The builders of Bluenose

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The Lunenburg Industrial Foundry, which provided the yard and the mechanical systems for the Bluenose project, is the largest shipbuilding and repair facility in Lunenburg Harbour. It has two marine railways capable of hauling yachts and ships, and its own metal casting and heavy-duty machining and fabrication shops. (www.lunenburgfoundry.com)

A local beach with very fine green sand — ideal for making casting molds — is the main reason the factory was built where it is. That sand is still used to cast anything a customer may need, from cast-iron tall ship fittings to 1,600-pound ship propellers.

Kevin Feindel is general manager of the Lunenburg Industrial Foundry.

Lunenburg’s deep bench of marine talent makes it a popular place for repairs, overhauls and new builds. At any given time, at least a couple of tall ships can be seen tied up at the Lunenburg docks. The Canadian navy routinely sends ships and barges there for refit and repair. “One of the great things about this place is that we can make just about anything,” says Kevin Feindel, general manager of the foundry. Perhaps its most high-tech project is a “solar concentrator” that uses sunlight to melt metal.

The foundry has remained remarkably diversified, having once made cast-iron stoves and furnaces. More recently, it moved into the power generation business, marinizing diesels in collaboration with Ford and Isuzu. Its engine shop produced containerized diesel generators used by the Canadian armed forces, among other customers.

Propellers are a staple. One room in the foundry’s casting plant is filled with dozens wooden prop molds. In fact, one of its prop brands is named Bluenose.

Hollywood has come to Lunenburg more than once. The Smith & Rhuland Shipyard built the full-size replica of the Bounty that was used in the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty.” (Search the archives at SoundingsOnline.com for Soundings’ coverage of the tall ship’s sinking in Hurricane Sandy last October. Keyword: Bounty.) Two years ago, a German film company used the foundry’s old casting sheds for scenes in an upcoming remake of “Moby Dick,” for which the company painted the 1800s-era wood-shake factory buildings to look like Nantucket, Mass., during whaling’s heyday. Other films with scenes in or around Lunenburg include “Dolores Claiborne” (1995), “Two If by Sea” (1996), “Simon Birch” (1998), and “The Weight of Water” (2000).

Snyder’s Shipyard

Wade Croft, co-owner of Snyder's Shipyard

Traditional wooden boatbuilding skills are what has kept Snyder’s Shipyard going for the past 136 years on the banks of the LaHave River just nine miles from Lunenburg. Once one of several yards along the river, Snyder’s is practically the only commercial wooden shipyard left. The others went out of business as technology changed. “There used to be five or six boatbuilding shops along here at one time, but that ended because of fiberglass,” says Philip Snyder, co-owner and master shipbuilder, whose father bought the yard in 1944. “We are one of the last wooden boatbuilders here, and we’ve been here a long while.”

Snyder’s had done maintenance and repair on the old Bluenose II for decades, and it was responsible for the bulk of the carpentry work on the new schooner. The yard has specialized in building wooden commercial boats — mostly fishing vessels, such as longliners and draggers that work the Bay of Fundy and other waters off Nova Scotia. Its most recent project is overhauling and fiberglassing the hull of an old 65-foot wooden dragger called Final Venture, transforming it to a floating shrimp factory that will work in the ice fields of the Bay of Fundy.

The yard also builds recreational boats and is the only authorized builder of the 23-foot sloop version of the original Bluenose, also designed by William Roué. Fiberglass versions of the daysailer are available, but Wade Croft, the other co-owner of Snyder’s, notes with pride that “wood goes faster than the glass models” in the local Bluenose 23 races held every year and “always wins.”

Other than Bluenose, Snyder’s most high-profile project was the custom modification of a tugboat — Theodore Too — used to promote a children’s TV show produced in Halifax. The instantly recognizable tug still tours Halifax Harbour and visits boat shows all along the East Coast. www.snydersshipyard.com

Covey Island Boatworks

John Steele, head of Covey Island Boatworks

Just down the LaHave River is Covey Island Boatworks, which specializes in the most high-tech wood boatbuilding techniques being used today. (www.coveyisland.com) Started 30 years ago by master shipbuilder John Steele, the employee-owned yard does refits and builds custom yachts using composite wood/epoxy technology. Covey Island made the cold-molded keelson, ribs, frames and deck beams for the new Bluenose, which will add strength to the vessel.

”We build 40- to 60-foot oceangoing cruising boats, both sail and power. We’ve been focused almost entirely on building schooners in recent years,” Steele says.

Steele’s specialty is the combination of wood, epoxy and various fabrics used in composite wood/epoxy construction to optimize wood’s strengths and minimize its weaknesses. As his website says, “Over 30 years and 89 yachts, we have developed and refined wood/epoxy boats to a ‘fare-thee-well.’ ”

With the completion of the Bluenose project, Steele is semiretiring from Covey Island Boatworks and plans to move aboard his own boat, Papa I, a 71-foot gaff-rigged schooner he built with his adult children. Although Steele personally built the hull, one daughter finished the interior, another made the sails, and his son did the spars and rigging.

Steele’s boat reflects one of his abiding interests in wood: recycling it. Before Papa I was a boat, it was an aircraft hangar. “I bought a Canadian air force aircraft hangar that was about to be demolished and salvaged the wood,” Steele says. “I hadn’t seen Douglas fir like that. It was violin-quality, so I recycled it into the Papa I.”

See related articles:

- Rebirth of an icon

- Lunenburg: a special place

- Why was she named Bluenose?

July 2013 issue