Second of a weekly series on the tall ships coming to Kenosha.
Capt. Philip Watson, master of the Bluenose II, started sailing on Nova Scotia’s Mahone Bay when he was 10 years old; by 16, he was making deep-water passages and had caught the schooner bug.
He joined Bluenose II as a deckhand in 1987 under the grandson of Capt. Angus Walters, becoming the vessel’s master in 2001.
Although she didn’t race, the ship had limited participation in the Tall Ships Challenge, Tall Ships America’s race series in 2003 under Capt. Watson. Bluenose II only traveled as far as Cleveland, Ohio. There was hope that the ship would visit Chicago, as her namesake did in 1933 for the Century of Progress Exhibition (World’s Fair).
The ship is so important to Nova Scotia tourism, it has taken 16 years for the province to allow the ship to leave and return to the Great Lakes. Needless to say, we are thrilled to have her come as far south as Kenosha.
Here are excerpts from an interview with Capt. Watson:
Do you have any sweet snippets about Capt. Angus Walters, Bluenose’s first captain, that make the ship special?
Angus and Bluenose won the 1933 Chicago to Mackinaw race and they were awarded a 300-pound wheel of cheese!
Why is she so important to the Canadian people?
1920’s Canada was still sorting herself out as a nation. One year after the Great War, the world was changing to a mechanical and fast-paced future. The Bluenose racing story hit at just the right time. It was man against nature, man against man, country against country. It was a positive story in a difficult time.
The story tied in with Rudyard Kipling’s “Captains Courageous,” later a classic Spencer Tracy movie, Prohibition and rum-running schooners from Canada and the great North-South trade and immigration routes. Even until modern times, one in four people in Boston had Canadian family connections. The Grand Banks legacy of fishing and racing is a wonderful story with a hero’s struggle and victory.
She became famous, and the country raised Angus, his crew and their ship up. They are both on currency, stamps and in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Her designer, William Roué, has aspecial place in the Canadian Museum of History.
Does any of the original Bluenose exist on Bluenose II?
Bluenose was lost off Haiti Jan. 28, 1946. Very little remains of this iconic vessel. The bits that do are largely housed at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
What does it mean to be at the helm of a national icon?
Capt. Moreland, owner/operator of Barque Picton Castle (another tall ship that is coming to Kenosha for the festival), says I have the Canadian version of driving the Statue of Liberty around.
Why are you making the journey to share this historic vessel on the American side?
To promote the ship and her story, to recreate the vessel’s trip (in part) to Chicago in 1933 to the World’s Fair and to promote Nova Scotia as a destination. (It’s important to) show maritime hospitality and to represent our province and country in the Tall Ships Challenge.
More of the story: An extensive mobile exhibit will travel with the ship to showcase her legacy. Through interpretation and education, it increases the history and knowledge of the Bluenose and Bluenose II Story, Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador and Canadian icon.
The story also emulates who Canada is as a country, through hard work and determination and what is possible — something everyone can relate to.
Kristin Boyd, a 2015 deck hand, said it perfectly: “My experience as a deckhand aboard Bluenose II represents perseverance, camaraderie, connection, opportunity and tradition. My father, Stephen Boyd, crewed Bluenose II in 1968 and 1969.”
To see Bluenose II during her stay, and for more information about the festival, sail away and Rock the Dock! tickets, or how to volunteer, please go to www.kenoshatallships.com. Event dates: Ships arrive Aug. 1 in a Parade of Sail. Festival dates: Aug. 2–4.
Patricia H. Lock is Tall Ship consultant for the city of Kenosha.
About Bluenose II
Sparred length: 181 feet long
Rig height: 125 feet
Hull: Laminated Angelique, a tropical hardwood from South America
Year built: 1963
Mainsail: At more than 4,000 square feet, it is the largest working mainsail in the world.
History: Like the other tall ships visiting Kenosha in August, Bluenose II has an amazing history built through community engagement and hard work. Bluenose II shares the name and design of the legendary Bluenose, a fishing schooner that earned international fame and became a source of national pride by defeating all American challengers in the Fishermen’s Trophy Races, 1921–1938.