Bluenose II rudder replacement underway, cost estimate remains at $25M

The Bluenose II is set to get its rudder replaced.
The Bluenose II is set to get its rudder replaced. Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Boat builders in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia are working to replace the Bluenose II‘s troublesome steel rudder with a wooden one.

READ MORE: Bluenose II to return to wooden rudder, steel version proves heavy, clumsy

The massive steel rudder, which required a $700,000 custom-built hydraulic steering system, was deemed too heavy for operation in a report released in March. The report warned the rudder would change the shape of the vessel and shorten its life.

By October of this year, the government of Nova Scotia had sunk more than $23 million into restoring the schooner. Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan estimated at that time the total end cost would be $25 million.

MacLellan said Thursday the cost is expected to stay the same with this next phase — replacing the steel rudder should cost about $500,000. He said there is a range in cost due to the man hours needed to finish the work.

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“We’re probably in the half a million range,” he said. “There’s fixed costs associated, and then those moving costs will be time to do the installation.”

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

The original 2009 cost estimate for the restoration project was $14.4 million.

Sole-sourced contract

The same shipyard that first rebuilt the Bluenose II, Snyder’s shipyard, will also do the work to replace the rudder.

MacLellan said the shipyard was awarded the sole-sourced contract to fix the schooner because they “deserved” to see the project through.

“They’ve done a tremendous job on the Bluenose II project since 2009 despite all the challenges that they faced in terms of the contract, the management, the oversight,” he said.

“We’re confident in their abilities, and they’re the best in the business, and they deserve this opportunity and that’s why we sole sourced it to them.”

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

Future of hydraulic steering system and steel rudder unknown

Whether the new wooden rudder will still require the hydraulic steering system is yet to be determined, but MacLellan said the “early indication was that the hydraulics wouldn’t be needed.”

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The government has “no plan yet” for the controversial steel rudder, he said, adding that no museums have asked for the rudder.

“Other than conversations with you here I haven’t had any discussions about what we do with the steel rudder,” MacLellan said. “If there’s any value in liquidating it then obviously we’ll do that.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s part of our history’: Visitors marvel at Bluenose II in Halifax

Restoration of the Bluenose II has hit countless snags, thanks to the steel rudder. Only weeks after being cleared to sail for the 2016 sailing season, the schooner was met with cancellations due to steering issues.

— With files from The Canadian Press. 

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