The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

The in poor health-fated winter group of Bluenose II came aboard the send in dribs and drabs in late 1968. By Means Of New Year’s Eve, they have been all aboard and prepared for what should have been an easy run to the Caribbean.

Craig Harding had grown up in Liverpool, N.S., and had just flunked out of Acadia College. His dad found him work on a fishing trawler, but that dried up.

He went to Lunenburg to land paintings on a scallop dragger, but nobody used to be hiring. 

“there has been an indication along Water Side Road with a picture of the Bluenose on it. i assumed, out of the blue, i wonder in the event that they’re hiring anyone?”

the unique Bluenose introduced in 1921 and gained multiple Global Fisherman’s Cups, becoming a Canadian icon worthy of a place at the 10-cent coin. But Bluenose struck a reef and sank off Haiti in 1946.

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Craig Harding joined Bluenose II whilst other work fell via. (CBC)

Bluenose II used to be constructed privately in 1963 to proceed the legacy. And, in 1968, it wanted workforce. 

Harding, 21, used to be hired at the spot. His longtime best friend, Dave Rawding, additionally got here aboard — a cheerful coincidence for each men.

Rawding brought a film digital camera to document the go back and forth. The photos has never prior to been shown in public. 

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Stephen Boyd mostly gave up crusing after the fatal shuttle on Bluenose II. (CBC)

Stephen Boyd, 20, had also flunked out of college before signing up to the Bluenose II. The send had 14 workforce and 5 visitors for the Caribbean shuttle. 

The last day of 1968 found Boyd scheduled for watch duty at the personal vessel, at the same time as the intense lighting fixtures of Halifax sparkled onshore.

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Bluenose II workforce member Dave Rawding introduced his digicam to movie the trip. that is from photos shot in Halifax in overdue 1968 or early 1969, previous to they set sail for Bermuda. These images have by no means been printed earlier than. (Dave Rawding) 

Team member Neil Robitaille, a seasoned sailor by age 22 from Tusket, N.S., took pity on him. 

“Neil got here up and stated, ‘Look, I’m Not going home. Why do not you are taking off. I Will take care of the whole thing for you.’ So it was once a laugh on New Year’s Eve. But Neil made it amusing. He allowed me to go and join my friends,” Boyd says. 

Bluenose II sailed out of Halifax harbour on Monday, Jan. 6, 1969. They sailed previous Sable Island to catch the Gulf Move to Bermuda.

An ominous red moon hung complete over the black seas. Creedence Clearwater Revival could liberate Unhealthy Moon Emerging that 12 months, connecting its apocalyptic lyrics endlessly to that travel in Harding’s mind. 

Things can turn on a dime. 

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

An ominous purple moon hung over the black ocean the day Bluenose II encountered a hurricane that almost sank it. (Craig Baltzer for CBC)

Harding and Boyd took the FOUR-8 a.m. watch at the wheel, which was quiet on the first night. 

The wind blew arduous all that Tuesday. Bluenose II reached some extent that triangulated them equally between Bermuda, Halifax and Boston. The Gulf Move heated the air and water.

Night fell. Storms churned the sea. Trouble was once on the approach. 

Harding and Boyd got here back on watch.

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Neil Robitaille, 22, had crusing enjoy when he joined Bluenose II. This photo comes from One Yarmouth Summer Season, a guide through his loved one, Cora Doucette. (CBC)

“Wednesday morning, January the eighth, that’s whilst all hell broke free,” Harding says.

The storm driven the ship up and down water mountains. The captain ordered all arms on deck. They fought to get the sails furled and underneath control. Boyd remembers a vicious ocean. 

A massive wave crashed over the deck, striking the primary mate. 

“i could listen the crack of his head hitting the growth,” Boyd says. “But he used to be a tricky man and he managed to proceed supervising us and were given the whole thing under control and were given the sail wrapped up on the increase.”

Robitaille was once napping off a seasickness below, however Harding appeared up to to find the sailor at his aspect, furling the sail. “That was once the way in which he was. ‘No no, i’m going to help.'”

