September 17, 2009

The Tall Ships of Lunenburg, Part 1 – Bluenose


As you know if you’re a regular DesignTies reader, my hubby and I recently went on a weekend trip to Nova Scotia. We spent the first couple of days in Lunenburg, which is a harbour town southwest of Halifax (red star in the lower left corner of the map).

lunenburg map

Lunenburg is a beautiful town with brightly coloured houses, lots of cute little shops, and a long nautical history. I was so enthralled by the ships that we saw in Lunenburg (and Halifax too), that I decided to write a series of posts about them. Starting with one of the most famous ships of all time...

bluenose title

Queen of the North Atlantic

The_Famous_Bluenose Wikipedia

Bluenose was designed by William J. Roué and built by Smith and Rhuland. Her captain was Angus Walters (1881-1968). She was launched at Lunenburg on March 26, 1921, and proceeded to become the most successful fishing and racing ship of her time.

bluenose launch Knickle’s Studio & Gallery

It all started with a 23mph wind…

It was 1919. A New York newspaper published a tiny article on its sports page announcing that the New York Yacht Club had postponed an America's Cup yacht race because of “gale-force” 23mph winds.

William B. Dennis, owner of the Halifax Herald in Nova Scotia, read the article and laughed. A 23mph wind was nothing more than a breeze to a fishing schooner skipper — those yachtsmen and their fancy boats were a bunch of wimps!

Mr. Dennis was inspired. Along with some other Halifax businessmen, Mr. Dennis created The Halifax Herald North Atlantic Fisherman’s International Competition. The International Fisherman’s Cup (as it’s more commonly called) would be a rugged head-to-head series of races on a 40-mile course between the fastest Canadian and American fishing schooners. Only REAL bona-fide working ships with hardy crews need apply.

ships Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management

Lunenburg was home of the greatest deep-sea fishing fleet in the world, and had a long and proud shipbuilding and fishing heritage. Gloucester, Massachusetts was equally proud of its fleet of fishing schooners. For years, the Canadian and American schooner crews raced each other to the fishing grounds in Grand Banks, Newfoundland. And they loved every minute of it!

Delawana vs. Esperanto

The elimination races to determine Canada’s entry for the inaugural International Fisherman’s Cup were held on October 11, 1920. The two ships in the final elimination race were Delawana and Gilbert B. Walters (captained by Captain Angus Walters). On the last leg of the race, the topmast of Gilbert. B. Walters broke, and Delawana won the honour to represent Canada. She went on to face Esperanto, a fishing vessel from Gloucester that happened to return home just after the port in Gloucester received a telegram from Halifax issuing the racing challenge.

Esperanto wasn’t in the best of shape — she was 14 years old and had just returned from over two months at sea — but she was the only ship available. The Gorton-Pew Fisheries Company was able to scrape & paint her bottom, repair her spars and rigging, and adjust her ballast. Then she sailed 400 miles up to Halifax for the International Fisherman’s Cup — where she beat Delawana two races to one. Esperanto took the trophy back to her cheering fans in New England.

Plans for revenge

That just wouldn’t do. So William J. Roué, a young naval architect in Halifax, was given the challenge to design a fishing schooner that would be fast enough to defeat the Americans and bring the trophy back to Canada. Captain Angus Walters and four Halifax businessmen financed the building of the schooner at a cost of $35,000. That schooner was Bluenose.

bluenose buildKnickle’s Studio & Gallery

A few weeks after her launch in late March 1921, Bluenose set out for her first season of fishing off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Captain Angus Walters was at the helm. Her crew were rugged, hardy, seafaring men.

bluenose fishing ns archives records mgmt Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management

Bluenose finished her first fishing season in September 1921, which qualified her for that year’s International Fisherman’s Cup. She had proven herself to be sturdy enough to withstand constant beatings by North Atlantic winds and waves. She was strong enough to carry heavy loads of fish and cargoes along Atlantic trade routes. And she was fast enough to reach home with fish, scallops, and seafood still fresh.

