Last updated on 9 January 2004.
In 1920, an America's Cup race was cancelled because a wind of 23 knots was considered too dangerous for the racing yachts of the time, which were made fragile by the towering sails they carried. The fishermen of the New England and Maritime fleets considered this a disgrace and resolved to hold their own competition for men and ships who were ready and able to face the sea. The Halifax Herald newspaper donated a cup and established the rules for the contest, and in the years that followed, the International Fishermen's Trophy would become a source of considerable national pride as ships from the great fishing fleets of Gloucester, Massachusetts and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia vied for the title.
In 1920, the first competition for the Trophy was won by a vessel from Gloucester, to the tremendous chagrin of the Lunenburg fleet. A design was commissioned from William J. Roue (pronounced ROO-ee), a young naval architect from Halifax, for a schooner that would meet the high standards of the Lunenburg fishing fleet but that could also capture the Trophy.
Bluenose was the result. She was the 121st ship built in the Smith & Rhuland Shipyard in Lunenburg, and was launched on March 26, 1921. She took the Trophy that year and never relinquished it, although many schooners from Nova Scotia and the New England States were designed and constructed to beat her.
Bluenose won fame and widespread recognition for her racing prowess, but in her twenty-five seasons she participated in only six serious competitions. She was built at a time when Lunenburg had many sturdy vessels that could work the Atlantic Banks effectively, and her own abilities in this regard were acknowledged but not loudly proclaimed. History remembers her races, but often neglects the rest. She served the fishing fleet for nearly twenty seasons, when the normal lifespan for a wooden schooner was ten, landing many good catches and achieving the distinction of high-liner of the fleet on more than one occasion. She served her owners well, and brought her crew through storms that claimed many other vessels and lives.
A combination of age, the global depression of the 1930s, the onset of World War II, and the arrival of diesel powered fishing trawlers finally forced the sale of Bluenose to the West Indian Trading Company in 1942. She spent four years as a freighter before being wrecked on a reef near Haiti in January of 1946.
In 1960, Lunenburg's Smith & Rhuland Shipyard built a replica of the H.M.S. Bounty, for use in the M.G.M. movie Mutiny on the Bounty. As Nova Scotians watched this ship take shape, they dreamed once again of Bluenose. Around the same time, the brewing firm of Oland and Sons was planning to build a replica of a Nova Scotia fishing schooner to help promote their new product, Schooner Beer. So it was that Bluenose II was born. She was built from the original plans in the original shipyard by some of the same craftsmen who had given Bluenose her magic. The keel was laid on February 27, 1963, and she was launched in Lunenburg on July 24 of the same year.
Even if competitors of her sort could be found, Bluenose II would not be allowed to race. It was decided at the outset that she would never jeopardize the reputation of the original Bluenose. However, ships will occasionally test her speed by assuming the same course when she is seen passing; like her namesake, she moves like the wind. Her interior however is very different, having comfortable quarters, a chart room and a spacious salon in the areas where salt and fish were originally stowed.
In 1971, the Oland family sold Bluenose II to the province of Nova Scotia for the amount of one dollar. She has become the province's most recognized symbol and one of her greatest treasures, and has served as an ambassador for both the province and country at many international events and ports - a role in which she continues today.