.
Schooner Bluenose II – Sheet Harbour, NS
Bluenose II came to anchor in Sheet Harbour yesterday morning shortly after 09:00. The crew are tired but they all pitched in and furled the sails and catted the anchor in good time. We are now lying happily with two shots of chain on the bottom.
It seems like ages since we sailed into Lunenburg with Elder Labrador. We have certainly put on some miles since then, in fact we are well over three thousand nautical miles for the summer. In straight line terms that would put us well across the Atlantic to be sure. Of course this time of year weather is the key to our movements. We have long known that ‘heaving to’ at sea while a system passes is of no advantage to us. We either lose ground or burn fuel, food and crew while trying to make small gains. It’s much more economical (and safe) to keep my young crew in a harbour. As always, we give up long before Bluenose II will. She is strong and stout and will not let us down. Being at sea in rough weather is always a chore but likely affects the cook more than most. Gigs, Reggie and for the past 16 years, Dale have always provided meals for cold and tired crew with little complaint. Can you imagine cooking in your kitchen as it rose and fell ten feet over and over again. Not to mention the ten or fifteen degree angle of heel so nothing can be simply put down on a counter and left. Cakes baked in these conditions are sometimes 1/2 inch thick at one end of the pan and three inches thick at the other! One of my favourite quotes from Reggie B, and I have many as my respect for him is immense, is that unlike the line in the song Edmund Fitzgerald where the cook says, “ Boys it’s too rough to feed ya” Reggie said he would always find us something. And I never doubted that for one minute.
At the other end of the ship where I live and work we have been busy too. With the change to fall weather we are endlessly downloading forecasts from as many sources as possible. ECWMF, GFS, UKMO, SPIRE, Env Can, grib files (unprocessed data) and then private sources on top of all that. We then run these in graphical processors, tables and written format. It’s endless and at times overwhelming. After many years of worry and chewing on forecasts and models I’ve come to some simplification. I take the worst forecast and prepare the ship and crew for those conditions. I take the best forecast and pray like anything that is what turns up for weather and is benign. This of course plays havoc with our schedule and leads to disappointment in ports where we cancel our visits. I met a pilot once who told me, “you are better to be on the runway wishing you were in the air than in the air and wishing you were on the runway.” True words, well spoken and often quoted.
Wow, what a week it has been. Bluenose Days, turned upside down due to Covid-19 and then threatened with a tropical depression at the very last minute, ended up being a great sunlit success. A highlight was sailing alongside Mi’kmaq Elder Todd Labrador in his oceangoing birch bark canoe in the Lunenburg Harbour.
Beside the fact that Elder Labrador’s great-grandfather made the hoops for Captain Angus, it was also a chance for us to share some light on history being recreated and used. There is a birch bark canoe at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. It is a prized possession and lives in a climate-controlled glass case like a sleeping beauty. It is an important artifact and should be treated with this respect, however you can’t see it in its natural environment. Elder Labrador brings the craft of his ancestors to life. You can see how it moves, watch how it responds to his body weight, watch how he and his daughter Melissa can make the craft move and sing. This is the end of history where I like to be. You can’t get this from the sleeping beauty. You need people like Elder Labrador to wake the princess and bring the story to life.
Bluenose II is a reproduction of a great piece of our history. What Bluenose II does really well is to provide a lens to her period in history. No, she doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s too big. Our history is as wide and varied as the fish in the sea. Like those fish, some are good eating, some are bony and hard to swallow. If we all continue to tell our stories, we can learn our own history from the other’s perspective.
Ross Farm Museum is a great example of a living and working historical undertaking, and the Highland Village Museum in Iona is another. Under sail into a small fishing harbour, passing Peggy’s Cove, or at anchor near the local wharf, Bluenose II fosters conversations. “Schooners used to stop here for fresh water,” “they built schooners on that slope of land,” or maybe, “it was in ships of that size in which the Acadians were deported,” “it was ships of that size that the Black Loyalists set off to live in Freetown, Sierra Leone.”
Our history is this wide deep pond and we are blessed that we have so many ways to access it. We can all ask our elders and teachers for stories. We can visit our local museums and provincial institutions. We can find people like Elder Labrador, a neighbour with a make and break boat engine, or some antique fire trucks. We can read and visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown and the Shelburne Dory Shop Museum. Sail on Bluenose II (next year) and visit the Fisheries Museum’s boat shop. History is all around us and often the foundation of our communities. Whether we like it or not, our foundations are intertwined, all of us. Why not share our history and experiences with each other? Seeing other points of view will help us understand that the road that led us to where we are is the best way for us to walk forward together.
At the recent unveiling of the Capt. Angus Walters bust, I was asked to share a few thoughts about Capt. Angus. Despite my grey whiskers and somewhat elderly appearance, I did not have the chance to meet him, but having met some of his crew, other fishing captains, noted historians and authors, and having sailed for four seasons aboard Bluenose II with Capt Wayne, I have some measure of Capt. Angus. For those of you who knew him, if I am off in left field then this isn’t the first tall tale ever told in Lunenburg!
