Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Bluenose

Bluenose – The Story

The schooner Bluenose is an internationally famous Canadian historical treasure. She was built in the winter of 1921 by Smith & Rhuland Shipyard in Lunenburg from a design made by W.J. Roué. She was similar in construction to other fishing vessels built in the same yard, although radically different in design.

The materials used in construction were entirely Nova Scotian, except the spars which were made from Douglas fir from British Columbia. The vessel was built to the order of the Bluenose Schooner Co., with shareholders in Lunenburg, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and other parts of Canada. Captain Angus Walters was made captain, Messrs. Zwicker & Co. of Lunenburg, N.S., agents. The majority of funds for her construction cost of $35,000 were raised through the sale of shares at $100 each.

Her keel was laid on a cold January day with the ceremonial first spike driven by the Governor-General of Canada.

Bluenose was launched with much fanfare March 26, 1921 and sailed for the Grand Banks just over two weeks later after being ballasted, rigged, fitted out and provisioned. She was to be a working vessel, first and foremost, and work she did – earning the title Queen of the North Atlantic fishing fleet for her record catches.

Years later, her one and only master, Captain Angus Walters with whom the Bluenose legacy will be forever linked observed she had paid back every dollar put into her – “and with good interest, too.”

She had not been built solely for fishing but also with the intention she would race, and beat, fishing schooners from New England as they had won the inaugural International Fishermen’s Trophy in 1920 – much to the chagrin of Nova Scotians. Bluenose had a gift for speed and under the steady hand of her one and only master Captain Angus Walters (pictured left) was victorious in trial races with her Canadian challengers, and then against the best American skippers and vessels of the time: the Elsie in 1921, the Henry Ford in 1922, and the Gertrude L. Thebaud in 1931 and 1938.

In 1929 Bluenose was recognized across Canada when a 50-cent stamp was issued in her honour. Captain Walters and William Roué were also honoured with stamps in 1988 and 1998, respectively. Well-known around the world for her racing triumphs Bluenose became a show vessel in the 1930s as the fishing industry was lean. In 1933 she represented Canada at the World Fair in Chicago and on her way home stopped in Toronto where thousands visited her hallowed deck. In 1935 she sailed across the Atlantic to participate in Silver Jubilee celebrations for King George V.

Since 1937 Bluenose has appeared on the obverse of the Canadian 10-cent piece.

In the late ’30s the Second World War saw opportunities for Bluenose almost non-existent. She was no longer paying her way. She had grown old. Hogged, she had lost considerable of her lively speed and could not carry proper ballast for heavy going. She was offered for sale in Lunenburg with no luck. Then to the provincial government – on the premise of the fame she had brought to Nova Scotia; the offer was declined. Bluenose sat moored to a dock in Lunenburg until 1942 when two Americans arrived in the south shore town with a suitcase full of money.

It was Captain Walters alone who had been bearing the cost to keep Bluenose afloat. Since there had been no interest locally to buy Bluenose he felt he had no choice but to sell the ship to the Americans. They paid $20,000 – “a fantastically cheap price, as the name alone was worth God knows what” according to a later account by Jesse Spalding, one of the two Americans.

Later that year Bluenose left Lunenburg for the last time to begin the final chapter of her career, as a freighter. From then on she sailed between Florida and the Caribbean often carrying wartime cargoes of explosives. Her name, it turned out, was worth a lot – as Spalding reports an incident when a German submarine surfaced alongside with its commander hailing Bluenose, saying: “You are the Bluenose…and if I didn’t love that boat I’d shell you right now.”

On the night of January 28, 1946, Bluenose struck a ledge off the coast of Haiti. The next day the engines were salvaged. The following night – after 25 years of work and play – the vessel broke her back and sank.

March 26, 1921 - Bluenose in the water just after launching (copyright Knickles Studio)
March 26, 1921 - Bluenose in the water just after launching (copyright Knickles Studio)
Bluenose in her first racing series, 1921 (copyright Knickles Studio)
Bluenose in her first racing series, 1921 (copyright Knickles Studio)
In 1933, a booklet was published to sponsor Bluenose on a good-will trip to the World Fair in Chicago.
In 1933, a booklet was published to sponsor Bluenose on a good-will trip to the World Fair in Chicago.

