Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador, with a rebuild that is two years overdue and millions of dollars over budget, won’t be sailing until at least next year, according to the premier.

Stephen McNeil says the rebuilt Bluenose II won’t start “aggressive” sea trials until the fall and will "hopefully" be ready next year.

“I, like all Nova Scotians, want to see this behind us,” McNeil told reporters on Monday.

“We’re really focused today on making sure we get the vessel sailing, it’s safe and that we put it through the sea trials we believe are going to be necessary before we go into the season next year.”

A government spokesperson says there are still some finishing touches and certificates that have to be finalized.

Bluenose II sea trials

Nova Scotia's auditor general is conducting a review of the Bluenose II restoration. (Sail Bluenose II/Twitter)

"The issue of the steering will take up most of the season this year. We have a design for the steering, and there are some parts ordered and being fabricated. It'll be close to the end of September before we're ready to install the equipment," wrote Darcy MacRae in an email.

The Bluenose II took its first sea trials in June.

A month later it officially became the province’s problem as the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance formally handed over the vessel to the government.

An inspection report released earlier this month lists more than 50 deficiencies — including poorly-erected masts and loose deck planks — that the builder has promised to correct.

The schooner was supposed to return to regular sailing two summers ago after an extensive two-year rebuild at a cost of $14.4 million, with $7.2 million coming from the federal government.

But the restoration has suffered from budget overruns and repeated delays, prompting McNeil to ask the province's auditor general to review the project.

“We’re encouraged by the steps that have taken place,” said McNeil. “This has been a very challenging five years that started under the Conservative government and then went through the entire last government. We’re going to end up dealing with it and then we’ll look at the process of what happened. There are lots of questions that need to be answered.”

At last count, the cost of rebuilding the Bluenose II sat at nearly $19 million, but that doesn't include another $4.2 million worth of work that is being disputed by the province.

The Bluenose II, launched in 1963, is a replica of the original Bluenose, a Grand Banks fishing schooner that earned worldwide acclaim for its graceful lines and speed.