Capt. Angus was a diminutive man by some measure. I certainly identify with that feeling this season with three of my crew being over 6’5”, but the height of the body is not the vessel that defines how much spirit and determination that a person can hold. As Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, others have it thrust upon them.” Capt. Angus was a unique individual who was a combination of all three. Learning from a young age aboard Nyanza, his father’s schooner, Angus would likely have been eager to take command with the bravado of youth. The sea is a great leveller, and I’m sure that Capt. Angus was humbled and scared a time or two in his younger years. Like iron in Vernon Walters’ forge, each tempering and quenching made Angus stronger and tougher. This is what it takes to be a fishing schooner captain and I suspect a fishing captain today. Rugged, dogged determination to fish every single minute that is made available to you. Every minute that is questionable, borderline, and fishable is used. I understand that Capt. Angus was very proud that he never lost a man at sea. In a time when it was so common that the architecture of the town was built around the possibility of men and ships being lost, he never lost a man. He was, however, a highliner coming home with the biggest catches. He knew when to push, and when to worry about his men and send them fishing anyway. He had the fortitude and strength of will to exercise his vessels and crews to the limit.
In my view, it was this lifetime of experience that set him up to be the racer he turned out to be. Sailing with no engine, he must have learned every trick in the book and written a few chapters himself.
We do not honour him just because he was a great fisher or even a great racer. We honour him because he represented us, all of us. Lumberjacks, sawyers, miners, blacksmiths, sail makers, coopers, dory builders, merchants, fish brokers, chandlers — all of those it took to build, maintain and fish a schooner. This little guy from Lunenburg with his Roué designed schooner and Lunenburg crew went on to represent us to the world. He met kings and queens, graced our money and stamps and arguably had one of the most well known ships in the great Atlantic. It is right and proper that Capt. Angus is remembered in bronze together with the trophies and memories of the achievements of a life well lived. I hope that future generations will come to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic to learn and reflect upon the lessons the master is still able to teach.
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, NS
I’m sitting in the chartroom this afternoon listening to guests aboard the ship talk with the deck watch. It’s such a strange sensation to have been kept in isolation for the past year and now to be allowing guests aboard! There are masks and limitations of course but we are open and people can come aboard. Like the provincial museums right now, we charge no admission and are welcoming people aboard from 11:00 – 19:00. The travelling museum is here in Lunenburg and open as well. The roadshow is a great place to dip into Bluenose history before heading to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic for the full story from birch bark canoes to side trawlers and lots of schooner history too!
This past voyage for us has been busy and some of it seems like 100 years ago. With visits to Chester for Race Week and a chance to sail with HMCS Oriole and then off to Princes Inlet and an encounter with the junior sailing program. We then travelled off to the “west’ard” as they say here and stopped in Port Mouton near the famed Carters Beach. This area of Nova Scotia very near Keji Adjunct is wild and beautiful. With two resorts perched on the shore, The Quarter Deck and White Point Beach Resort, the area is well served for great day trips into the local wilderness or beach, and fantastic hospitality and cuisine in the evening. Port Mouton itself was very welcoming and many boats came by to see us anchored and to say hello and ask some questions.
In the morning, we heaved up anchor and motored down the coast to Shelburne. Shelburne Harbour is 10 miles long from the fairway buoy to the inner edges and home to many industries. There are huge fish farms in the bay which take up acres of space. There is also a great mid-sized shipyard owned by Irving. They just recently finished a mid-life refit on the coast guard ship, “Kopit Hopson 1752” and already have a tugboat on the slip. Sandy Point Lobster Ltd. also made themselves known to the ship and it was great to catch up with Bob I, even for a very quick visit.
After the hospitality of Shelburne, with a formal greeting by the MP, the mayor, the warden, the fire chief, an armed regiment and a piper, we headed off to the privateer port of Liverpool. Anchoring in 25 feet of water near the old Bowater paper mill, the ship’s company set to cleaning up the ship after the sail into the harbour. After the dress lights were up I was shanghaied by a couple of Alumni and attended a family BBQ ashore. Oh the stories that were shared! The mate and the off watch crew were welcomed by The Brooklyn Yacht Club. A pleasant time ashore was had by all who were given time off.
Saluted with cannon fire on arrival and departure, we hoisted the anchor and headed for home. With an hour spare in our schedule we headed up in towards Green Bay to show a scrap of sail at Risser’s Beach and Crescent Beach. It’s a shallow bay so we couldn’t get too close. From there we “set the patch” as they used to say in Capt Angus’ day and rounded Battery point in Lunenburg under full sail. I wish I could have seen it instead of worrying about the width of the channel and if my race car fishing schooner was going to take off on me! Close to 300 tons doesn’t always accelerate easily but it doesn’t stop on a dime either!
