Thursday, 6 August 2015

Blue Dream Project Schooner - Wooden Boatbuilding

Whilst walking along the Lunenburg waterfront last weekend, I stumbled upon some activity within the old Smith & Rhuland shed - the same one where Bluenose and Bluenose II (Mk.1) were built in 1921 and 1963 respectively (Bluenose II Mk.2 was built nearby in a temporary structure erected for the reconstruction). 

The old Smith & Rhuland shed.
Within I found a new wooden schooner being built. The Blue Dream Project aims to build an ambassador to raise public awareness of the health (or lack thereof) of our planet's oceans. The schooner is being built by David Westergard using traditional methods.

I'm always a fan of boats, and boatbuilding, but I may have been more awed simply by being able to photograph the interior of the Smith & Rhuland shed. The combination of wooden boatbuilding within this building was, therefore, irresistible. I may have spent more time inside than I planned, and kept my poor father on his feet longer than he may have wished.

The 60-foot long schooner is roughly half the size of the 111-foot long (waterline) Bluenose, so there is some room to move around her in the shed. This helps with the taking of photos. She is framed up, and partially planked after roughly a year of construction.

Detail showing how the planking joins with the stem, the latter itself trimmed down to aid her passage through the water.

The decking is placed, and the joints taped to prevent debris from getting in.
The gunnels are placed, and frame the image above. I love the framing of the shed above the boat. My Dad was present for the launching of Bluenose II (Mk.1) in 1963, and his recollection is that they had to make some adjustments to the end wall of the shed (seen in the background) when they launched her to prevent the bow from taking out some of the structure. He was standing on a wharf nearby, and the wave of water created when Bluenose was launched got his feet wet.

Viewing the deck from the bow.

The keel gracefully transitions up into the stern of the boat.

I have always been fascinated with how the planking joins up to the keel in a wooden boat.

A detail of the partially planked port side showing the various frames running aft.

Starboard side looking aft. The treenails holding the planks to the ribs can be seen above.
The schooner is being fastened together with treenails, which are wooden pegs or dowels. The treenails will swell when the boat is in the water, allowing it to increase their holding power. There is a good explanation of this on the Traditional Maritime Skills website.  

Detail of the boat's stem.
The benefit of the boat only being partially planked is that it is easy to photograph the interior without having to squeeze into tight spaces (which I probably wouldn't be allowed to do anyway).

The inside end of some treenails can be seen in the foreground and trailing aft.
In the photo above, the wooden angles that join the deck to the ribs are known as knees.

A different angle from further forward, but still looking aft.

A well worn boat's wheel and steering gear that may end up in the new schooner.
For anyone interested in traditional wooden boatbuilding, for photographers looking for something special to photograph, or just the chance to go inside a building where the legendary Bluenose was born, I highly recommend dropping in on this project in Lunenburg. You might even leave a donation to help this project continue!

2016 UPDATE:

The schooner, now named Mahayana (which is apparently Sanskrit for "Great Vehicle"), was launched in an unfinished state on Saturday July 23, 2016. I was unfortunately unable to make it, but my Dad took some photos which I hope to post here at some point in the near future. I did manage to catch her at the Fisheries Museum wharf in Lunenburg later that day.

"Mahayana" in the early evening of her launching day. 
Some work still needs to be done, and she evidently does not yet have her ballast installed. I hope to follow any progress made over the summer and post the photos here as they become available.


  1. A beautiful record of a sensational project especially in this period of time when traditional methods of boat building are disappearing. Happy to note my boat "MEMORIES" ( also a woodie )on its cradle alongside the shed. Well done indeed.