The International Fisherman’s Cup: 1921–1938

First up were the elimination races in Halifax to determine which Canadian schooner would represent Canada in the 1921 International Fisherman’s Cup. Bluenose out-sailed all her competitors to earn her spot against the American schooner, Elsie. In the first race, Elsie lost her fore-topmast. To keep things equal, Captain Walters doused his own fore-topmast. Bluenose finished the race with a thirteen minute lead. And in the second race, Bluenose beat Elsie by three miles to win the International Cup and bring the trophy back home. Yay Canada!

bluenose 1921Driving For The Finish Line [1921]Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management

Bluenose won the International Fisherman’s Cup in 1922 as well. Protests and controversy tarnished the series in 1923. Captain Walters refused to complete the races, and his opponent, Captain Ben Pine of the Columbia, refused to accept the trophy when it was offered to him.

The bad feelings between the two captains resulted in an eight-year hiatus before the next Cup series in 1931. Bluenose defeated Gertrude L. Thebaud to retain the trophy — the same schooner that had defeated her a year earlier in a race in Gloucester sponsored by the Thomas Lipton Tea Company.

In 1938, Bluenose took on Gertrude L. Thebaud once again off the coast of Massachusetts in the final International Fisherman’s Cup. In spite of being older and losing the first race, Bluenose stormed back to win the second the third races. Thebaud won the fourth race, so it all came down to the fifth and final tiebreaker race. The two schooners were close all the way, but Bluenose pulled just ahead of Thebaud at the finish line to win the last-ever International Fisherman's Cup series and keep the trophy in Canada.

bluenose thebaudBluenose vs. Gertrude L. Thebaud [1938] Knickle’s Studio & Gallery

Watch silent film of the beautiful Bluenose in her final race against Gertrude L. Thebaud on the Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management web site. The 16mm silent colour films were taken by W. R. MacAskill.

Bluenose is a star!

Bluenose earned the title Queen of the North Atlantic by never relinquishing the International Fisherman’s Cup trophy.  She was also named “high liner of the fleet” several times during her fishing career as the fishing schooner with the season’s top catch — one year landing a record 646,000 pounds of cod.

By the early 1930s, Bluenose was an international celebrity. She travelled to the Chicago World Fair in 1933, Toronto in 1934, and the Silver Jubilee of King George V in England in 1935. Everywhere she went, she received a warm welcome and was boarded by thousands of admiring visitors.

While crossing the Atlantic on her return voyage from England in 1935, Bluenose encountered the most powerful storm she had ever faced. She actually keeled over and stayed down for five minutes, masts and all. But she somehow managed to right herself, and Bluenose and her crew eventually arrived back in Lunenburg safely.

Good-bye to a Canadian icon

By the late 1930s, North America was in the throes of the Great Depression and schooners were no longer the fishing powers they once were in the Northern Atlantic. They had been replaced by steam-powered, steel-hulled vessels.

Captain Angus Walters had retired, but he valiantly tried to keep Bluenose in Nova Scotia. He borrowed money to keep her afloat, and tried to have Bluenose declared a national treasure. But in spite of Captain Walters’ best efforts, he was eventually forced to sell Bluenose to the West Indies Trading Company in 1942. She spent the next four years unceremoniously hauling cargo in the Caribbean. And then, like so many fishing schooners of her time, Bluenose was lost at sea — on January 28, 1946, she struck a reef off the coast of Haiti and sank, her wreckage never to be raised or seen again.

