Amidst a blast of horns and a waving crowd, Bluenose II left its habitual mooring along the Lunenburg waterfront.
Given the ship’s participation in the Tall Ships Challenge series, the scene — which took place on June 15 — represented the last time spectators could catch a glimpse of Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador in her home port until September.
But the ship’s farewell was not without a bit of drama as it was quickly joined by tall ships Picton Castle and Pride of Baltimore II, treating spectators to a show from the age of sail.
Captain Phil Watson, master of Bluenose II, said the moment was one he cherished.
“I can’t tell you how much that means to me,” he said, adding he’d learned a lot from the other captains.
“To be able to see these three ships together, personally for me, is just beyond.”
The Tall Ships Challenge, which is located in the Great Lakes this year, represents the furthest afield the ship has gone since its launch in 2012.
Watson said it was an opportunity to share a Canadian icon.
“It’s important when you have something like this, when you’re the caretaker of something like the Bluenose, that you go and you share it with Canada,” he said.
Watson also pointed out that it's been nearly 20 years since the ship visited the Great Lakes; he said the trip would be an experience for both the public and the ship’s crew.
Maggie Ostler, the chief operations officer for Picton Castle, said she expects the tall ships to be a big draw.
“People in the Great Lakes will line up for hours just to come onboard,” she said.
Ostler added that it’s hard to say goodbye to friends aboard but the Tall Ships Challenge was a chance for the crew to be a part of something bigger.
“We’re usually kind of on our own and you feel like you’re the only person in the world who does what you do,” she explained.
“To be able to be in company with other ships is a very cool thing.”
Watson agreed, adding the series was a way to showcase Nova Scotia with a broader audience.
“You can’t take Peggy’s Cove, you can’t take the Highlands of Cape Breton or the Yarmouth Light,” he said. “But we can take the Bluenose.”
Bluenose II is expected to arrive in Toronto on June 27 and will partake in the Tall Ships Challenge parade of sail; the ship will also be a part of the Redpath Waterfront Festival on Canada Day.
The ship will then visit several more ports throughout the Great Lakes before making its way back to Lunenburg in mid-September.
More information is available at bluenose.novascotia.ca.
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