1920 Fall
Bluenose Schooner Co. commissions W.J. Roué to design a winning vessel for the second International Fishermen’s races. Roué designs Bluenose, Roué Design # 17.

1921 March 26
Launched in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

1921 April 15
Sets sail for the Grand Banks.

1921 October
Defeats American challenger, Elsie, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Wins International Fishermen’s Trophy.

1922 October
Defeats American challenger, Henry Ford, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Wins International Fishermen’s Trophy.

1923 October
Competes with American challenger, Columbia, in Halifax. Ruled no contest. International Fishermen’s Trophy is not awarded.

1929 January 6
Government of Canada issues 50¢ commemorative Bluenose postage stamp.

1930 October
Loses Lipton Cup series to American contender, Gertrude L. Thebaud, in Gloucester.

1931 October
Defeats Gertrude L. Thebaud in Halifax. Wins the International Fishermen’s Trophy.

1933
Represents Canada at Chicago World’s Fair, Chicago, Illinois.

1934
Spends several months in Toronto, Ontario.

1935
Sails to England for King George V and Queen Mary’s Silver Jubilee.

1936
Diesel engines are installed, sails are removed.

1937 January 1
Government of Canada mints the first dime bearing “a two-masted fishing schooner.” Although not officially acknowledged, the vessel was widely recognized as Bluenose.

1938 October
Defeats American challenger, Gertrude L. Thebaud, in Gloucester. Wins International Fishermen’s Trophy.

1942
Sold to the West Indies Trading Co., and carries cargo in the West Indies.

1946 January 28
Struck a reff and sank off Haiti.

1988 April
Province of Nova Scotia issues first Bluenose license plate.

1988 November
Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp honouring Captain Angus Walters.

1996 July 1
‘Bluenose Memories’ concert was held in Lunenburg, NS to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Bluenose.

2000 July 20
Royal Canadian Mint issue $20 collectors hologram coin featuring Bluenose.

2001 March 26
80th Anniversary of Bluenose acknowledged in Canadian Senate.

2001 April 2
World premiere of Requiem for a Queen, a 60-minute made for television Bluenose documentary, on History Television cable network

2002 March 15
Bluenose is officially acknowledged by the Royal Canadian Mint as the vessel that has been on the back of the Canadian 10-cent piece since 1937.

International Fishermen’s Trophy | winner of series in CAPS
Year Location Canadian Entry American Entry Results
1921 Halifax, NS BLUENOSE Elsie 2-0
1922 Gloucester, Mass. BLUENOSE Henry Ford 2-1
1923* Halifax, NS Bluenose Columbia 1-1
1931 Halifax, NS BLUENOSE Gertrude L. Thebaud 2-0
1938 Gloucester, Mass. BLUENOSE Gertrude L. Thebaud 3-2

* The 1923 series was ruled “no contest” after a dispute over the rules.

Thomas Lipton International Trophy | winner of series in CAPS
Year Location Canadian Entry American Entry Results
1930 Gloucester, Mass. Bluenose GERTRUDE L. THEBAUD 2-0
Other Schooner Races | winner of series in CAPS
Year Location Defender Challenger Results
1927 Lunenburg, NS Bluenose HALIGONIAN** 2-0

 

** Haligonian was designed by W.J. Roué for a group of Shelburne, Nova Scotia businessmen; she was built as a fishing schooner – with express focus on beating Bluenose. After Bluenose beat Haligonian in the 1926 elimination races for the International series, it was said Haligonian’s sails did not fit well. She was later refitted with new sails and met Bluenose in a fishermen’s race off Lunenburg, beating her by more than nine minutes. The two vessels never met again.

Principal Statistical Data of the Bluenose and Her Replica Bluenose II
Source: Bluenose II Launch Program, published by Oland & Son, Limited

Length Overall (excluding bowsprit)
143 ft.

Length of Waterline
112 Ft.

Beam
27 ft.

Draught
15 ft. 10 ins.

Displacement Tonnage
285 tons

Sail Area
10,000 sq. ft.

Bowsprit (stem to tip)
17 ft. 6 ins.

Sail Plan

sail-plan-575

1. Jib topsail

2. Jib

3. Jumbo

4. Foresail

5. Fore gaff topsail

6. Fisherman’s staysail

7. Mainsail

8. Main gaff topsail