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Winter work in the off-season

Ship's Position: 
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Good morning, 

What a beautiful bright sunny winter day we have been blessed with. Unfortunately, it is sandwiched between two low pressure systems each with its own Special Weather Notice. An uncrewed ship brings its own special concerns and Bluenose II is no exception. Bilges to be pumped, lines tended, heating requirements to be monitored, there is a never-ending checklist of ship keeping to be done. Before we leave in the fall, the ship is winterized and prepared for a freeze but obviously we try to prevent that and try to prevent excessive condensation. Ships live in a damp environment and the fight against mold and mildew is constant. These days, with the temperature rising and falling around the freezing mark, water damage is much more significant than in the past when there would be one freeze and then everything would stay frozen. I wonder if farmers are finding the same with their stored hay and large barns. 

You might think that the office and operations side of Bluenose would shut down over the winter, but their work continues. As the schedule is slowly developed communities and events from the Great Lakes and East Coast write and request ship visits. This can range from a small community celebrating a centenary to a large Tall Ship gathering. Each is given due consideration and fit into the schedule as possible. As the schedule starts to come together, I begin to work out distances between ports, logistics requirements such as fuel and groceries etc. My notes are passed up the chain and the schedule is worked again and again and again. Of course, while this process is going on invitations keep arriving and the schedule maybe changed or completely reworked to support a specific event. Once there is a workable schedule it is submitted to the board of directors for the Lunenburg Marine Museum Society for approval and then to the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage for their approval and comments. It’s a long process with many hands in the pot as you might imagine.  

While the logistics for the summer plan are being developed, we must also find a crew to sail the ship and man the store. Currently we have a stable leadership core which takes a great deal of pressure from the process. Changes in ships officers, office staff or store management are stressful and change the organization. This year the process is looking for ship’s crew and store staff. Finding young people who are willing and able to give up six months of their lives in service to the ship isn’t always easy. In doing the interviews, we are looking for a group of people who are willing and able to work together and live together in a small space. Their work is varied from public speaking to scraping and painting to being up all hours of the night while on watch. It is a fantastically rewarding job but certainly isn’t for everyone.  

We must also find store staff for the company store. More than just a retail sales position, the staff are expected to be front line tourism interpreters for the ship and the town of Lunenburg. Catching and letting go the lines when the ship is coming and going, briefing passengers, and checking them in is all part of the job. Being able to sell merchandise and talk about the restaurants and other attractions in the area requires an ongoing commitment to learning their craft.  
During the winter, we often schedule work that would be difficult to complete during our operational season. For instance, our refrigerator doors needed new springs and a latch. Not difficult work but much easier if the ship is steady and the cook isn’t trying to make a meal! The technician arrived yesterday with the parts so safe access must be provided, meaning a gangway and then the ship unlocked. Bluenose II is a very complicated system so the fridge doors are just the tip of the iceberg. Pumps are rebuilt, electronics have their software updated and worn-out systems are replaced as necessary. Once we start up for the season, we can’t have a piece of equipment in the shop waiting for parts for a month.  

As you might expect, I have only scratched the surface of the winter works. Social media plans, advertising, stock for the store to be chosen and ordered, logistics, Human Resources, training 
for officers and crew to be organized along with a haul out in the spring. It’s a lot of work for a few dedicated people.