The replica ship Hector will be back in Pictou this week after its absence last year led to a decline in visitors to the Nova Scotia town.
The town did not open the Hector Heritage Quay last year, saying it could not afford to run it anymore. A group of volunteers took over and plans to bring a refitted Hector home Tuesday.
John Zobaric watched Monday as the Hector prepared to leave Pictou's Aecon Fabco shipyard, which refreshed the ship this year.
"We will miss her when she goes. The yard is going be empty," he said.
The ship was towed to the yard over the winter and Aecon Fabco recruited a volunteer crew to fix it up.
"We asked our people, our staff, if they would mind volunteering some time to it. [We got] a total of about 56 people," he said. "We put about 350 hours of labour into it; we scraped her from the top to the bottom."
The company also asked its suppliers to donate items such as scaffolding and paint.
"It felt great just getting everyone together. It was a worthwhile cause," Zobaric said.
"We always like to hire local labour and buy as much local material as possible and this is one way for us to give back to the community."
The Hector will be run by volunteers once it gets back to its quay.
"It just wasn't financially viable, so that is why we still totally have to run with volunteers for at least two years just to get our feet on the ground with it," Zobaric said.
Volunteers eager to help
Some of those volunteers were at the site Monday working to get the exhibit ready. Keith Matheson retired last week from his job in the tourism industry and was eager to help run the Hector.
"Tourism is everyone's business. That's what Pictou is: it's a destination for tourists. That's all we really have now, other than the shipyard," he said.
Matheson said not having the quay open last season hurt several businesses.
"It certainly contributed to the closing of four or five businesses in downtown Pictou last year," he said.
Anne Emmett, who is also going to help out, said the Hector quay is not only financially important but valuable to the history and culture of all of Nova Scotia.
The original Hector landed in Pictou harbour in 1773, bringing 189 settlers to start the first Scottish settlement in an area long populated by Mi'kmaq.
The replica was launched in 2000 as a historical monument and tourism draw.