A Chester-based marine consultant says the plan to replace the Bluenose II's steel rudder is good news, but the government could have saved time and money, had it relied on local expertise for building the schooner.
"They're going back to the tried and true as opposed to experimenting with taxpayers' dollars to the tune of millions," said Lou Boudreau, who is also a a schooner captain with 38 years of experience.
The $700,000 hydraulic system that was supposed to make the steel rudder on the Bluenose II operable, will be removed at the end of sailing season.
A report released by the Nova Scotia government on Thursday revealed the ship's steel rudder, which was designed to meet U.S. shipping standards, is so heavy, it's adding strain to the schooner's hull, which could eventually change the shape of the vessel and reduce it's lifespan.
This fall, the system will be replaced with a traditional wooden or fibreglass system.
Boudreau says he's happy Geoff MacLellan, Nova Scotia's minister of transportation and infrastructure renewal, is trying to do the right thing and correct the mistakes of the past, but says the government didn't need to pay money to an American company to remedy the issue.
'I want to do this right'
"I had a meeting with the minister last year, and I shared with him sketches and plans and whatnot regarding the rudder and how to fix it quite easily," he said. "And I said, 'I sailed on the Bluenose, this bit of advice is free, I want to do this right.'"
Instead, the government turned to Langan Design Partners, a U.S. firm hired to review the steering assembly, which found the system to be "heavy, complex and by nature, less reliable than a manual solution."
In 2009, when the rebuild project was announced, its budget was set at $14.4 million. The new costs will drive up the overall cost of the rebuild to almost $25 million.
"If the government of the day had gone to Lunenburg and talked to some of the great shipwrights there, and in the great shipyards around this province — we have a long history of shipbuilding — and said 'look, here we go boys, we've got a job to do, we've got to build a wooden schooner,' they would have gotten a really good schooner," Boudreau said.
"We shouldn't have been messing around with galvanized spikes and steel rudders and hydraulic systems."
Boudreau said the slight was a "kick in the teeth" to the shipbuilders in Lunenburg, but the issue is now water under the bridge.
What's important is that the Bluenose II is safe for use and Boudreau says the old-fashioned system will help ensure a safe future for the ship.
"Wooden rudders have been on schooners for the last 200 years, they work, they keep on working. Quite often the vessel sinks after it's useful life, rudder's still working and sinks with it," he said.