(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been modified from the original post to correct the spelling of Bart Shea)
Despite his North-Atlantic tan, Bart Shea of Pictou wasn’t always a seafaring man. That changed last year when, at the suggestion of his father Vern, he applied for, and was accepted as a deckhand aboard the Bluenose II.
Last year’s season was cut short via injury for Shea, but he was selected again for this year’s season in April. The sailing season wraps in October.
The ship may not quite live the life of its forbear, but the work Shea and his fellow crewmen do is very much real work.
“We had to sand everything, scrape it, oil it, varnish it, the whole nine yards,” Shea said. “We’re kind of like the grunt workers, the worker bees. The first two months were maintenance. All the wood you see, we sanded it down, scraped off all the paint, and oiled it, painted, varnished it. Whatever needed to be done. We did the hull, the deck, we made it all fancy-schmancy.”
To his credit, the Bluenose’s hull does wear an eye-pleasing coat of paint, while the British Columbian Douglas fir deck and masts are protected under a thick coat of marine grade clear coat. These efforts, Shea said, amount to about two months’ work.
“Everything, everything has to get done every year,” he said. “The first two months are usually maintenance and then they’ll devote a couple of weeks to sail training, and after that they’ll start the season.”
The ship itself, Shea said, is pretty well a dead-ringer for the original vessel, barring a few changes to accommodate Transport Nova Scotia’s safety standards.
“It’s as close as you can get.”
So far this season the Bluenose II has been to Boston, Halifax and — naturally — Lunenburg, before taking port in Pictou. For those wondering, Shea said it took around four days in bad wind to reach Boston, but about half that time to return.
The Bluenose may very well be Nova Scotia’s ship, but Shea said the vessel carries plenty of recognition in southern shores as well.
“There’s a big history with it,” he said. “They loved it, hoped on and were like, ‘This is the Bluenose II? God, we’ve been trying to see it for years now!’ Everyone loves it.”
In Pictou, the Bluenose II faced stiff competition from El Galeon out of Spain, but it had little trouble drawing a crowd throughout the weekend.
“It’s been steady,” Shea said. “We’ve been overjoyed. We thought the weather was going to deter a lot of people but people love boats, they love tall ships, and they love the Bluenose and couldn’t be happier. It makes it easier standing out here, people coming towards you, rain coming down, and them smiling. It makes us smile. You can’t help but feel the joy.”
Shea said the feedback he was hearing from visitors was overwhelmingly positive.
The Bluenose’s next stop will be to a trio of ports in Quebec — Gaspe, Le Baie and Quebec City — before hitting a series of communities along the coast of Nova Scotia.
Bart Shea stands ready to greet visitors to the Bluenose II. Shae, of Pictou, is now in his second season as a deckhand aboard the iconic vessel. (Cameron photo)