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

a demonstration of the instant Harding and Robitaille struggled with the sail before a wave threw them both into the sea. (Craig Baltzer for CBC)

Harding secured his forestall with a reef knot and placed his shoulder into the sail.

“That Is whilst that wave hit. i didn’t see it in any respect. I just felt water. I did an entire backward somersault off the boat deck and went to position my feet down on the deck, and there has been no deck. i was within the water,” he says.

“Looked up and the boat was some distance enough away i could see the whole define of the boat. The spreader lighting were on, but instead of that, it was dark. i began swimming.”

He wore no safety tools — simply his heavy iciness clothes. His rain boots temporarily slid to the ground of the Atlantic. Shoeless, he attempted to stay calm on the stormy ocean. He didn’t really feel the massive waves, as a result of he’d change into a part of them. 

The team at the Bluenose II threw each rope into the black water, hoping for a miracle. 

‘I nearly allow move of that rope’

“i began to swim again to the boat and that i actually ran into the principle sheet rope — hit me within the nostril. And That I grabbed that. Then I Noticed Neil was once within the water behind me. At that point he was once most definitely 25, 30 toes away from me and that i yelled to him: ‘Neil, I’ve Got a rope. Come,'” Harding says.

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Artist Craig Baltzer captures the instant Craig Harding grabs dangle of a rope and hangs on for his life as Bluenose II surged in the course of the typhoon. (Craig Baltzer for CBC)

“And I almost let pass of that rope to head get him and then i thought, If I allow pass of this rope, I’m Going To by no means to find it again. And the boat used to be still transferring. I simply yelled to Neil and he didn’t in point of fact respond. He was once taking a look at me and he appeared GOOD ENOUGH.”

Boyd remembers eight people pulling on the different end of Harding’s rope. Robitaille caught a 2nd rope and hung on as waves and wind battered him. The staff pulled them close, but feared the lurching send would overwhelm the men if they got too shut. 

“It will have to have been heaving 10, 12 ft. It used to be just exceptional, the gap the strict of the ship used to be transferring,” Boyd says.

“And of course Craig was within the heart of it, in the mean of the top and occasional. It used to be a challenge to get him up and in. every time the send went down: snatch the rope, deliver it in somewhat additional.”

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

A wave breaks in opposition to Bluenose II in stormy seas on the 1969 go back and forth. Workforce ate saltines to push back nausea. (Dave Rawding)

Harding and Robitaille were dragged behind the ship for 20 minutes. 

“The funniest stuff you understand that. I had a wool cap on and it saved falling down on my eyes. I were given mad and threw it away and cursed at it,” Harding says.

“Then I heard one of the guys say, ‘Grab his knees’ to tug me on the deck. i feel I brought my knees up round my ears. Then they rolled me on deck.”

Boyd and the others focused absolutely on Robitaille. “there was no protection for him. He should had been 25 feet to the stern of the send. And he just misplaced strength. He could not do it to any extent further. He just misplaced the strength and had to give up the line.”

The staff watched helplessly as he vanished into the ocean. 

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Crews paintings to furl the sail throughout the 1969 typhoon on Bluenose II. Dave Rawding shot this pictures, which used to be digitalized by Digital Now Switch in Halifax. (Dave Rawding)

Waves smashed the skylights over the salon, and water poured into the guts of Bluenose II. the 2 inflatable existence rafts fell into the sea. The send was in danger of sinking. 

“We had to start bailing the send. The pumps were not keeping up with the water coming in and we had to get started bailing water out of her to keep the engines working,” Harding says. 

“i used to be on the captain’s shoulder. And That I heard him do the mayday. That scared me,” Boyd adds, his voice cracking. “i believed that was once it. i didn’t suppose we would ever make it. It used to be a shock, an absolute surprise.”

Winds of ONE HUNDRED TEN km/h modified path thrice in 60 mins. The staff stored bailing. 