Gone but not forgotten

Bluenose is gone, but she’s a Canadian legend that will never be forgotten…

Bluenose and Captain Angus Walters were inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955, making her the first non-human CSHF inductee.

hall of fame logo

The Bluenose stamp was issued in 1929, and is considered by many to be the most beautiful stamp in Canada — some think even the world. The stamp was created by the Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited and is based on pictures of Bluenose in Halifax Harbour taken by Mr. W.R. MacAskill in 1922/23.

stamp wiki Wikipedia

In 1937, the Canadian dime was changed to include an image of Bluenose. She’s graced our 1o cent coin ever since:Canadian_Dime

She’s also on the Nova Scotia license plate:

ns license

And probably the greatest tribute to Bluenose — Bluenose II, a ship built to commemorate the great Bluenose and the subject of Part II in my series about the tall ships of Lunenburg.

bluenose II flickrBluenose II - Flickr

Whether returning to Lunenburg with a load of fresh fish or crossing the finish line in one of the many races that she won, Bluenose was the fastest fishing schooner of her time and is a true Canadian legend. Imagine how beautiful Bluenose looked, with her sails billowing in the wind and the water churning around her hull as she raced through the waters of the North Atlantic…

bluenoase and captain knickles Captain Walters and BluenoseKnickle’s Studio & Gallery

Seeing as I’m hooked on the tall ships of Lunenburg, I’m linking this post to Julia’s Hooked on Fridays blog party at Hooked on Houses. Sail on over and see what everyone else is hooked on today… :-)

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S O U R C E S :

Wikipedia — Bluenose

Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management

Knickle’s Studio and Gallery

History by the Minute

A Race for real Sailors by Keith McLaren


Maya @ Completely Coastal said...

Wow, great post! I guess every area comes to an end..., and lives for ever at the same time! The stamp is gorgeous, and I'm glad the ship is on the coin...., I might have Canadian currency somewhere in a jar. I have to go and check.

Stephanie said...

Great post! That area is so beautiful. My aunt and I plan to visit Newfoundland in 2011. I can't wait!
Visiting from Hooked on Fridays.

Linda@ Lime in the Coconut said...

Beautiful tribute and post! Hubby is a "Newfie"...Brother is a sailor...I'll have to show this to them!

Anonymous said...

I love tall ships ... very cool!

Terry said...

Thanks so much. I'm an old sailor and know about Bluenose. The skill to design, build, work, and sail these boats is hard to imagine. These amazing boats have personalities all their own. Hope y'all get to do some sailing and any boat.

Cathy Rust said...

Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing the history of the Bluenose. Always knew it was the ship on the dime but didn't know about its racing history.

Dawn-Hydrangea Home said...

Great post! My husband loves sailboats-I'll have to send him over to your blog. Thanks so much for stopping by - I think I'm going to go with the robin's egg blue on the door. Have a great weekend!

mrsben said...

Kelly, now why don't they teach this kind of 'stuff' in school? Maybe if they did it wud prevent the kids from nodding off. :) She was such a mighty ship.


Gayle said...

That is a beautiful ship. That's so sad that she ended up just hauling cargo and then wrecked. I think it's cool that she is on your 10 cent coin.

(A funny thing about the license plate you posted. Last night we went out for dinner and I saw a car in the parking lot with an ELK license plate! I noticed because of my blogging buddy ELK!)

Puna said...

neato neato neato! I want to go to Nova Scotia.

Maria Killam said...

Thanks for the history lesson! Very cool.

Anonymous said...

Great post and of course I have to say so because my DH is a "Bluenoser" that is what the rest of the Maritimers call the people from Nova Scotia ;)

Toronto Home Staging said...

Awesome post, I too have a thing for beautiful ships. Someone who built such a piece of art deserves a Nobel price if there was one for shipbuilding. It's a true masterpiece and a dream of everyone who likes ship to own anything similar to the Bluenose. Beautiful pictures also, thanks again for the interesting read.

Take care, Ella

Janis @ An Inspired Life said...

You've made me homesick as I'm an original "Bluenoser" I still have family there and try to get back to Halifax as often possible. LOVED reading about your trip, looks like you had a wonderful time!!

Shyla said...

im not originally from Nova Scotia but i live here now:P i was looking at this site for a social studies project and got alot of information. Thanks

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