POLITICS

Bluenose II raises a sail as captain gradually brings vessel back into service

06/08/2015 03:13 EDT | Updated 06/08/2016 05:59 EDT
LUNENBURG, N.S. - The captain of the Bluenose II ordered a sail raised on Monday as the vessel begins the gradual process of returning to its regular duties.

Phil Watson, the vessel's master, said he spent part of the day training the crew to raise and operate the smaller "jumbo" sail near the bow of the vessel.

The captain said the current focus is on training the crew of 18 in schooner sailing skills after a long layoff due to delays in the schooner's restoration.

Earlier this year, the provincial auditor general said the project was delayed and was millions of dollars over the original budget because the Heritage Department failed to follow basic management practices.

A Department of Transportation spokesman estimated Monday the vessel has cost $19.5 million, plus about $5 million remaining on an outstanding claim that still must be settled.

Watson said Monday's training session was a positive day that signalled the provincial sailing ambassador is taking steps towards readiness for longer journeys at sea.

"The step ahead was we can go out and begin to train the crew ... This is the beginning of getting her under full sail and being able to travel around," he said during an interview while the vessel sailed off the cost of Lunenburg.

He estimated it will be approximately another month of training and testing the vessel in the waters off the historic seaport before the Bluenose II takes longer trips.

The crew's mood was euphoric as the vessel operated in crisp, 30 kilometre per hour winds, said the captain.

"It was like Christmas morning for us," he said.

The vessel is a replica of the original Bluenose, the 1921 Grand Banks fishing schooner that won worldwide acclaim for its graceful lines and speed.

It is operating on an interim certification from the American Bureau of Shipping that allows the crew to continue their training.

Brian Taylor, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said there are a few outstanding technical requirements from Transport Canada, which the department expects to be addressed over the next few weeks before full certification.