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, NS
How is it August already? We have a saying on the ship, ‘Long days, short weeks’. We have times when it seems that the day will never end — I’m sure you can relate. Standing watch by yourself in the rain and dark for four hours, rust busting the anchor chain for the day, even meeting people you don’t know all day can be tiring either mentally or physically. The other side of the coin is that many of our days are similar. Sailing in Mahone Bay is much the same as St Margaret’s Bay and standing anchor watch in the dark could be anywhere. This similarity leads to a loss of perspective of time. We aboard often ask each other what day of the week it is and as the ship operates seven days a week, it doesn’t really matter other than moderating our expectations of our interactions ashore where people do largely have weekends and take holidays.
As tired as we are sometimes either from physical or mental exercise, I know it can not hold a candle to the crew working aboard the schooners one hundred years ago. Getting up hours before dawn to bait the thousands of hooks in the tubs of trawl, fishing all day, and then cleaning and salting cod long into the night, only to repeat the whole process the next day. I suppose one works to the standard of the day. I know that fishers today work long, long hours— lobstering, scalloping, or long-lining, the modern day crew has little respite. Today’s trips are shorter, measured often in weeks as opposed to months of a fishing schooner but today’s fishing is carried out in worse weather and depends on technology to keep everybody safe. Hard work is hard work and being away from home is the same today as it was one hundred years ago. Parents miss their kids and being away from family and community is not always easy.
Speaking of community, Nova Scotia really seems to be embracing summer and the chance to safely gather. The Bluenose 100 Committee is helping support that idea and has sponsored a mobile exhibit that follows the ship from port to port. This trailer allows for a deeper dive into Bluenose history and is staffed by a very knowledgeable crew. Two of the staff are alumni of Bluenose II and the rest have travelled with the museum for several years. Please drop by and learn a bit more about the ship. They also have a small store with hats and t-shirts available.
There are lots of community events going on here in Lunenburg over the next month as well. Lunenburg Art Gallery, DocFest, Folk Harbour music festival, are all planning events. My big highlight for the summer is getting a chance to sail with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. The 431 Air Demonstration Squadron will be with us August 25th. Although this is a non aerobatic display, it is always a thrill to see professionals operating at a high level. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds crew will be in Lunenburg as well to sign autographs and meet the public.
Bluenose II will be in Lunenburg this weekend (Aug 7th and 8th), welcoming guests aboard. Of course masks are required etc, etc. We all know the drill and our continued low infection numbers show that we continue to be a province that supports each other in all ways. On Monday we are taking a day to spread some paint around and do some rigging work and then we are off again. Chester to open Chester Race Week, Princess Inlet, Port Mouton, Shelburne and Liverpool before returning to Lunenburg. I’m pleased to report we will be docked in Shelburne and will be permitted to have open decks for visitors.
Schooner Bluenose II – French Village, St. Margaret’s Bay
I’m standing the last part of the 8-12 watch this evening. The bosun and I split the watch so I can keep up my skills in the technical running of an anchor watch. The second mate looks after the 12-4 and the chief mate the 4-8 watch. The deckhands stand watch one out of every three or four nights while we are anchored, but the mates don’t get such a rest and must learn to cope with broken sleep patterns. Sleep management is certainly a skill that one learns when living and working on a ship. Now let’s be clear, from Capt. Angus through the last 100 years to the modern day fisher, sleep deprivation has been a serious issue and we on a modern schooner do not work the hours that these men and women have worked and continue to work. Most of us in modern society have no idea what it takes to fish for a living or to live at work.
Tonight we are anchored in French Village, the second last port of our “Bay Tour”. In Mahone Bay, we visited Indian Point where a tremendous fleet of boats welcomed us. We also stopped by Princes Inlet to visit a youth regatta. The wind piped up that afternoon and at one point we were making great speed in 25-30 knots of wind. After an overcast night in Mahone Bay we headed to Chester for the 75th anniversary of the Bluenose Class sailboats. Designed by William Roué, twenty two of these lovely one-design yachts filled the harbour for their annual championship regatta. This class has stood the test of time and is still being built today.
Head Harbour in St. Margaret’s Bay is a beautiful cove with strange water. All the water from the Pockwock watershed drains through the Head of St. Margaret’s Bay and into the ocean. The current changes the shape of the waves and gives the perception of movement. The effect is quite astounding once you realize what is happening.
After heaving up the anchor this morning we had a cracker of a day. We set the four lower sails, main topsail and jib topsail, and sailed to Mill Cove at the other end of the bay. From there we altered course for Queensland beach and Cleveland Provincial Park. Two hours later we had the topsails stowed and were making 10 knots reaching off in a building breeze. We covered most of the bay until taking in the last of the sail late in the afternoon. This evening the mate and I along with four deckhands attended a reception sponsored by The St. Margaret’s Bay Sailing Club, the newly formed Schooner Rescue Association and the Nova Scotia Schooner Association. It was great to meet old friends and make new ones. The ship was presented with a Burgee from the boat club and a mug from the schooner rescue group. Off to Hubbards tomorrow morning after making a quick visit to Peggy’s Cove.
