Stewiacke hand-built schooner ready to sail for New Brunswick

Two Nova Scotia cousins plan on putting their handmade schooner to the test this weekend with their first voyage since her masts were attached.

Cousins Evan and Nick Densmore spent five years building the ship called Katie Belle

The crew of the Katie Belle hope to leave Parrsboro at high tide on Saturday. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Two Nova Scotia cousins plan on putting their hand-built schooner to the test this weekend with their first voyage since her masts were attached.

The Katie Belle has been in Parrsboro since November, undergoing final adjustments before the five-year project is finally complete.

"We put a lot of work in to it, so now it's time to reap some of the rewards," said Evan Densmore.

Densmore and his cousin, Nick, built the 24-metre ship in Stewiacke using the company name Cameron Shipyards.

The maiden voyage was in November, but they've made significant adjustments since landing in Parrsboro.

"We changed our rudder. We had a temporary rudder on when we launched. We've got a lot of electronic equipment on autopilot."

Their next destination is Saint John, N.B., where they will stay for a few days and start sea trials.

"It's been quite an adventure already, I can tell you that," said Chester Gourley, one of the crew of five who are working on the Katie Belle.

"It will be something to look up and see 60 feet above you. And we all know, sailboats, they're meant to go on an angle sometimes in the wind. So that will be quite an adventure and a thrill."

Moving on

The crew is aiming to depart around 11 a.m. Saturday morning, weather permitting.

The trip from Parrsboro to Saint John can be completed in one tide, but the crew plans to take their time and spend one night out on the water.

They want to test all the new systems, and see how the ship reacts to the new rudder.

"Probably the biggest thing is just getting clear of this wharf because we have a cross current that goes by all the time, so it's a little challenging getting to know the boat and how it responds and whatnot," said Densmore.

While the Katie Belle will finally be ready to be put into service, Densmore says the work will never entirely finish.

"Anyone who has a boat will tell you it's ongoing. We're getting close to the point where we can operate the boat safely."

After three months in Parsborro, the Cameron Shipyards crew says they're grateful from those in the community who have helped them out, and shown interest in the project.

Eventually, the cousins plan to offer tours for tourists. But Densmore says that's a long ways away.

"There's a lot of bureaucracy involved. I'll do the best I can, but building boats is easier than dealing with paperwork."


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