Lunenburg! To a kid growing up in Canada in the 50’s the city that was home to the famous Bluenose schooner commanded the same reverence as the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs – at the time our only NHL teams. Every Canadian kid read stories of the adventures of the Bluenose in school readers, and a facsimile of the beautiful ship still decorates one side of our Canadian dime. Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site by virtue of the many well-preserved 17th and 18th century homes and buildings that line the streets for several blocks in any direction from the waterfront. The large, sheltered harbour suited the shipbuilding industry on which Lunenburg flourished, and ship builders and chandlery’s continue to share the waterfront with vintage sailing and fishing vessels, busy marinas and tourist attractions.
Horse-drawn carriages offer an enchanting way to tour the original neighbourhoods of Lunenburg and make it much easier to get up and down the streets of the hillside town. The tour guides-come-carriage drivers are very knowledgeable and were happy to take as much time as required for good photographs. Our dappled Percheron, “Charlie” stole the show by seeming to respond with good nature to spoken commands – “Hold up here, Charlie there’s a car coming…” or “Okay Charlie, we can go now…” or “No, Charlie it’s not time to go home yet”. I was so impressed that I tried him out on “Well, Charlie how about a latte at the nearest Starbucks?” but I guess that’s not part of his vocabulary yet. Little signs on the seat backs in the carriage say “This business is For Sale. Enquiries Welcome”.
There are a surprising number of things to see in the small ‘Burg of Lunen’ so having only a day meant some hard choices. The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic was a good pick that included not only very interesting displays of ships, ship building and the fishery but self-guided tours of two fishing vessels – a modern day side trawler, Cape Sable and the vintage saltbank schooner, Theresa E. Connor – moored alongside the pier.
‘Bluenose’ was an old and descriptive term for a Nova Scotian, originating sometime in the 18th century. So when the graceful schooner was built by Nova Scotians in 1921 it seemed perfectly appropriate that she, too would be a “Bluenose”. The decision to build her came after Nova Scotia lost the International Fishing Challenge Cup to an American schooner in a 1920 race sponsored by the Halifax Herald newspaper. The Bluenose lived up to expectations and in the year she was launched she did defeat her American rival… and proceeded to win the cup for 17 of the next 18 years.
The Bluenose was also a working fishing vessel until fishing schooners were replaced by motor trawlers in the 1930’s. She was sold to work as a freighter in the West Indies where she struck a reef on January 28, 1946 and was wrecked beyond repair.
The Bluenose II was built in Lunenburg in 1963 as a promotional project for Oland Brewery to promote their flagship brew – Schooner Lager. I drank a few pints while in Lunenburg as a tribute to the place and the great ship. Lovely. The Oland family sold the ship in 1971 to the government of Nova Scotia for the princely sum of ten Canadian dimes, and it is currently being fully restored. The Bluenose II is scheduled to be re-launched in September or October this year.
Of all the many lovely B & B’s in Lunenburg, the Bluenose Lodge seemed most in keeping with the theme of this first visit. It was heartening to chat with the innkeepers, a young, professional couple who had always dreamed of owning an inn here and who are lovingly and tastefully restoring this treasure. After a couple of years they are “making it” but still have income from his full time job and are not ready to give that up yet. The inn is nicely located, a short walk down a path to the harbour, on a lovely treed property with the happy sounds of kids swinging in the backyard. I highly recommend it.