The beauty of the Bluenose

Toronto Star, March 29, 2017 LUNENBURG, N.S.-I can’t stop humming Farewell to Nova Scotia as the Bluenose II leaves port on a warm August morning. The sun bounces off the red buildings that line the harbour, and we motor out past fishing boats coming back in — their holds full of mackerel and their skippers waving at the 65 tourists on board the iconic Canadian schooner.

We wave back.

When we hit the whitecaps, the sails come up. The main sail is powered up with an electric hydraulic system. There aren’t enough crew members on board to haul it up — at 4,150 square feet, it’s the largest working sail in the world. The foresail is powered up, too, just to save time in our two-hour adventure. The crew hauls up the jib and the fore staysail the old-fashioned way, shooing us out of the way so they can haul up the ropes.

Once the sails are up, the dozen young deckhands move about the schooner in their navy shirts, khaki shorts and top siders, tidying ropes and taking turns at different posts chatting with passengers. A pair of sisters from Calgary, a woman with a reef knot tattoo on her wrist and a young instructor from the Lunenburg Yacht Club answer questions and strike up conversations with tourists from across Canada and beyond.

The Bluenose is world famous. The first Bluenose, launched in 1921, fished the Grand Banks and cleaned up at the International Fisherman’s Race 17 times. It was put on the Canadian dime in 1937, went down when it struck a reef off Haiti in 1946 but was recreated with the Bluenose IIthat set sail in 1963.

As the schooner picks up speed and leans over into the wind, you get a sense of how fast the Bluenose could go. While the schooner won’t win any races today — only four of the eight sails are up — we enjoy the view, the conversation and taking photographs of the bowsprit pointing into the blue horizon.

As we head back and the sails start coming down, I offer to give a Canadian dime to the man from Florida sitting next to me. But he digs in his pocket and grins as he shows me that he has a pocket full of change, including a dime. I tell him we call the big two-toned coin a toonie, and he looks at me like I’m having him on. As we head into port, I can’t help but start humming a little O Canada.

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