Schooner Bluenose II – Bedford Basin
Can the air be so thick that the old girl won’t round up into the wind? It’s so humid here in Bedford Basin the air is thick and warm and so different from the thick fog of Pubnico and Cape Sable Island although the moisture content seems to be about the same!
It’s been another busy week aboard the ship and we have been making the rounds along the south shore between Lunenburg and Halifax. We had a buffer day in our schedule earlier in the week that we took full advantage of. Buffer days allow us to have a day for maintenance, training, or weather-related delays. They allow for an extra day at the wharf so our schedule doesn’t become put off for an entire summer by one small event. Sometimes the chief engineer will do some preventative maintenance, sometimes we get to have some fun with the crew but the needs of the ship and her mission are always put first.
This week we put to sea and raised the gaff topsails and flying jib for the first time in quite a while. Having the topmasts down last year and some changes in our officer core means that we have lost some institutional knowledge about sailing the ship. We need to train the trainers! Often this is just a case of, “this is the Bluenose way of doing things,” meaning that we all learn the finer technical points of sailing the ship as a team. In our deckhand core only a few have been aloft to work at sea. Being on the top of an upside down pendulum while trying to tie a bowline with one hand is a completely different experience than looking at the Lunenburg waterfront while tied to the dock and that is test enough for anybody.We had two days of perfect weather and the time to set topsails and go sailing. A series of tacks did prove to be a challenge on the second day but we managed to sort everything out in the end.
This week we visited Terence Bay which is a village from another world. The landscape is stark and beautiful with granite jutting out from the thin soil and boulders dotting the barrens. What a contrast to the soft mountains of the Cape Breton Highlands or the tide-worn cliffs of the Bay of Fundy. Nova Scotia is truly as beautiful as the people who have made their lives here.
In addition to Terence Bay, we did some sail pasts in Shad Bay and Back Bay, and then had a stop in Sambro for the night. Sambro was very welcoming with a great fleet of boats out to welcome us to the port. There was a great mix of boats from lobster boats, yachts, speed boats and even a Shelburne Dory painted in Bluenose colours down to the bottom paint and scroll work!
We are now anchored in Bedford, near Admiral Harry DeWolf Park. We also passed the new navy vessel, HMCS Harry DeWolf at the Halifax Dockyard. If you would like to read about a sailor who was obviously cut from similar sail cloth to Capt. Angus, Hard-Over-Harry’s biography is certainly worth a look. Bob Gordon has just had such an article published in Halifax magazine. It can be found online and is worth the read.
Off to visit the communities that dot the coast of Mahone Bay and St Margarets Bay! Hope to see you there.
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg/E’se’katik
As I type I can hear the whoosh and rustle of deck brushes scrubbing the deck over my head. Three inches of quarter sawn Douglas fir painted on the inside and a healthy covering of oil on the outer surfaces. This cleaning of the ship is a never-ending, ongoing process. On deck we scrub the decks and bulwarks with a mild soap solution, we often use salt water to scrub the decks as it helps preserve the wood. Fresh water, once it finds its way into tiny cracks and crevasses, warmed by the summer heat, provides a great home for the tiny fungi that cause rot. The fungi don’t like salt water so much so we use the fire pump to hose the decks with water from the ocean whenever possible.
Finding rot or at least the conditions that promote it, is a never-ending game on a wooden ship. As the ship flexes while we are at sea, the paint sealing the wood will develop tiny cracks, wood opens as it dries and these checks will hold water, sometimes the shipwright who put two bits of wood together didn’t have a perfect fit, or didn’t apply quite enough caulking. In the end it doesn’t matter the cause, finding it is the game. This is one of the reasons that we scrape the ship every year — we are looking for openings, places of refuge for the fungi or even the start of the process. If we can find the small area, even the size of a pencil, we can remove the fungi and then change the water flow around the area. This small fix, like removing a small mole from your skin, can prevent major repercussions years down the road. As part of the crew’s learning process, we celebrate finding these small areas. Their initial reaction is concern and disappointment, however they eventually learn how important ongoing maintenance is for any physical object. We hope that they take these lessons for their lives ashore after they finish their time aboard.
This week is a big week for the Bluenose 100 celebrations. On Monday we had a visit from Dalene and Peter Heck of Hecktic Travels. They are a lovely couple who travel the world and share their experiences. While visiting us they were special guests on the Kilted Chef’s cooking show. The Kilted Chef, Alain Bossé is a Nova Scotian chef who has developed a great following online with his show that promotes local food and flavour. While he was here Chef Bossé produced two shows looking at new interpretations of traditional Bluenose fare.
