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All Hail the Queen

For the week of Monday October 4, 1999

On October 7, 1922, Bluenose, "Queen of the North Atlantic fishing fleet," won the Canadian elimination race for the right to defend its 1921 Fisherman's title at the 3rd International Fisherman's Race.

Bluenose in full mast

Bluenose in full mast
© Libray and Archives Canada / PA-30803

The cancellation of an American Cup race in 1919 because of 25-knot winds prompted Senator W. H. Dennis, owner of the Halifax Herald, to sponsor a trophy that would be awarded to true fishermen and not "cowardly yachtsmen" who couldn't face a light breeze. The Halifax Herald North Atlantic Fisherman's International Competition between real working schooners, formalized the unofficial rivalry between Canadian and America fishermen. The superiority complex of Canadian fisherman was quickly dashed in October 1920 when the American schooner, Yankee Esperanto, won the first ever International Fisherman's Trophy.

With badly bruised pride, Nova Scotians set about to build a vessel that could bring the trophy home. Designed by William J. Roué and built of Nova Scotian materials by Smith & Rhuland at Lunenburg, the 143 foot long Bluenose was launched on March 26, 1921. The launch was well in time to complete a successful fishing season on the Atlantic Banks. Bluenose did not disappoint.

Captain Walters

Captain Walters
© Canada's Digital Collections

In October 1921, Bluenose, captained by Angus Walters, brought the Fisherman's Trophy home by defeating the American schooner Elsie. In a 17-year career, Bluenose lost only one race, in 1930, at the Lipton Cup to a rival ship, the Gertrude L. Thebaud. Bluenose never once gave up the International Fisherman's title, successfully defending it four times, twice against the Thebaud. Bluenose also holds the record for the largest single catch of fish ever brought into Lunenburg by a sailing vessel.

The Depression, modern diesel engines and the Second World War sealed the fate of the old fishing schooners. Although reduced to a showboat, Bluenose represented Canada at the Silver Jubilee celebration of King George V and Queen Mary in 1935, but nearly perished on the voyage home. Despite efforts to keep Bluenose in Canada, Walters was forced to sell the mighty schooner to the West Indies Trading Company in 1942. On January 28, 1946, tragedy struck. Bluenose, the symbol of Maritime spirit, had sunk off the Haitian coast.

In 1937, Bluenose was placed on the Canadian dime. In July 1963, Bluenose II was launched in honour of the racing schooner with Captain Angus Walters present for the maiden voyage. Bluenose is commemorated with a plaque at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

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