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Bluenose |

Under Full Sail: The Life and Legacy of Bluenose

Born on a drafting table a century ago, the legacy of Bluenose was set in motion. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the launch of Bluenose, the Grand Banks fishing schooner whose racing feats and steadfast spirit earned it the title of "Queen of the North Atlantic."

Celebrate a beloved icon that outpaced its challengers and secured a permanent place in our hearts with the 2021 commemorative circulation painted dime.

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W.R. MacAskill, Nova Scotia Archives, 1987‑453 no. 427

The adventure begins

In December 1920, the keel of Bluenose was laid. To honour the special occasion, the Governor‑General of Canada, Victor Cavendish, was invited to drive the golden spike to mark the event. On March 26, 1921, Bluenose was officially launched and ready to set sail on its inaugural season on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland as a fishing vessel, a qualifier for its upcoming and legendary race. The very race it was designed and built to win.

Birth of a racing champion … (the big race) arrow_right

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W.R. MacAskill, Nova Scotia Archives, 1987‑453 no. 261

Birth of a racing champion

After its successful first season as a fishing vessel, Bluenose was ready for the 1921 Nova Scotia Elimination Trials, held off Halifax in October.

Under the command of captain Angus Walters, Bluenose won both Elimination Races with ease against its fellow Lunenburg challengers. But before it could snag the trophy, and the honour, Bluenose had to race against the American entry, the Gloucester schooner, Elsie. The first race took place on October 22, 1921, with Bluenose the victor. The second, and final race for the prize, was held two days later. Bluenose not only crossed the finish line first, but more than four kilometres ahead of Elsie. From this day forward Nova Scotia's pride sailed with Bluenose.

arrow_left The adventure begins


The William James Roué Collection, Canadian Museum of History (2016-H0034.17.2)

Blueprint for Success

The International Fishermen's Trophy, established in 1920, was a prestigious race designed to pit Nova Scotia's fishing schooners against the rival New England fleet. After an unexpected loss in the inaugural race, a group of Halifax businessmen set out to win back the trophy in 1921 by returning with a new, faster vessel.

William James Roué was entrusted with the task of designing a vessel that could both earn its keep as a fishing schooner and bring the Trophy home. Largely self-taught, Bluenose was his first fishing schooner, and it earned him international acclaim.

Dreams marked in wood (building Bluenose) arrow_right

Dreams marked in wood

Known for its versatility and fine craftsmanship, Smith & Rhuland Shipyard, located in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, was awarded the contract for Bluenose in 1920. Its yards became a hub of activity and excitement as the finest shipwrights set to work using lumber from Nova Scotia, while local craftsmen stitched the sails and forged the hardware.

The construction methods were the same as those already used to build more than 100 vessels, but the detailed design of Bluenose set it apart. Using a mathematical approach, Roué gave Bluenose the ability to carry a large amount of sail and a hull shape which would cut through the water with the least resistance, giving her speed that was a huge benefit in her fishing and racing career.

arrow_left Blueprint for Success

W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives 1987‑453 no. 428

A legacy beyond the shore

For the 17 years that followed the fateful day in October 1921, Bluenose remained undefeated in the International Fishermen's race. No Canadian or American vessel could seize the trophy from Captain Walters and his crew. Bluenose – from design, to build, to victories and crew – became an industry legend, a symbol of Canadian pride, and an ambassador on the world's stage.

Wherever Bluenose sailed, from Chicago for the World's Fair, to England for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, media and fans followed. In 1937 the legend of Bluenose, under full sail, was forever marked in time with the Canadian dime. Though Bluenose struck a reef and was lost in 1946, its memory will live on.


Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

Minting the story

Learn more about the Bluenose and all those who were part of its journey.

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Launching a legacy: Bluenose at 100

Read more
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William J. Roué: The vision behind Bluenose

Read more

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