Yesterday, we had some local youth associated with Lunenburg Doc Fest. They are running a week-long program for young people interested in documentary filmmaking. This year the focus is on Bluenose 100! They were here for several hours yesterday filming interviews, scenes for historical recreation and learning about the ship. In a lovely coincidence, Steve MacIntyre dropped by to play Stan Rogers’ song Bluenose and he allowed the young documentarians to film it. The video is the Bluenose II Facebook and Instagram pages.
Today, Eastlink TV is going to be aboard for a couple of hours to film a travel-based show. There is a lot going on with Bluenose 100 to be sure. Check out their social media pages or drop by the store and grab a new hat and ask about the schedule of events and promotions.
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg/E’se’katik
Home. Although this trip out was a short one it somehow certainly didn’t feel it. We were all happy to see the early morning sun rising over Eastern Points and illuminating the lighthouse at Battery Point. The first light keeper at Battery Point was John Ernst who started in November of 1864 with an annual salary of $240. I am unable to find the record of the light keeper in 1921, but we can imagine they would have seen hundreds of schooners pass by the light in all conditions. I wonder what they thought of Bluenose and Capt Angus when he first passed by. The keeper of the light must have had some insight as the ship grew older and began to suffer from the toll of fishing the banks. To have this aging, juxtaposed with the ever growing fame of Bluenose and her crew must have given pause to reflect as would the changing of the vessels found in the harbour. Motor schooners like the Theresa E. Connor, which eventually gave way to the side trawlers, like Cape Sable. As hand lining gave way to long lining and then trawling with nets the age of sail passed by, likely with little comment. We are all often enamoured with the new and shiny and rarely notice or lament the passing of time and technology. I’m interested in the stories the lighthouse keepers could tell. The long term relationships with ships, and the passing of time. The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic has a great overview of the history of fishing here on the Atlantic coast. From a birchbark canoe belonging to the first people of the land to a diesel-powered side dragger, the history of the fishery is well portrayed.
Let’s leap 100 years ahead and talk a bit about ocean science and the small part that Bluenose II is playing to help gather data. We are working with a local company called Luna Sea Solutions and collecting data when we are able. We have been doing this by towing an underwater drone affectionately named Jennie, after my mother. Once recovered, we upload all the data collected, send it along to the team ashore and they add it to the growing collection of data. Well, there was an incident. I’ll recount this as told to me by the watch on deck. We were motor sailing in St. Mary’s Bay near Meteghan while waiting for slack water at Petit Passage. All of a sudden a large tuna shot from the water astern. This was clearly visible to several members of the watch. And immediately afterwards the drone floated to the surface upside down. The mate recovered the drone and found the salinity meter had suffered catastrophic damage and the unit would no longer “fly” as it was unbalanced. Although it sounds fantastic, I suspect the story is true and Jennie suffered from a tuna strike.
Collecting ocean data is extremely difficult, even the physics of building a wave rider buoy like the one placed outside Lunenburg Bay has incredible challenges. Measuring the tidal flow in the Bay of Fundy is a job filled with challenges, both physical and scientific. Conditions test scientists and their gear as they do the fishers who work at sea while we ashore safely ask the fishmonger behind the counter, “how fresh is that haddock?” If you are interested in the data being collected around Nova Scotia have a look at https://lunaoceans.app
A list of BatteryPoint Lighthouse keepers as posted on Lighthousefriends.com
John A. Ernst (1864 – 1896), Mrs. John A. Ernst (1897), Henry Naas (1897 – 1908), Ira B. Heckman (1922 – 1922), William Heisler (1922 – 1929), L. B. Heisler (1929 – 1931), D. McIsaac (1931 – 1934), F. Lohnes (1934 – 1935), Harvey L. Huskins (1962 – 1987).
Schooner Bluenose II – St. Mary’s Bay
Since our last log we have made our way along the south shore of Nova Scotia and into the world famous Bay of Fundy. As we move around the province I am continually astounded by the ever-changing geography that we see. Cape Breton and the tail of the Appalachian Mountains, the barrens by Peggy’s Cove, The rolling hills and fertile soil of the Annapolis basin and the wind and sea blasted shoreline of the French Shore. As we look from seaward towards the land we often can see the larger scale either written along the cliffs or in the great sprawl of landscape as it stretches away inland. The scenery is always changing with geography, light and weather, and we here on Bluenose II are constantly reminded how lucky we are to live in Nova Scotia.
As we sailed along the coast here in St. Mary’s Bay, we have had several history lessons. One of our deckhands, Arianne, who has strong roots in Meteghan, has shared her family history of the area. The Acadians certainly had a rough go here with the expulsion. I have a friend and shipmate from Meteghan who has a needle point hanging in his house that says, “The Acadians love Nova Scotia so much they moved here twice.” And we are lucky to have them. I am also reminded of Mi’kmaw Elder Todd Labrador’s stories about his grandfather paddling across the Bay of Fundy in a voyaging canoe. A braver man than I to be sure. The birchbark voyaging canoe is an interesting design with its tall midsection and increased length. He has posted some photos on social media lately which are very interesting.
