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Sail and Safety Training in the Lunenburg Bay

Ship's Position: 
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Crew on deck for Sail and Safety Training in the Lunenburg Bay


What a difference a week makes. Last week some of the crew had their best Stanfields on, today there are shorts and pasty winter legs on display here at the wharf. The sea water temperature and the big bank of fog just off the coast keep temperatures cool out in the bay. And wow, have we been out in the bay! Our first day out this year was a test for the crew and myself alike. As we backed away from the wharf the fog waited for us carried in Lunenburg Harbour by a moderate easterly breeze. The pictures were wonderful, the ship handling a chore. Bluenose II was slow to respond as we asked her to twist in the narrow channel, then like a hound with a fresh scent she finally came around and pointed towards the lighthouse marking the entrance to the Channel. We moved quickly along the waterfront and managed to navigate the lobster trap left squarely in the middle of the channel. With 40 feet of line trailing to the buoy from the trap below it was a narrow miss but thankfully we managed to avoid wrapping the line around our propellers.


So, what does a big schooner with a young crew do in Lunenburg harbour? We train and practice and learn. We set scenarios of disasters and then rehearse our response. If there’s a person in the water, we launch the boat. If there's a fire in the galley, we isolate, cool and extinguish. If we’re sinking with guests aboard, we launch liferafts and herd the passengers over the side. If we have to abandon the ship at sea, we put on our immersion suits and pretend to launch and board the inflatable liferafts. The potential disasters go on and on. Often based on real events, we try to make the practice reflect the reality of being at sea, with help being hours or days away.


Alongside the doom and gloom, we also have victories. We practice raising sail and working as a team to lift the heavy weights. There is little on Bluenose II that can be accomplished by one person, so teamwork is an important lesson both for the summer and for life ahead. The crew have been in the harbour rowing dories, the all-important workboat for a Grand Banks schooner. We have polished the brass and sent crew members to the very top of each mast to hang the halyards that pull the topsails up. Being in a bosun's chair 125’ from the water below can be a harrowing experience and the job is given to a trusted, experienced deckhand.


This week, our training, rigging and workshops all come to a head and our regulatory inspections will occur. The crew will be exercised in all the emergency drills that we have practiced. The steering and engines will be checked and the inspectors will assess our readiness both to set to sea and to carry the general public aboard. I have every confidence in our readiness but still look forward to the end of the inspection process.