The queen of the Atlantic ... and her king

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April 1921, Lunenburg Harbor, Nova Scotia —The schooner Bluenose sailed for the first time and set sail for her first fishing trip on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. At her helm, a captain who, with his schooner, would mark the history of sailing; Angus Walters.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the America's Cup was THE sailing race on this side of the Atlantic. A serie race for the 1920 Cup was canceled due to high winds.

But many sailors found that this race was becoming more and more a spectacle of appearance more than a race for sailors. The fishermen of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland decided to show to the yacht clubs dandies what real sailors were. They organized the first International Fishermen's Cup where only working schooners could enter. The schooner Esperanto, from Gloucester, Massachusetts, won the 1920 race.

The schooners from Lunenburg, NS, were built for freighters and not for speed while the schooners from Gloucester were built for speed. It was then that Angus Walter entered the scene. In preparation for the 1921 race, he had the Bluenose built. The rest is history.

In 1921 she won the International Fishermen's Trophy and for the next 17 years she remained undefeated. Between races and unlike the precious boats of Yacht Club races, the Bluenose toiled hard on the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic. It was a ship of sailors, fishermen.

The Bluenose only knew one captain, Angus Walters. He knew her so much that he knew exactly what to ask and when. It is said that during the races, it was only after having rounded the last buoy, that Walters hoisted the sails to the maximum, no matter the weather, and that the Bluenose literally flew above the waves, leaving her opponents , often more modern, to see her evaporate in the spray.

Unfortunately, with the disappearance of the schooner fishery, Walter had to sell it in 1942. It was with great sadness that he learned that it had sunk near Haiti on January 28, 1946.

In 1963, Angus Walter assisted to the construction of the Bluenose II, built according to the original plans and by some of the same workers. On July 24, 1963, at the age of 82, he took over the helm of the Bluenose II for her first trip to the West Indies.

1977 - As a young recruit of the "College militaire royal de Saint-Jean", the Canadian Armed Forces took me and my new companions to spend a weekend in Halifax to tour the naval base. We found ourselves walking along the harbor quays when I came up to a magnificent black schooner. I was immediately under her spell. With her sleek line and bow, rich woodwork and skilfully stretched ropes, everything about this ship projected an image of harmony and grace ready to cut through the waves. It was the Bluenose II.

39 years after seeing her in Halifax, I hit the road in July 2016 and after several detours, I found her in Lunenberg. Like when I was 17, I imagined myself sailing on her. Like all Canadians since 1937, I carry her in my pockets, her image engraved on a 10-cent coin so that she will be remembered when she was "Queen of the Atlantic."

I met her again going up the river, sails beating in the wind, as I crossed to Île aux Coudres in 2019. I will follow her until she disappeared, upstream from Baie St-Paul.

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Adhering to the "code of responsible adventure", I do not geolocate with precision the places I explore, except in a few rare exceptions such as my trips to the Arctic or during a relevant historical reference.

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Texts, drawings, videos and photos © Marc-André Pauzé - all rights reserved

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