‘Great Big Lift’ planned for Ship Hector replica

Community Featured

Big plans are in store for the replica Ship Hector.

And they all begin this spring with “the Great Big Lift” when A.W. Leil Cranes will hoist the wooden ship out of the harbour and onto land to begin a process of repairs. The goal is to have the vessel, well, ship-shape, by 2023, in time for the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Scottish settlers to Pictou’s shores in the original Ship Hector.

To get the Hector out of the water and on blocks to start the restoration work — Phase One of the entire restoration project — will cost in the vicinity of $250,000. The Ship Hector Society has secured a loan through NOBL for “the Great Big Lift.”

Once the ship is out of the water, the board will have a better understanding of how extensive repairs will be. But during the time the Hector is in the yard on blocks undergoing renovations and repairs it will remain a tourist attraction and the Ship Hector Society hopes it will become an even bigger draw as visitors stop in to look at the work in progress.

“Somebody had to kick start the project,” smiles Darlene MacDonald, a director of the Ship Hector Society’s board of directors. “We couldn’t just keep waiting so the board decided to take out a loan through NOBL.”

The members of the non-profit volunteer-run Ship Hector Society have been working for the past decade to shine a light on the ship.

The Hector brings more than 10,000 tourists to the area every summer, says Laurie MacDonald, president of the Ship Hector Society, yet struggles to receive annual government funding.

“Attendance at the site is up 36 per cent over the previous five years and other regional attractions are down ten per cent,” he says. In 2018, visitors came from more than 45 countries as well as every province in Canada and 50 U.S. states.

Darlene attributes this success to the Royal visit in 2014 by Prince Charles and Camilla which put Pictou on the international stage. “I think 25-30 different press agencies were here at that time and we had stories all over the world from that,” she says. “There have also been several BBC documentaries over the past few years as well as an international cooking show.”

All of these points were highlighted recently during a presentation at a meeting of the Municipality of the County of Pictou by the Ship Hector Society.

Darlene says, “We’re talking to all levels of government — locally, provincially and federally. We’ve been at this a long time and this was really the first public presentation of our plans.”

Those plans include restoration work being done over a two-year period, once the ship is out of the water, so that the tourist attraction could be used for revenue-generating charters. There are also plans to mechanize the vessel and upgrade the interpretive centre on the waterfront, which is more than 20 years old. Current estimated cost for repairs and motorizing of the ship is $1.7 million, just repairs without mechanization would be $1.3 million. Improvements to the interpretive centre are estimated to cost an additional $2.14 million.

The Ship Hector Society Board of Directors has committed to raise $1.5 million for the work and will be reaching out to all levels of government for support. As well, a capital campaign will begin this spring and will target the corporate community, individuals and supporters.

It all leads to a big celebration in 2023. There are roots from the Hector throughout the entire country, Laurie explains. The Town of Pictou will celebrate its 150th anniversary the same year.


• Hector replica was launched on Sept. 17, 2000

• From 2000 to 2010 the Ship Hector and Hector Heritage Quay were operated by the Town of Pictou with financial support from the Ship Hector Foundation

• In 2010, the Town of Pictou sold the Hector and the Heritage Quay buildings to the Hector Quay Society

• In 2015, the Hector Quay Society and Ship Hector Foundation merged and became known as the Ship Hector Society. This group is comprised of local business people and volunteers who are committed to ensuring the waterfront destination continues to operate

Work done since 2010:

• Restored and enhanced seawall, walkways and decking on buildings

• Created ‘Below Deck Experience’ that is the highlight for most visitors

• Created audio tour guide in both French and English

• Downrigged vessel and installed lower third of new masts

• Replaced and repaired ship’s deck, hatches, foremast, aft mast, all mooring bits

• Contributed thousands of hours of volunteer time

• Replaced and repaired back of Captain’s cabin

• Carried out two underwater hull inspections by professional divers

• Converted former gift shop to residence for seasonal Coast Guard employees thus creating regular revenues

• New roof on both Coast Guard and carpentry buildings