On the Bluenose 100 front we have several events due up this week including a filming for the Lunenburg Doc Fest and a filming with the Kilted Chef. Both will be aired later in the summer, keep following the Bluenose 100 and Bluenose II social media pages.
While in Digby, with our storm modified schedule, we were treated to a feed of Digby clams. What a treat! Cookie steamed them up with butter and then made clam chowder with the leftovers. Digby is famous for clams, scallops and seafood of all types. It was also the home to some great schooner races as recorded in Frederick William Wallace’s book, Roving Fisherman. He also wrote a novel called On Blue Water about a boy growing up on the Fundy Coast. I’m waiting patiently for the Canadian Film board to turn it into a movie!
This morning we are on our way to Yarmouth, arriving at supper time. We are always pleased to visit the one-time shipping capital of Canada. More ships were built, owned and sold here than many other places. There are two great museums in town and I am disappointed we will be anchoring and the crew won’t be able to visit. They, being young, will miss the Yarmouth social life and the waterfront fun most young sailors look for!
Princes Inlet – Schooner Bluenose II
As I’m writing, the chief officer Erin is at the next table getting ready to test half of the crew for Covid. Using self administered nose swabs from a laboratory called CDL we are one of hundreds of companies across Canada taking place in work place covid testing. It’s quite an easy process and the crew are more than happy to participate. Now that we are open to the public for deck tours while in Lunenburg, the added sense of security is appreciated by all.
In other news, you may have read that we have had to change our schedule due to Tropical Storm Elsa. The mates and I started watching the storm as it travelled across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Caribbean islands and then across Cuba and the coast of Florida. We have a huge amount of resources as we do this. American, British, European, and Canadian governments all have huge resources dedicated to weather forecasting. Some of the most powerful computers in the world are used to forecast weather both long and short term forecasting.
In the case at hand with tropical Storm Elsa, each “Met Office” will generate a possible storm track as will multiple private forecasters. These are based on past storm tracks in similar conditions and the current atmospheric conditions. As an example they will look at the air pressure, humidity and wind conditions in the Caribbean and then at weather systems across North America, throw in the temperature of the sea water and the condition of the Gulf Stream and you can begin to see how complicated it all is. We as Mariners must take all this information and try to make some sense out of it. Is the storm going to pass 400 miles offshore or is it going to go up the Bay of Fundy?
This is one of those times when the chips are down and a captain’s leadership is truly important. There have been several recent cases where captains have, either through bravado or economic pressure, failed in their responsibilities to keep the crew and ship safe. One of the funny problems about making safe decisions is that nothing happens. Sometimes, through luck or good management, the crew or public might not even realize that there was any possible danger to the ship. In those times of peace there will always be a voice saying, “It wasn’t so bad. You could have completed that part of your mission.” I met a pilot on the wharf one day who told me, “you are better being on the runway and wishing you were in the air, than being in the air and wishing you were on the runway!”
So today we look at the forecast track for Elsa and see that we have indeed made the correct decision not to be at anchor in the Bay of Fundy. We will be on the windy side of the storm but safe at the wharf in our home port.
Now cast your mind back to 100 years ago when the first notice of a tropical storm might be because you are becalmed in hot humid air and hundreds of miles from a port of refuge. Captain Angus and men like him had a different set of skills and abilities, a different set of responsibilities. They were responsible for catching the fish to feed their families, for bringing the crew through the storm and then home. Without dozens of forecasts, life was very different. The old sayings about the weather are often based on the experiences of generations of farmers and fishermen and loggers and their wives who flaked cod to dry in the sun. The old ways have a lot to teach us. Have you remembered your grandparents talking about the gulls moving inland before a storm? Have you listened to Mi’kmaq Elder Todd Labrador talking about the condition of the birchbark on the trees? There are indeed signs all around us about weather and climate, these combined with modern technology make a very powerful tool.
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg / E’se’katik
Sitting here in the officers’ mess I can hear the crew scrubbing the deck. “Decks and Brass” are a daily routine when we are in port and we try to rinse the dust of the land from the ship. Shining the brass is an art that the crew will all learn. “Little circles”, is the instruction passed through the last five decades of morning chores. It takes a couple of days of polishing to bring out the deep shine.
I thought today I would speak a bit about communications onboard Bluenose II. As we voyage around the eastern seaboard and Great Lakes our distance from shore varies from twenty miles to two hundred miles, the type and amount of information we are sending ashore also varies widely.
In general, all our official communication passes from Captain to Director of Operations, and is disseminated from each end. These messages can be as simple as a daily check in with position, status of crew and vessel and updated ETA. The typical, “All Good,” will usually suffice to say that we are ok for the next 24 hours. These messages can of course get longer as our situation changes. If the weather is against us our ETA could change significantly, the crew and I could be suffering from seasickness, we could have equipment failure in engineering or hotel systems. We also at times send a grocery list, fuel and water requirements or a parts request ahead of us with the hope any issues we have can be resolved in the next port. We also often send paperwork from the ship, from customs forms, immigration papers, even captain’s logs are sent from ship to the shore.
