Generations of Atlantic Canadians have grown up with stories of Captain Angus Walters and Bluenose. The vessel became the world's most famous Nova Scotian fishing schooner and won a place in the hearts of thousands.
Bluenose was launched at the Smith and Rhuland Shipyard, in Lunenburg, on March 26, 1921. Hundreds of people watched as the vessel went down the ways. The crowd cheered and the hills echoed with jubilant good wishes for the new schooner.
Captain Angus Walters, a Lunenburg-native, was 39 years old when Bluenose was launched. He was eager to prove the worth of the new schooner. Work progressed rapidly to get Bluenose ready for the first trip to the fishing banks.
On April 15, 1921, Bluenose left for the Banks. Captain Walters was pleased with the way the vessel handled. They put in a full fishing season - first, the frozen baiting trip, then the spring trip and, lastly, the summer trip. Bluenose was home by September. By fishing a complete season, Bluenose had fulfilled the main requirement as a prospective competitor in the International Series. The racing schooners had to be "real" fishing vessels - and had to have fished a full season, to qualify for the Series. The organizers of the International Fishermen's Series were determined that the Series would not be taken over by "yachting-types".
In October, Bluenose went to Halifax, with other Nova Scotian schooners, to take part in the elimination races. The Nova Scotian competitors were : Canadia, Delawana, Alcala, Uda R. Corkum, Donald J. Cook, J. Duffy, Independence and Bluenose. Bluenose won the eliminations and became the Canadian entrant in the International Fishermen's Series.
The following week, Bluenose raced against the American schooner Elsie. On October 24, 1921, Bluenose defeated Elsie in the final race of the Series and won the International Cup. Bluenose was never defeated in an International Fishermen's Series.
Bluenose continued to fish and race, with good success. In 1922, Bluenose went to Gloucester and raced against the Henry Ford. Bluenose won the Series. The following year, in Halifax, Bluenose raced against the Columbia. Angus Walters later remarked that the Columbia was the greatest rival of the Bluenose. The 1923 Series did not reach a satisfactory conclusion. There were disagreements between the Captains of both vessels and the Race Committee. Bluenose went home to Lunenburg and the Columbia went home to Gloucester. The International Races did not resume until 1931.
The intervening years were difficult for everyone involved in the fishing industry. Fishermen worked hard, but fish prices were low. There were disastrous storms at Sable Island, known as the August Gales of 1926 and 1927. In those two storms, six Lunenburg schooners were lost with all hands. The American schooner Columbia was also lost, in the Gale of 1927.
In 1929, the Canadian Postal Service issued a beautiful 50-cent Bluenose stamp.
The International Fishermen's Series was revived in 1931. Bluenose raced against the new Gertrude L. Thebaud. To the delight of Nova Scotians, Bluenose won the Series.
As the effects of the Great Depression began to be felt, Bluenose began a new career as a touring vessel, visiting far-off ports. Bluenose went to the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. The following year, Bluenose visited Toronto. In 1935, Bluenose went to England, for the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Thousands of people were welcomed aboard the Bluenose - and the international fame of the schooner was established. Engines were installed in the Bluenose in 1936, to enable the vessel to go fresh fishing.
In 1937, the Canadian dime was changed to include an image of Bluenose. Bluenose had truly become a national symbol.
The last International Fishermen's Series took place in October of 1938. The 17-year-old Bluenose raced against the 8-year-old Gertrude L. Thebaud, near Gloucester and Boston.
The 1938 Series was comprised of five individual races. At the start of the fifth and deciding race, both schooners were tied two wins each. Angus Walters and his crew sailed the Bluenose to one final victory. Bluenose crossed the finish line first - and an age in history was brought to a glorious conclusion. Captain Angus Walters became the sole owner of the Bluenose and desperately tried to save the schooner. However, by 1942 the cost of maintaining the schooner was more than Captain Walters could afford. He sold the Bluenose to the West Indies Trading Company. Bluenose began a career of freighting goods in the Caribbean. In January, 1946, Bluenose went aground on a reef, near Haiti.
Many schooners met a similar fate. Gertrude L. Thebaud was lost in 1948, in southern waters, working as a freighter. Bluenose memory, however, continued. When the replica of Bounty was built at Smith and Rhuland in 1960, Lunenburgers spoke of a Bluenose replica. The Halifax-based firm of Oland and Son Limited agreed to finance the construction of Bluenose II. In 1963, Bluenose II was launched from the same shipyard, built by many of the men who had worked on the original vessel.