Bluenose II reduced to chips

The restoration of the iconic schooner Bluenose II is sparking controversy in Nova Scotia as much of its hull has been put through a chipper and dumped in a landfill.

Stirs debate by wooden boat lovers over $15M restoration

Only a small part of the Bluenose II hull is left in a shed on the Lunenburg waterfront. ((CBC))
The restoration of the iconic schooner Bluenose II is sparking controversy in Nova Scotia as much of its hull has been put through a chipper and dumped in a landfill.

The province's sailing ambassador is now mainly in small pieces stacked in a shack on the Lunenburg waterfront as it undergoes a $15-million restoration over two years. 

The rudder, the boom, and a chunk of the distinctive blue and golden blue prow are all that are identifiable.

The province announced in July that the schooner would be restored after it was found the keel was warped. The Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance, a group that includes Covey Island Boatworks, Lunenburg Industrial Foundry and Engineering and Snyder's Shipyard Ltd., is carrying out the work.

But wooden boat lovers are fiercely debating whether this type of project qualifies as a reconstruction, or the birth of a new craft.

Al Hutchinson, of the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance, insists the Bluenose II is not being destroyed.

"Transport Canada and the coast guard provides guidelines as to what's a restoration or for what's a new boat," he said Thursday. "So, in our minds this is absolutely a restoration."

Hutchinson said the essence of the craft will remain despite the fact the new hull for the Bluenose II will be made from durable hardwoods instead of Nova Scotia oak and pine.

"We're relying on experts, on historical documents, drawings and knowledge for this process to ensure that the legacy and the spirit is preserved," he said. 

Matt Murphy, editor of Wooden Boat Magazine, isn't so sure this is a restoration.

"Well, that comes down to preserving shape and certain, gosh, I guess indefinable elements. It's a feeling. You know it when you see it," he said.

Bluenose II is a replica of the famous fishing schooner depicted on the Canadian dime. The original Bluenose was launched in Lunenburg in March 1921, and won sailing races throughout the 1920s and 1930s. It was sold and eventually sank on a reef off Haiti.

The replica was built from plans by designer William James Roue and launched in 1963. The vessel is based in Lunenburg, a UNESCO world heritage site about 100 kilometres southwest of Halifax, and is used for tours and special events.

Public kept in dark

But boat builder Matt Durnford, who worked on the last restoration of the Bluenose II, isn't impressed.  He said the public didn't know how much of the ship was going to disappear.

"It's the idea that nothing was announced that bothers me," he said. "It's sort of, 'Well we have a plan, but you're not going to find out about it!' You, being the general public."

Durnford said people should have had a chance to say goodbye to the ship, and maybe even get to keep a piece of it as a memento.

The Bluenose II has been cut up into small parts as restoration work takes place. ((CBC))
"There should have been a certain amount made available to gift shops, to the Bluenose shop, to be selling," he said. "People would be prepared to, I think, buy a piece of the Bluenose if — it was identifiable as such."

Michael Noonan, spokesman for the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, said the criticism is unfair.

"The province is definitely honouring Bluenose II. We're investing $14.8 million in this restoration process," he said.

"And I'm not sure how we could be any more respectful of Bluenose II than by making that significant investment of public dollars."

Jeff Robar is working on one of the graceful wooden curves that will brace the new hull of Bluenose II, in the same shipyard from where the original fishing schooner was built nearly 90 years ago.

"It's a great thing to be able to do what our forefathers did, with different techniques but the same location and a seafaring way of life," he said.