August 20, 2013

Nova Scotia's schooner Bluenose remains in dry dock, hampering tourism

By 
Greg Quinn / Bloomberg News

LUNENBURG, Nova Scotia — The Nova Scotia schooner pictured on Canada's 10-cent coin is still languishing in dry dock almost a year after its failed re-launch, hampering the province's efforts to attract tourist dollars.

click image to enlarge

The Aurora, right, a two-masted schooner, sails past the Bluenose II, left, a reproduction of the original Nova Scotia Grand Banks fishing schooner, during a tall ships parade in 2004 just off the shore of Newport, R.I. The Bluenose, a tourist draw, is in dry dock.

2004 Associated Press File Photo

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The Bluenose II, a replica of the double-masted, eight-sailed fishing vessel that once held the title of the world's fastest, is sitting in its Lunenburg home instead of touring the U.S. Atlantic coast this summer. The Bluenose II was launched in 1963.

The ship is a symbol for the Canadian province that relies on tourism for almost 8 percent of employment, and where locals who call themselves "Bluenosers" drive cars with license plates featuring the vessel. Group of Seven leaders including President Bill Clinton and France's Jacques Chirac cruised on the ship during a 1995 summit in the capital city of Halifax.

"I'd love to see the Bluenose back and floating again and having all the tourists going on it because it's a beautiful symbol," construction worker Sylvain Laroche, 55, said in an interview in Bridgewater.

An inability to meet Transport Canada and American Bureau of Shipping safety rules means the ship isn't hosting groups of tourists or docking at cities on the U.S. Atlantic coast, drawing summer visitors to a province that's struggling with the impact of a strong Canadian dollar and the loss of ferry service connecting it with Maine. The Bluenose II returned to dock for repairs after re-launch Sept. 29, and there is no clear date for it to sail again.

"We were hoping to see it on the water, but you take what you get," Sharon Roberts of Pensacola, Fla., said after snapping pictures of the boat for her son, an ocean engineer in Baltimore. "Let's hope we get something going."

Installation of a steel rudder is the last major piece of work before sea trials resume, according to the province's Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leonard Preyra. The project's cost will exceed $15.5 million, in U.S. dollars, he said.

"The Bluenose II is a restoration but it has to meet modern safety standards, and the steel rudder is a significant safety enhancement," Preyra, 58, said in an interview in Halifax. "Mother Nature really makes no allowances for these ships whether they are works of art or industrial vessels, so it's important that they meet that standard."

The province's economy is struggling along with its celebrated schooner. Toronto-Dominion Bank forecasts Nova Scotia will see 1 percent growth this year, second-slowest among the country's 10 provinces and compared with 1.8 percent nationwide. Nova Scotia unemployment has averaged 2.1 percentage points above the national average since 1976.

Pamela Wamback, a spokeswoman with the province's tourism agency in Halifax, wasn't immediately available to comment about the Bluenose's impact on the provincial economy.

Tourism accounted for 34,400 of Nova Scotia's 448,000 jobs and contributed about $700 million to the $36.4 billion economy in 2010, in Canadian dollars, according to data from the provincial government and federal statistics agency.

The prospects for Nova Scotia's small towns are bleak over the next five years because of a lack of population growth, employment and spending by consumers and businesses, Conference Board of Canada chief economist Glen Hodgson wrote in a July 25 blog posting. Halifax, the largest city, should be boosted by a $25 billion federal shipbuilding contract for the country's navy.

Nova Scotia Finance Minister Graham Steele on Monday updated the 2013-14 budget forecast to show a C$18.3 million surplus on revenue of C$9.5 billion, larger than the initial estimate of C$16.4 million.

The Bluenose has made it through hard times before. The original vessel, which has appeared on the dime since 1937, was launched as a fishing and racing schooner in 1921 in Lunenburg. It smashed into a Haitian reef after it was turned into a cargo vessel. The replica Bluenose II was launched by a local brewing family as an advertising symbol in 1963 and turned over to the province in 1971 for one dollar, paid for with 10 dimes.

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