Nova Scotia Archives

Bluenose: A Canadian Icon

The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Experts on the sea and ships believed that New England-built working schooners were lighter and narrower than those from Nova Scotia, and that they consequently sailed better in the wind. Nova Scotian vessels traditionally remained on the Grand Banks for longer periods of time; needing more space to store fish, they were consequently heavier and more awkward to handle.

Nova Scotia obviously needed a vessel which would remain competitive and successful in the Banks fishery, but which would also be fast into and against the wind. Out of the committee which had sponsored the International Fishermen's Race, four Halifax businessmen teamed up with Angus Walters and invited William J. Roué, a local marine architect, to submit a proposal for such a vessel. Throughout the late autumn of 1920, Roué worked to perfect his design, which was submitted to the committee three weeks before the deadline. Roué was self-taught in marine architecture, and had never designed a fishing schooner; his proposal would be his masterpiece—the Bluenose.

Bluenose was built in the Smith & Rhuland Shipyard, Lunenburg, for a total cost of $35,000; the money was raised by the five sponsors, who formally incorporated themselves as the Bluenose Schooner Company, Limited. The keel was laid in a formal ceremony in December 1920. So significant was the occasion that the Governor-General of Canada, the Duke of Devonshire, who happened to be touring Nova Scotia at the time, was invited to drive the golden spike to mark the event. The Duke had just attended another function, however, and it is said that he arrived at the keel-laying ceremony 'inebriated'—too much Lunenburg rum perhaps—and unable to hit the spike with the big iron hammer. After several failed attempts, someone else did the honours for him.

Bluenose was built entirely of Nova Scotia oak, pine, birch and spruce, with the exception of the masts, which were tall Oregon pine. With hundreds of onlookers watching, it was launched on 26 March 1921. Someone asked one of the shipwrights, "What's this one going to be like?" The prophetic reply came back, "She'll be alright, but she's a bit different to most vessels."

Bluenose was formally registered at the Port of Lunenburg in March 1921; officially it was vessel number 150,404, and already the eighth that year to be entered in the Lunenburg books. Its dimensions were recorded as: length - 143'; beam - 27'; waterline - 112'; draught - 15' 10"; mainmast and topmast, above deck - 125' 10"; foremast and topmast, above deck - 102' 6"; sail area - 10,000 square feet; mainboom - 81'; foreboom - 32' 6"; and displacement - 285 tons. The riggers at Smith & Rhuland quickly completed their work, and by 15 April Bluenose was ready to sail for the Grand Banks.


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Well! Here's Hoping, Your Excellency!
Date: 20 December 1920
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Halifax Herald, 20 December 1920, p.1

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Smith & Rhuland Shipyard, Lunenburg, NS, with the Bluenose on the ways
Date: ca. 1921
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1987-453 no. 235

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Bluenose launch, Lunenburg, March 26, 1921
Date: 1921
Photographer: W.R. MacAskill
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 20040012

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Launch day, 26 March 1921, Smith & Rhuland Yard, Lunenburg, NS
Date: 1921
Photographer: Dewitt Herman
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA, F97.201.11B

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Bowsprit of Bluenose, Launch Day, Lunenburg, NS
Date: 1921
Photographer: Dewitt Herman
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA, F97.201.4B

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Mayor William Duff and Miss Audrey Smith
Date: 1921
Photographer: Dewitt Herman
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA, F87.136.2

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Notice of Name Proposed for a British Ship
Date: March 1921
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA, F79.111.13

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Declaration of Ownership on behalf of a body Corporate
Date: March 1921
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA, F79.111.14

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Certificate of Incorporation, Bluenose Schooner Company, Limited
Date: 15 March 1921
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA, F93.1.266

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Certificate of Survey
Date: April 1921
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA, F79.111.15

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Bluenose Schooner Company, Limited, Minute Book
Date: 12 April 1921
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA, F93.1.266

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)

Zwicker and Company Ledger
Date: 1921
Credit: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Reference no.: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  FMA

Theme: The Bluenose is Born (1920-1921)
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