As I wrote earlier the distance that the information has to travel varies widely as does the receive capabilities on the shore side. As anybody in rural Nova Scotia can attest, cell phone towers are not always available. That being said, cell phones and tablets are the principal means of communication to and from the ship. This does mean I have to come on deck on a fairly regular basis and let my phone look for the nearest cell tower and check for email, text or phone calls.
As the distances get bigger and cell phones are no longer an option we generally move to satellite communications. Satellite based Telex, if you can believe it! The international regulatory bodies move slowly in the commercial marine world. The SAT-C as we call it is based on a per character charge so I tend to be economical with my words!
We also have a medium frequency/high frequency radio also known as a single side band radio. This is very similar to a shore based amateur ham radio. It can transmit great distances from hundreds to thousands of miles depending on the atmospheric conditions. The trick is you have to understand the atmosphere and radio wave propagation. It’s not rocket science but it does require some time understanding how radio waves work and some practice in deciphering the scratchy voice that is speaking.
All this has been developed within a hundred years. If you consider that the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk in October of 1905, fifty six years later humans were in space, not long afterwards on the moon. Angus and his crew saw a night sky with no satellites, few if any planes and likely no shoreside communications for the majority of their careers. Lunenburg is full of Widow’s Walks on top of houses where wives and families would keep watch for overdue schooners. Often the first news of a schooner or crew member being lost was a flag at half mast as the vessels entered the harbour. Lunenburg and indeed most fishing ports still thrive on spoken word news. News of catches, breakdowns, success and failure are all carried up the beach by sea foam and salt spray.
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, NS
Here we are back in Lunenburg, NS — homeport for Bluenose II and hundreds or thousands of other ships that have come before. As we come around the guardian breakwater and lighthouse that protect the Lunenburg harbour, I’ve always marvelled at the town that is revealed before us. With the multicoloured houses laid out neatly on the side of the hill it is easy to cast yourself back 100 years. With the geography, it is easy to cast yourself back a thousand years and picture the harbour with trees to the shoreline. As Lunenburg grew as a settled fishing community, the trees migrated to become the masts of sailing ships. I believe the quote is, “so many masts it looked like a forest of trees.”
After visiting the port of Canso last week, we made a stop in the fishing village of Whitehead. This quiet, well-protected harbour is always a treat for us to visit. While at anchor, the mates and I had endless discussions of the weather and the upcoming passage to Lunenburg. It is very much like that brief moment of peace as the roller coaster pauses at the top of the big drop. Your arms are up in the air, feet dangling and the excitement of the drop is tinged with a bit of healthy fear. Once the drop occurs you are powerless to stop the oncoming rush and acceleration.
As we heaved up anchor, we washed off the chain and stowed it neatly in the chain locker. We set the foresail, jumbo and tri-sail and headed up the coast. I say up the coast because Lunenburg is upwind from the eastern shore and Cape Breton. That’s why people say they are going down to Cape Breton when we usually consider North being up. I had great plans to do some sail training with the crew and help them gain more skills with being under sail. Of course, the forecast was contrary with a building sea and wind. The crew were chomping at the bit to get ashore, and all of a sudden the rollercoaster had dropped and we were pushing towards home.
The roller coaster sped up and the big corner of the track was outside of Halifax where we eased the sheets and cracked off towards Cross Island and Lunenburg Bay. Passing a dozen sunfish and even a whale that couldn’t have been more than 500 feet away at times, we didn’t see much geography until Rose Bay opened up on the port side. The fog horn had been sounding every two minutes for a couple of days and the silence as it was shut off was as astounding as the colours of the land in contrast to the grey fog. With the wind and sea building I was happy to be making port. With over 900 miles under their belts, the crew are coming along and will be excited to cast off and head to the Bay of Fundy for the next leg of our Bluenose 100 summer tour.
Schooner Bluenose II – Whitehead, NS
The technology behind tracking Bluenose II
One of the questions we often getis how do I find out where Bluenose II is located? We have several means of sending our position to the shore side and some are more successful than others depending on where we are located.
The first piece of kit is an AIS or automatic identification system. I often describe this as the best marine toy ever invented. This system broadcasts and listens to very high frequency radio waves. The same set of frequencies that boaters and commercial ships use to talk to each other via radio. This is good for “line of sight” communications or thirty or forty miles at most. Beyond this the curvature of the earth blocks the signals. As you might imagine the taller the antenna the further you can reach but in practicality thirty miles is as far as you might expect.
