King of the salt-bank schooners

Fa­mous ves­sel in Lunen­burg, Halifax and Bed­ford un­til the end of Septem­ber


The mere sight of the grand fish­ing schooner brought him back to the long ago days of his prime, when he had earned a liv­ing off the shores of Lunen­burg in such a ves­sel.

“Our boat didn’t look quite like this one,” said the old­timer, who Alexan­der Keith Lapp fig­ured had to be well into his 80s.

The long-since-re­tired fish­er­man had shown up at the Halifax water­front dur­ing the height of sum­mer to get a glimpse of Bluenose II, the king of the salt-bank schooners.

By then, Keith Lapp, who was en­joy­ing his first sum­mer as one of 14 ves­sel deck­hands on board, had greeted tens of thou­sands of vis­i­tors at 10 dif­fer­ent North Amer­i­can ports. Among them was Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau.

The en­counter with the fish­er­man would prove to be among his most mem­o­rable.

“He had no prob­lem at all get­ting down the gang­way and you could tell by the look on his face as he was shuf­fling around the boat that so many mem­o­ries were com­ing back,” he re­called.

“I was in awe of his sto­ries, that he had worked on a salt-bank schooner out of Lunen­burg. He’d been fish­ing in one of the dories that worked along the moth­er­ship and was re­call­ing be­ing out in big seas and get­ting lost in the fog for hours.”

Keith Lapp, who grew up in Bed­ford, had been wait­ing for an en­counter such as this dur­ing his four-and-a-half month stint aboard the Bluenose II.

It was the change he yearned for af­ter spend­ing more than two years in Fort Laud­erdale, Fla., where he was look­ing af­ter a pri­vate,

lux­u­ri­ous sail­ing yacht.

“You think about the engi­neer­ing that goes into th­ese boats that fished off the Grand Banks for months,” added Lapp, who’s a grad­u­ate of Hol­land Col­lege’s bridge watch rat­ing pro­gram.

“All of it is such an im­por­tant part of our his­tory and who we are.

“They were part of the cod fish­ery that fed the world. Places like Lunen­burg were among some of the ports that caught the most. It’s a Nova Sco­tia icon and you don’t see a lot of boats, wooden schooners built tra­di­tion­ally. It’s the same set up as back in the 1920s.

“When we toured with the tall ships dur­ing Ren­dez-vous 2017, ev­ery other sailor who came on board was just blown away by the con­struc­tion, the qual­ity, the

miles and miles of rope and the 125 blocks and pul­leys in the rig­ging.”

With the ex­cep­tion of a cou­ple of nights, Keith Lapp spent a full four-and-a-half months aboard Bluenose II. The crew has sailed as far as Bos­ton and Quebec. Lunen­burg, Digby, Halifax, Pic­tou and Syd­ney are among its lo­cal des­ti­na­tions.

“We’ve seen bel­uga whales, sheer fjord cliffs, dol­phins, por­poises, sharks and a south­ern Pel­i­can in the Gulf of Maine do a full 360 around the boat and fly off in the sun­set.”

With his crew of deck­hands they worked long hours. Aside from their reg­u­lar tour guide du­ties they’re ex­pected to keep the schooner in tip-top shape, sand­ing and var­nish­ing sur­faces reg­u­larly.

Dur­ing his on-deck du­ties he’s taken the wheel on many oc­ca­sions.

“There’s noth­ing like the feel­ing of that boat when the en­gines are off, the sails are out and the boat is hiked over. There’s noth­ing but wind on a gi­ant all-wood ma­chine de­signed in the ’20s. It’s magic.”

Re­cently, Keith Lapp took a job as a deck­hand on a tug boat, pri­mar­ily shep­herd­ing mas­sive ships into Halifax and Saint John har­bours. He has as­pi­ra­tions of be­ing a ves­sel cap­tain one day.

He’ll miss the mighty schooner. He sug­gests peo­ple should make an at­tempt to see the Bluenose II be­fore sea­son’s end. It will be avail­able for view­ing in Lunen­burg, Halifax and Bed­ford un­til the end of Septem­ber.

“Go for a sail. I prom­ise you there’s noth­ing like it.”

An­dreW ranKin/the chron­i­cle her­ald

Alexan­der Keith Lapp served as a deck­hand aboard Bluenose II this sum­mer.

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