A CBC Nova Scotia investigation has learned the newly rebuilt Bluenose ll may have to come back out of the water to fix on-going problems with the steering system.

Two weeks ago, CBC reported the steering gear from the schooner had been removed to make modifications after workers were only able to turn the wheel a limited amount and with great effort. 

The gear has since been reinstalled; however, the wheel of the ship is still difficult to turn.  

Peter Kinley, president and CEO of Lunenburg Industrial Foundry, says a person has to apply about three times more weight to the wheel than normal. 

"It works to a degree, but it's heavy for the helmsman to actuate the steering, to turn the wheel," he said.

The foundry is one of three companies that make up the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance that rebuilt the Bluenose ll. The international icon is tied up at a wharf in Lunenburg.

Add buoyancy to rudder

Kinley believes the government should be looking at the rudder to fix the steering. It's made out of solid steel and weighs several tonnes.

"We've suggested adding buoyancy to the rudder itself in order to lighten the load on the steering gear."

Kinley says that could mean encasing the rudder in a material that's lighter than water; for example, wood or Styrofoam.

He says another possibility is a new hollow steel rudder, or a wooden rudder, similar to what was on Bluenose ll before reconstruction began. 

Kinley says his company built the rudder, but disagreed from the start on the design. 

He says the alliance told the government repeatedly the rudder was going to be a problem. 

"When we were first notified that they wanted to use a rudder like this, we responded directly to the owner and the designers that we didn't think it was a good idea."

Kinley says changes to the design of the rudder added to the cost and time involved.

"We built it as the specification was unveiled to us, in a rather piecemeal way. Some of the components had to be changed on the fly as it was discovered that they would not work. So additional work was required to achieve the construction." 

Millions of dollars over budget

Lengkeek Vessel Engineering of Dartmouth, which designed the vessel and the rudder, did not respond to inquiries from CBC.

CBC also asked to speak with MHPM, the project manager, about the delays and design issues, but was referred to the provincial government.

The project is two years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget. The price tag currently sits at $16.7 million — a figure the government says will rise before the work is completed. 

In an email to CBC, the province says Bluenose ll will go on a "test drive" before proceeding with sea trials.

"This will provide the opportunity to test the steering gear and other ship systems while the vessel is in motion. It will also help to determine if the vessel is ready for sea trials, which is the final phase of the project," wrote Glenn Friel, a spokesman with the department of communities, culture and heritage. 

The province concedes the project is "long overdue."

"We're not willing to compromise on safety and quality. We recognize that there may be a need to take the vessel out of the water to resolve the issues," Friel said. 

Earlier this year, Premier Stephen McNeil called the project a "boondoggle" and asked the auditor general's office to investigate. It has since begun an audit of the project.