CBC News has learned there are problems with the steering on the newly rebuilt Bluenose ll.

The Nova Scotia government says the issue turned up during recent dock trials.

Delays and cost overruns have plagued the rebuild. It's 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. 

The ship is tied up at a wharf in Lunenburg. 

"The builders discovered that to turn the wheel...that there's quite a bit of pressure there," said Glenn Friel with the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. "It's difficult to actually turn the steering wheel."

In an attempt to fix the problem, the ship's steering gear has been removed and taken to Hawboldt Industries, a manufacturer of marine equipment, based in Chester.

People in the community who've watched the project closely say the rudder is likely the main problem.

It's made of steel which they say makes it heavier and harder to move than the old rudder which was made of wood.

According to the government's website, the initial plan was to fit the ship with a wooden rudder stock and blade, similar to what was installed before the restoration, but that plan changed to better suit classification requirements of the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).

"It would be difficult for ABS to approve the use of a wooden rudder blade given the complexity of fitting a wooden blade to a steel stock. It was decided to move forward with the current design of a single steel blade rudder," the website says.

"The weight of the steel rudder was factored into the calculations for the overall weight of the vessel and new steering gear was designed and installed for the restoration."

Questions remain

Friel said the government expects the steering problem will be fixed soon so sea trials can begin. But no dates are set for that, let alone the first public sail. 

"The schedule for Bluenose II taking passengers has not been scheduled," he said. "We do expect Bluenose to sail this summer."

Earlier this year, Premier Stephen McNeil called the project a "boondoogle" and asked the auditor general's office to investigate. 

CBC asked to speak with MHPM, the project managers, but the company referred calls to the provincial government. Similar requests to the builders known as the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance and the captain of Bluenose II were unsuccessful.