Every Canadian knows what you are talking about when you say Bluenose. It is a piece of our history, and it has become iconic thanks to its legendary abilities on the water, earning the name, the Queen of the North Atlantic.
Built in 1921, it would become one of the greatest racing ships in the world and an important symbol of Canada for the next 20 years. Taking its name from the term used to describe Nova Scotians in the 18thcentury, it was designed to both fish and race. The purpose was to compete with American schooners and the ship was made with Nova Scotian pine, spruce, birch and oak. The masts were created from Oregon pine. Victor Cavendish, governor general of Canada, would drive the golden spike that would mark the completion of the ship’s construction.
Officially launched on March 26, 1921 it was christened by Audrey Smith, who was the daughter of shipbuilder Richard Smith.
Performing her first sea trials out of Lunenburg in April, the ship began fishing for the first time on April 15.
When the fishing season ended, the Bluenose began racing, and what a racer it was. She would take part in the 1921 International Fishermen’s Trophy race off Halifax in early October. She defeated the American challenger, the Henry S. Ford, and captured the trophy.
In 1923, Bluenose would take on Columbia, a ship that had been designed to defeat Bluenose. Held in Halifax, new rules were put in place that prevented ships from passing marker buoys to landward. While Bluenose won the first race, the ship broke the new rule in the second race and lost. After a great deal of debate and protest, it was decided that the vessels would tie and share the prize. The race would be gone for the next eight years due to anger over these events.
For the next several years, several Canadian and American businessmen would have ships designed to beat Bluenose, but Bluenose would continue to defeat them, often winning very easily against its competitors.
By the 1930s, Bluenose stopped fishing as its style had become obsolete due to motor schooners and trawlers. At this point, the ship would spend much of its time being an ambassador for Canada. In 1933, it was invited to the World’s Fair in Chicago. Two years later, it sailed to Plymouth to be part of the Silver Jubilee of King George V. In 1936, the ship returned to fishing thanks to diesel engines that had been installed.
In 1937, Bluenose was challenged to a race by the American schooner Gertrude L. Thebaud in a best-of-five series of races for the International Fisherman’s Trophy. The race would start on Oct. 9, 1938, with the ships splitting the first two races. Bluenose then won the third race by a larger margin than the second race. She would lose the fourth race. With the fifth and deciding race, Bluenose would win. The race would be the last one of the fishing schooners of the North Atlantic.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the vessel was sold to the West Indies Trading Company in 1942 and was stripped of its masts and rigging. Made a coastal freighter in the Caribbean Sea, she would meet her end on Jan. 28, 1946 when she struck a reef and broke apart.
While the vessel is gone, it still lives on in the 1963 replica called Bluenose II that was built to similar specifications of the original Bluenose, and it used to teach students about the sea and to serve as an ambassador for Nova Scotia.
The Bluenose has been featured on several stamps including the 50-cent issue from 1929, the 60-cent stamp from 1982 and the 37-cent stamp from 1988. Bluenose also appears on the Nova Scotia licence plate, and in 1937 it was put on the Canadian dime. Angus Walters, captain of the Bluenose, was included in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 along with Bluenose. Bluenose was the first non-human inductee into the museum. A passenger-vehicle ferry was also named the MV Bluenose.
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