Nova Scotia

Bluenose II refit months behind schedule

The restoration of one of Canada's most famous schooners is swimming in delays, and possible cost overruns.

Famous schooner undergoing $15.9-million renovation

The Bluenose II is being renovated in the same shipyard where the original boat was built. (CBC)

The restoration of one of Canada's most famous schooners is swimming in delays, and possible cost overruns.

Nova Scotia invested nearly $16 million to rebuild the Bluenose II. But Friday, Premier Darrell Dexter confirmed rumours that the ship won't be setting sail this summer as hoped.

"It's a one of a kind project," he said. "There's no real template for doing this kind of thing."

Dexter was vague on any timeline for the project, saying only that the work could wind down "around the end of the year."

Peter Kinley, who heads one of the companies in the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance, said the delay is due partly to safety concerns and bureaucratic headaches.

"Time and tide wait for no man," Kinley said. "It has to be safe. Pumping stations have to be ready…. It shouldn't go in the water and not float."

Every step in the project needs approval from some level of government, he said.

"We're still getting drawings at this late stage, we're still having to submit them for approval and we're still pending those approvals. So it really depends on all those aspects."

Budget questions

Dexter insisted that the final price tag will sit around $16 million, as planned.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says the project should be completed this winter. (CBC)

"As far as I know, things are on budget, and I haven't been advise otherwise," he said.

But the unknown completion date is creating uncertainty around the project's costs, and Kinley admits the delays are adding up.

"We're constantly discussing things with out partners in the province, so parts of it are being renegotiated as we go all the time," Kinley said.

When pressed by reporters to give an estimate of what the difference will be, he avoided answering and eventually conceded they're "not negotiating downward."

"The cost of the project will be based on the amount of work that has to be done," he said.

Tourism season sails by

The Bluenose II was supposed to launch in early July, putting the boat in the water just in time for the busy tourist season. The delay also means the schooner won't be taking part in the province's Tall Ships festival later this month.

But the premier said that doesn't mean lost dollars for the industry.

"This project has been a great draw for Lunenburg," Dexter said. "You only need to come down here anytime as the tours were taking place. There were hundreds of people lined up to see the restoration of the Bluenose. So the Bluenose has in fact had a great tourism impact."

The province has been touting this project for years. A live webcam was set up so people could watch the boat evolve. Dexter maintains it will be worth the wait.

"The reality is, this is a great project. One that Nova Scotians are going to be very proud of, and that the workers here at the yard are going to be very, very proud of."

The Bluenose II was sold to the government of Nova Scotia in 1971 for just one dollar, saving it from being scrapped.

The original Bluenose was built in Lunenburg, in the same shipyard as the current renovation. It was launched in 1921 and never lost a race in 18 years of competition. That boat is featured on the Canadian dime.