If a poll were taken of the greatest achievements by Canadians in the world of sports, there would be many nominations. The greatest all-around athlete could be Lionel Conacher, who appeared to be able to play everything well. There would be runners like Tom Longboat and Percy Williams; boxers like Tommy Burns and Jimmy McLarnin; skaters like Barbara Ann Scott, Hockey players like Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr … so many athletes in so many sports.
But today, let’s talk about Nova Scotian fishing schooner Bluenose, long commemorated on Canadian 10-cent pieces (diimes). She was launched at Lunenburg on March 26, 1921, built entirely of Canadian materials except for her masts of Oregon Pine.
In order to challenge in the International Schooner Racing Trophy, Bluenose had to be a bona fide fishing vessel. Her job was to go to the Grand Banks and catch fish. She returned as best of the Lunenburg fleet, having caught more than the others.
Now Bluenose was qualified to race against the champion of the Gloucester, Massachusetts fleet. The first contest was held in October 1921, and Bluenose was fifteen minutes ahead of the finish line. From that time until her last race in 1938, Bluenose defeated all other challengers.
In 1935, Bluenose crossed the Atlantic to attend the Silver Jubilee of King George V, and was received with royal honours by the yachtsmen of Britain. She even raced the fastest schooner yachts in Britain and came in third. Well, to be fair, her opponents were designed for racing, not fishing.
W. J. Roue of Halifax, who designed Bluenose, built other vessels to try to beat her, but was unsuccessful. It is believed there was something freakish about her hull, an accident of building, that could not be detected and copied.
During World War II, Bluenose was sold to the West Indies Trading Company and carried general cargo between Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala and Honduras. On the night of January 28, 1946, she hit a reef off Haiti and sank the next day. Not a sliver of her got back to Canada, although a replica now operates in Halifax as a cruise ship.
As commented below, here’s a link to a great article about the Bluenose, including a stamp commemorating her at Cotton Boll — a very good read!
- Bluenoser makes it into the Oxford dictionary (cbc.ca)
- Bluenose II sails past budget with new design changes (cbc.ca)
- Nova Scotia’s buoyant question: Bluenose II at the centre of copyright suit (news.nationalpost.com)