The rebuilt Bluenose II could miss yet another sailing season, as a hydraulic system is designed and installed to fix major steering problems that continue to plague a vessel two years overdue and millions over budget.
The Bluenose II was taken on its first sea trial Tuesday, returning to dock in Lunenburg during the afternoon after several hours on the water.
David Darrow, Deputy Minister to the Premiere, assumed overseeing duties of the project back in May, said following the ship’s return that it did not pass steering tests due to the weight of its 7,000 pound steel rudder.
“The premiere asked me on May 28 to take over the file. I immediately called the captain and made arrangements to come down and visit the vessel,” he recalled. “I spent some time with the captain. I had a friend of a friend who’s a naval architect from Shelburne join me for that, somebody who knew what to be looking for, and I had the opportunity to turn the wheel.”
The deputy minister said at that time the vessel was sitting at the dock and there was no force of water against the rudder.
“It was every ounce of energy I could muster to get the wheel to turn hard to the starboard. that told me that we have a problem,” he said. “The results of today’s tests confirm we have a problem and that, I guess, corroborates my suspicions.”
He said even if Bluenose II would have passed the test, “to me, it is just not safe to be sailing a vessel that required that much effort to turn the wheel.
“I couldn’t imagine the captain or the helmsman maneuvering that vessel in tight quarters, having to struggle with the wheel like that,” he said. “So I made my mind up that afternoon that the vessel could not be placed back into service with the steering the way it was.”
Mr. Darrow said the rudder which was on the previous vessel was made from wood, and as such “if you took it off, it would float.
“If you took this one off, it would sink to the bottom and you could use it for an anchor probably,” he said. “So it’s the weight of the rudder that’s the fundamental issue here.”
The deputy minister indicated that he addressed the issue of stability for the vessel with the designers and they told him that things “were in hand” and that they have new calculations that show the vertical centre of gravity is lower than … what they assumed for the initial calculation.
Those numbers have been submitted to the American Bureau of Shipping [ABS], the regulatory authority, “and we’re awaiting word from ABS as to whether that report is acceptable.”
After the vessel returned to port Peter Kinley and Al Hutchinson of the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance who built the boat, declined immediate comment, however there were indications that they were pleased with tests performed on other functions of the ship.