Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bluenose


The Bluenose stamp to most collectors is the perfect combination of design, engraving, and color. A famous wooden auxiliary fishing schooner and many time winner of international fishing schooner races, the Canadian stamp Bluenose is a composite picture of her taking part in two different events. Both photographs were mounted on a cardboard to 'make' the stamp and were taken by W.A.R. MacAskill. The original Bluenose was commemorated on a Canadian fifty cent stamp in 1928 and her likeness can still be seen today on the Canadian ten cent coin.

The fishing fleets in the Maritime provinces and the New England states operated under sail in the early part of the 20th century. With vessels strongly constructed to weather the rigorous challenges of the North Atlantic fishing grounds they were also built for speed and holding capacity. The Grand Banks being the favorite fishing grounds of both Canadian and American fishermen, in the early part of the 20th century, a favored topic of discussion was the America's Cup race. Begun in 1851 the races were a test of seamanship between the best British and United States racing schooners. In 1919 the competition was cancelled because of 25-knot winds. The fishermen of The Banks scorned the cancellation saying that the racing schooners had become too fragile and a better test of seamanship would be a competition involving the sailing ships and the burly men who fished the Grand Banks.

The Halifax newspaper owner William H. Dennis put the mens' claims into action by donating a trophy towards a race for working sailors called the International Fishermen's Race.

Canadian eliminations were held near Halifax on October 11, 1920 and the Nova Scotians were handily routed to their complete surprise! Plans were rapidly drawn up to build a better schooner. The vessel had to meet specific conditions as a working, economic fishing vessel but more speed was foremost in the minds and dreams of the maritimers.

A sleek looking craft was designed by a young naval architect W. J. Roue. On hundred and fourth five feet overall maximum length and racing trim water line length not exceeding 112 feet, the new vessel was constructed at the Smith and Rhuland Yard in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. She was christened the Bluenose and launched with great fanfare on March 26, 1921 a cost of $35,000. Completing a successful fishing season on the Atlantic Banks and captained by Angus Walters, she soon proved to be an excellent sailing vessel as the Bluenose easily won the 1921 Canadian trials over seven other competing schooners restoring the Canadians pride by bringing back home International Fishermen's Trophy.

Captain Walters and the skilled Bluenose crew again won the cup in 1922, beating the American challenger, the Henry Ford. In 1923 the Racing Committee awarded the second race to Captain Ben Pine's Columbia after a protest was filed because the Bluenose passed a buoy on the wrong side. Refusing to accept the committee's decision Captain Walters left for for Lunenburg in a counter protest with the 1923 race series tied at one win each and causing a seven year lapse in the International Fishermen's competition. The Lunenburg fleet was severely battered during this pause in the competition by rough seas, including the Bluenose. However, repairs were made and in 1930, the Bluenose accepted a race challenge in Gloucester, USA, to compete against a new American schooner, the Gertrude L. Thebaud, captained by Walters' old rival, master sailor Ben Pine. With the Bluenose prevailing, the Nova Scotians surged ahead in two straight races and was once again named the queen of the North Atlantic fishing fleet!

In 1932 with a depression in the fishing markets most mariners left their vessels tied at the docks rather than losing money out on the fishing grounds. Angus Walters decided to begin a new career as a showboat captain and toured the Bluenose on the Great Lakes, later crossing the Atlantic where Captain he was invited to attend the Silver Jubulie of England's King George V and Queen Mary.

Fishing under sail had all but ended by 1938 and the last International Fishermen's Cup was held off Gloucester as a test of the best of five races. On October 26, 1938, in light winds, the Bluenose prevailed by a margin of just under three minutes and for the final time, took the International Fisherman's Trophy back home to Canada.

By now the economic market would no longer allow for a sailing schooner to make a fair living against the more economic diesel powered fishing vessels. The Bluenose was eventually sold for coastal trading in Caribbean waters and on a dark January night in 1946, the grand champion Bluenose struck a reef in waters just off Haiti. All hands were saved but she was wrecked beyond repair bringing to a close a glorious era of sailing history. In time, a replica ship, the Bluenose II, was built in the same Lunenburg shipyard. This sailing ship was launched on July 24, 1963 as a historical momento to the Golden Age of fishing schooners competing for the International Fisherman's Trophy.

Selected Source

The Bluenose, a True Canadian Champion

Picture Source


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