Nova Scotia

Bluenose II getting new rudder for up to $1M following steering problems

The Bluenose II will get a new rudder to replace the controversial steel one originally installed on the rebuilt replica.

Nova Scotia government says weight and angle of steel rudder places extra strain on the schooner

A report released Thursday by the province of Nova Scotia says the weight and angle of the steel rudder on the Bluenose II places extra strain on the schooner, which could eventually reduce the life of the vessel. (CBC)

The newest version of the Bluenose II will get a new, lighter rudder for up to $1 million to replace the controversial steel one that was designed to meet U.S. shipping standards.

According to a consultant's report released Thursday by the Nova Scotia government, the current rudder is so heavy it is adding strain to the schooner's hull — which could eventually change the shape of the vessel and ultimately reduce its lifespan.

During sea trials in 2014, the rudder proved so hard to steer that the province ordered the design and installation of a hydraulic system to be able to steer the schooner properly.

But according to Langan Design Partners — the U.S. firm hired to review the steering assembly — the system is "heavy, complex and by nature less reliable than a manual solution."

To be replaced after sailing season

When the coming sailing season is over, the plan is to replace the steel rudder with a wooden one or one that is made of a composite material.

That new rudder is expected to cost up to $1 million to design, build and install.

Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan was clearly annoyed the schooner needs more work.

"This is, again, another symptom of poor planning, poor understanding, poor management," he said Thursday.

Although the Liberals are responsible for this latest modification, it was the NDP government of Darrell Dexter that oversaw most of the Bluenose II reconstruction. The Progressive Conservative government, under Rodney MacDonald, approved the project and planned it.

$5M in disputed work settled

MacLellan said there's no urgency to replace the rudder so the coming sailing season will go ahead as planned.

But, the steel rudder must be replaced to avoid "hogging."

"That's what happened with the original Bluenose II," said MacLellan.

"Over time, it just begins to dry out, flatten off and doesn't have that shape in the hull so hogging is the key contributing factor to a vessel being retired and that's what we're concerned about."

The provincial government has also settled $5 million worth of work orders that were in dispute. That work was done outside the scope of the original agreement to build the schooner, so it was billed on a case-by-case basis.

The province had already paid $1.2 million of the disputed amount, and it will now pay the remaining $3.8 million owed to the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance — the consortium put together to build the newest Bluenose II. 

Overall cost $25M

The new costs will drive up the overall cost of the rebuild to almost $25 million. In 2009, when the rebuild project was announced, its budget was set at $14.4 million.

Nova Scotia's sailing ambassador has been rocked by troubles during a multi-year, multimillion-dollar refit.

The province's auditor general was blunt in his criticism of the original contract in a report he filed in January 2015 on the construction and the subsequent delays.

Michael Pickup noted the change order process was flawed from the start.

"The change order process was poorly defined and has contributed to the pending dispute resolution to address disputed builder costs," Pickup wrote in his report.

Cancelled tours

Less than two weeks after the restored vessel started its summer tour schedule in July 2015, sailings were cancelled to due to steering issues.

When the wheel was turned, the rudder was slow to respond. It was determined there was a failed bearing.

Tours were cancelled again in August.


Jean Laroche


Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter since 1987. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.