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Former sea captain says province made ‘total hash’ of Bluenose II restoration

Click to play video: 'Reaction is mixed to Bluenose II decision' Reaction is mixed to Bluenose II decision
WATCH ABOVE: Reaction to the Nova Scotia Government’s latest decision on the Bluenose II is mixed. Global’s Marieke Walsh reports – Mar 4, 2016

After the Nova Scotia government announced it would sink millions more dollars into the restoration of the Bluenose II, a former sea captain says the province’s handling of the project is sullying the memory of the iconic schooner.

Lou Boudreau said the conclusion of a $30,000 report to replace the vessel’s rudder and steering system is unimpressive.

“It’s a wooden schooner. It’s not a space shuttle. It needs a wooden rudder,” he said.

READ MORE: Government poised to spend millions replacing Bluenose II steel rudder

The province said Thursday it would accept the report’s recommendation to replace the schooner’s steel rudder and hydraulic system with a lighter, wooden one that can be steered manually. The cost of replacing the rudder isn’t expected to push the total cost of the restoration past $25 million — meaning the rudder and its installation should cost the province about $1.2 million — although it’s well above the initial estimated cost of $14.4 million.

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The report said the current setup is troubling due to its complexity, reliability and “long-term impact on the vessel”, noting there are several potential points of failure that would require an engineer to be on permanent standby.

“I just told them that in detail. [I’ve] been saying the same thing for years,” Boudreau said. He said successive governments have done damage to the memory of the Bluenose II, which is known across the world.

READ MORE: Steering problems force cancellation of Bluenose II sailings

“The Liberal Party had a chance to come galloping in here on a shiny white horse and say, ‘Look at us, we’re the guys who saved the Bluenose from the mess that the NDP left.’ Well, they’ve just take it and made a total hash of it,” he said.

Provincial Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said the move to swap the rudder and steering system “wasn’t a political decision.”

“We wanted that vessel to sail, so that was the best decision at the time,” he said.

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Boudreau said he disagrees with that characterization.

“They did something wrong,” he said. “They put a Band-Aid on something and took a big chance. They should have fixed it right.”

The government also announced Thursday it would settle with Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance, paying the company $5 million — $1.8 million of which has already been given.

The Bluenose II had its official re-launch last summer, however, a few days later, the vessel was tied up again due to complications with the steering. The repairs to the schooner, supposed to be complete by 2011, dragged on for six years and cost the province millions more than expected.

It will sail under the steel and hydraulic system for at least one more year while the government makes final decisions about a replacement rudder.

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