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

A U.S. Coast Defend aircraft flies over Bluenose II. It dropped off an emergency pump and searched the stormy seas for any signal of Neil Robitaille. (Dave Rawding)

Hours into the crisis, they heard a plane. Quickly, a U.S. Coast Protect airplane flew overhead and dropped a pump into the ocean.

The airplane looked for Robitaille. Boyd, Harding and the workforce couldn’t get the pump hauled on board earlier than they lost it. 

The coast defend airplane left. 

“We had been by myself available in the market. And this boat will have gone down. We had not anything. We didn’t wear survival fits or the rest back then. We didn’t even have lifestyles jackets on,” Boyd says.

For Twenty-Four hours, the sleepless crew bailed the Bluenose II out to keep it afloat. In Any Case, a whole day into the crisis, a miracle broke at the horizon: a robust U.S. coast defend cutter, despatched to rescue them. 

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Reduction swept throughout the workforce whilst the U.S. coast guard cutter Vigilant spoke back their mayday name. (Dave Rawding)

“We knew that despite the fact that the send went down, we were getting off,” Boyd says. 

It lent them a pump, which saved the ship afloat. Two days later, the cutter escorted a limping Bluenose II into Bermuda. 

“We did a ceremony. David Rawding said a prayer, everyone stood around, just as soon as we got tied up in St. Georges,” Harding says. 

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Harding stored a photocopy of the news experiences. This photo shows the group pausing to keep in mind Robitaille. (CBC)

They called Robitaille’s family and broke the news.

The crew have been exhausted and shell-shocked. Boyd spent two days in mattress. He’d been conscious on account that Halifax. Six days later, Bluenose II used to be repaired and ready to get back to work. they’d passengers to ferry between islands. 

“There’s an underlying sadness that doesn’t show up such a lot of the time. I felt that. We’re partying or having a laugh and you recognize, after which you think: ‘Oh yeah, we misplaced Neil,'” Harding says. 

“It was once maturing,” Boyd says. “we all grew up. It used to be any such surprising adventure and it did imprint the remaining of our lives.”

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Boyd and Harding reunited on Bluenose II just lately to tell their story publicly for the primary time in 50 years. (Robert Short/CBC)

In Might, they introduced Bluenose II home to Nova Scotia. Harding and Rawding took the sombre street to Tusket to sit with Robitaille’s mother. “Almost Certainly considered one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. She was distraught.”

He also left at the back of a sister and his loved one, Cora Doucette. 20 years after the tragedy, she may put up a book of his letters and her reminiscences, referred to as One Yarmouth Summer Time. Yarmouth created a memorial for him. Some people still bring to mind him every time they appear at a dime. 

However nothing marks his passage on Bluenose II, or in Lunenburg.  

“it will be great in the event that they did one thing right here to remember Neil Robitaille as part of the Bluenose,” Harding says. 

He nonetheless thinks of his family member four or 5 occasions every week, even after part a century. 

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Harding stored his staff shirt from the 1969 travel. (Robert Brief/CBC)

“Other Folks name it survivor’s guilt. you understand, I survived and he did not. you reside your life and pass on, but you still recall to mind him lovely frequently. Extra often than i believed I ever would,” Harding says.

“i believe of him often to boot. Specifically over the Christmas season,” Boyd says.

Boyd most commonly gave up sailing after that 1969 shuttle.

But in 2000, Harding was once invited to sail from Nova Scotia to Bermuda with buddies. After so much concept, he joined them. He made sure they sailed over the same seas that took Robitaille in the top of his life. 

“i assumed it will carry some closure. Which i feel it did.”

Bluenose II is now owned by the province of Nova Scotia. The Yankee Bureau of Delivery inspects it once a year to keep it secure. Robitaille remains the only crew member of Bluenose II lost overboard. 

The day Canada almost lost Bluenose II — and did lose a Bluenoser

Bluenose II sails on calm waters on this 1969 picture from Harding’s collection. (Robert Short/CBC)


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