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Remember this?: The Bluenose launched 100 years ago

The Bluenose was built at the Smith and Rhuland Shipyard in Lunenburg, and was christened at 10 a.m. on March 26, 1921
032521 - Bluenose_1921_by_MacAskill

One hundred years ago, Haligonians were boarding a train to take them to Lunenburg to witness the launch of what would become the most famous ship in Canadian history.

The Bluenose was built at the Smith and Rhuland Shipyard in Lunenburg, and on a calm and clear March 26, 1921, the iconic vessel was christened at 10 a.m. by Audrey Smith.

A century later starting at 10 a.m. on March 26, 2021, a virtual celebration will take place commemorating that moment and it will include an interview with Smith's daughter, Susan Pratt.

"Audrey's father was Richard Smith, so one of the owners of Smith and Rhuland Shipyard," explained Alan Creaser, chair of the Bluenose 100 Anniversary Committee. "So she was 19 years old when she was given the honour of christening the original ship."

"The Christian Women's Group of Lunenburg didn't want her to use alcohol, they wanted her to use grape juice, but in fact she did christen Bluenose with a bottle of champagne ... and those are things you're going to hear in our live stream, some great stories from a lot of the ancestors."

The ship was designed by Haligonian William James Roué and it took just 97 days for it to go from tree to sea under the command of Captain Angus Walters.

"You got to remember this was outdoors, on the side of the harbour, 30 guys in the middle of winter, and they turned these vessels out in say three months," Creaser told NEWS 95.7 fill-in host Jordi Morgan. "They were doing this continuously, it was almost like a production line. The harbour was full of masts."

"These were the Grand Banks fishing schooners, 24 men went away to sea in these boats."

The Bluenose was designed for fishing, but also as a racing vessel.

Creaser said Canada lost the first International Fisherman's Cup race in 1920 and shortly after planning began to build a ship that could win. Soon, the best designer, shipbuilders and captain were all recruited.

"In the International Fishermen's Cup races from 1921 to 1938, Bluenose never lost a race series," he said. "She always won the series and therefore was undefeated. It was a time in our country when there was a huge celebration around beating our friends to the south, the Americans, in these races."

"It was a big deal for the country, so Bluenose became this symbol of perseverance, the embodiment of hard work and pride for the country."

In 1929, the Government of Canada commemorated the ship with a 50-cent stamp and it first appeared on our dime in 1937. 

Canada Post will be releasing a new Bluenose stamp in honour of the ship's centennial and the Royal Canadian Mint recently launched a special set of collector coins.

Captain Walters retired in 1939 and bought the 'Queen of the North Atlantic' for $7,000, but by 1942 he couldn't afford to keep her so she was sold to the West Indies Trading Company.

On Jan. 29, 1946, the Bluenose sunk off the coast of Haiti after hitting a reef.

In 1963, the replica Bluenose II was launched in Lunenburg Harbour, sailed by Walters on her maiden voyage. The ship was created to be a promotional tool for Oland Brewery's Schooner beer brand.

Bluenose II was bought by the Nova Scotia government in 1971 for ten dimes and became a floating ambassador for the province.

Nova Scotia's sailing ambassador underwent a massive restoration starting in 2010, which was plagued by delays and cost overruns. The refurbished schooner officially launched in 2012, even though work hadn't yet been completed. It opened to the public in the summer of 2015.

Friday morning's 10 o'clock virtual event will feature new videos, stories, historical footage and interviews. It will be live-streamed through the Bluenose 100 YouTube channel.

A second event will explore the Bluenose story further through musicians, performers and writers. That starts at 7 p.m. Friday.



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Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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