So here we are on Bluenose II with our AIS system turned on and we start broadcasting our message. What do we say? Actually, more than you would think! We send position, course, speed, relayed from our Global Positioning System (GPS). We send the ship’s specifications: length, breadth, draught and what type of ship that we are, for example, cargo , tanker, fishing, search and rescue or recreational. We also broadcast our destination and estimated time of arrival along with our marine contact information. One of the great things about the AIS system is that all the commercial ships around us are doing the same thing and we can see the information on an electronic chart. We can see how close each ship will pass by and when that is expected to happen. This means that, for example approaching Sydney we moved aside for a ferry to pass by and then out of the way from an approaching tug and barge. In the fog, it allows an officer to put a name and size of vessel on a radar blip and we can then have an appreciation for how the ship will likely maneuver.
How does this affect you and help you find Bluenose II? There are several companies that have set up shore listening stations either paid or with the help of volunteers and they capture this information and make it available to the general public. Along the coast of Nova Scotia MarineTraffic.com seems to be the best, but shipfinder.com also reports positions. Both companies have apps that you can download as well as web pages. Although they primarily use land based stations, satellite reports are often available on a cost, per ship, per day basis. If you follow along via AIS you will find “dead zones,” or areas of non reporting. The Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia is one of these. You will still see ships icons on the map but the details will not be reported.
These “dead zones” are when our second system of reporting comes into its own. Our Yellow Brick is just that. A yellow and black box just smaller than a standard brick, this system is completely satellite-based and works most anywhere in the world. We broadcast our identification number and the system looks it up and populates all our information onto a world map. The position exporting is a pay by use model and we pay each time we send a signal to a satellite. We do have the ability to control how often our position is reported which helps us control the costs. Today it is set to hourly, but some days it might report every fifteen minutes and some days six or twelve hours. This is often controlled by our office but I do have the ability to change it on board. Our position is reported on a map that you can find through our website bluenose.novascotia.ca/location. One of the great features of yellow brick is that it is completely independent of the ship’s systems and the battery works for ages and ages. It also has a big red “come and help me” button that will help raise the alarm in case of an emergency.
In addition to these two systems we have a satellite-based telex communications system as part of our regulatory equipment setup. Although significantly behind the technology curve and quite expensive to use, “SAT C” as it’s known does allow position, course and speed to be sent ashore in either an everyday standard report or with the push of a button in an emergency situation.
I hope this helps you follow along and see where we are and where you might be able to see us near your community.
Schooner Bluenose II – Canso, NS
Bluenose II is tied up at Whitman Wharf in Canso this morning. Canso has long been a welcoming port for schooners and fishermen and little has changed in this regard in the last hundred years. Bill MacMillan, a long time supporter of Bluenose, sent along three photos of Canso in the early 1900s. They really show how life was changing on the water. In the bay there are 40 or 50 schooners at anchor ranging in size from 20 to 80 feet. At the Whitman wharf where we are currently moored, there is a steam tug and coastal steamer.
Canso is a strong community with a long history based on fishing and servicing the fleet. Today, crab and lobster are being landed along with halibut caught by long line. Sable Island, long thought of as the graveyard of the Atlantic, is now “only” ninety miles away. With good forecasting and strong boats, life is much different, however the work continues. The crews that work at sea still often have little sleep and you can see the hardship reflected in their faces. These men and women have more in common with Capt. Angus and his crew than they realize. I had a quick conversation with a young fisherman the other day and he pointed out that Bluenose was a fishing boat. “Yes,” I said, “and a hundred years ago I would have been on the dock and you would have been here on deck.” Nearly all the fishing vessels that pass us take photos and that is very important to us here on the ship. Part of what we do here is hold the history of these coastal communities and we are all pleased to know that history is still important.
Now jumping forward 100 years, I’m sitting in my cabin typing emails and checking weather forecasts. The first mate and I were very pleased to see Tropical Storm Claudette alter course to the East and pass offshore. We will watch every building low now with skepticism and worry.
Since I last wrote, we moved from Groves Point to the other end of the Bras d’Or Lake and visited Iona. Home of the Highland Village Museum, Iona is a favourite stop for the crew. Unfortunately while at anchor we were unable to visit the museum, but next time we will travel through the history presented!
After Iona we heaved up anchor and made our way to Sydney with its big fiddle and city lights. With our topmast up we were away to Louisbourg and deep into Canadian Settler history. We exchanged cannon fire with the Fortress and then moved into the town to anchor for the night. The next morning we moved to Gabarus, a beautiful fishing village nestled in the corner of Gabarus Bay. We watched a curious seal for hours and hours. He quite happily bobbed around and watched us. Now maybe he was working out how to get lobster from the ubiquitous traps but we didn’t see any proof, just lounging around and slipping under the surface every couple of minutes.
Schooner Bluenose II – Groves Point, Nova Scotia
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.
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.
Schooner Bluenose II – Northern Yacht Club: North Sydney, NS
“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.
Schooner Bluenose II – 25nm east of Canso, NS
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.
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!
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!
Schooner Bluenose II – Lunenburg, NS
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.
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”.
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS
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!
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,
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,
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.
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.
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS
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.
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.
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.
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – Lunenburg, NS
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.
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
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.
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
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,
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
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.