June 26, 2014 4:50 pm
Updated: June 27, 2014 9:04 am

Darrow says safety ‘number one concern’ for Bluenose II project


HALIFAX – Just days after the Bluenose II underwent sea trials, questions about whether or not the schooner is safe still linger.

David Darrow, the man Premier Stephen McNeil put in charge of the project, says safety is his number one priority and the ship will not be placed back into service until it’s ready.

He has hired independent naval experts to advise him on the project for the first time in the history of the Bluenose II refit.

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READ MORE: Global News Bluenose II coverage

“We are proceeding toward a solution to the rudder problem, to the steering problem and that’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

The province says there is no intention to halt work on the vessel while the Auditor General completes a review later this year.

“I don’t know how long it will take for the auditor general to produce his report, but I don’t see any need at this stage,” Darrow said.

Lou Boudreau, a former deckhand on the Bluenose II, said safety issues could lead to a tragedy on the ship.

“I’m not going to call anybody a liar, but let’s just say I’m very cynical. There’s been stability issues from way back,” he told Global News.

The issue is the new 7,000 pound metal rudder, which replaces the wooden one on the original schooner, and requires a new hydraulic steering assembly to be installed.

Adding hydraulics to the steering has the potential to make the rudder less responsive in certain situations.

For example, if the helmsman loses the ability to steer the boat, its natural tendency is to head up into the wind – -a phenomenon called “rounding up”. It causes sailboats to slow or stall, giving the helmsman a chance to regain control of the steering and put the vessel back on course.

Hydraulic steering assemblies are sometimes called “dead helm steering” because some sailors say it lacks the same feel for the water of traditional rudders. That may make it more difficult to “round up.”

The Bluenose II passed all of its sea trial tests earlier this week except for steering, which Darrow said would make it unlikely to sail this summer.

“The government says it passed many of it’s other tests except the steering…Would you buy a car if the only thing wrong was the steering?” Opposition leader Jamie Baillie said.

Baillie said he is also concerned about whether or not the ship is safe.

“We’re supposed to be good at this, building ships, it’s the pride of the province, that’s what’s on the line,” he said. “The government is being held accountable about whether the boat is safe or not and when we can expect to see a complete seaworthy vessel.”

A stability report is expected back within a week, at which time any problems should become more clear.

“I won’t pass judgement on whether there’s an issue with stability or not until I see that,” Darrow said. “Even when I see that, I’ll have my own independent experts review the information to give me a second opinion.”

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