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 Spirit of TraditionAn Old Bluenose is given new life

By Terri Hodgson

The prospective new owner of the old Bluenose 24 had two objectives to satisfy in the hunt for his new yacht; the boat had to be a beautiful classic AND it would serve as an ornament to be anchored in front of his Muskoka cottage. Stuart Cottrelle came to Gordon Laco, a friend, sailor and outfitter of classic yachts supplier of traditional marine gear, with an idea. Cottrelle was attracted by the beauty and performance characteristics of Meter Class yachts and others such as the Dragon class, but he hesitated to become responsible for a wooden vessel.  After much discussion and casting about it was resolved that a glass hulled yacht, which was a good candidate for a spirit of tradition refit, would be the right choice.  “Spirit of tradition” is a term that has gained currency in the yachting world;  it well describes boats exhibiting the grace of classics, but which incorporate modern materials.  Many new vessels are being built that fit this descriptive title while many more are undergoing the transformation it describes.

Refinished Exterior

A solid Bluenose 24, built by McVey Yachts in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, likely in the early 1970’s was found by Terry Johnson of Hamer Bay Marine, and its purchase was settled. The Bluenose is a One-Design class of sailing yacht that was conceived by William Roué in 1946 (the same Roue who designed the famous iconic Bluenose that we see on our dimes, and whose successor is just out of her own comprehensive refit).   Today, fleets of them still race in Nova Scotia.  A recent regatta in Chester saw thirty-two boats jousting at the starting line. McVey built a version of these boats which, while basically faithful to Roue’s design, featured the addition of a small cuddy cabin and a self-bailing cockpit.   The plug for McVey’s version was taken from B 71, SKYLARK, a successful wooden Bluenose racing in the Nova Scotia fleet.

The boat was attractive to Stuart and Gordon because, although smaller, she had the look of a Dragon class yacht.  With her well-built glass hull she was good raw material they could work with.  These boats are inexpensive and plentiful in Ontario.  The Bluenose was brought to Charles Wenneker of Wenneker Woodworks in Midland Ontario for the purpose of transforming her into a classic yacht.  In her earlier life she had been somebody’s nice, quiet cottage boat and was tired and worn from decades of service. 

All new hardware

A detailed job list was developed. It was decided to keep the McVey deck and cockpit, but a new mast and boom of sitka spruce would be designed and built for her – long tapering spars being one of the signature hallmarks of beauty which the project sought.  Her scarred decks and topsides were given an Epifanes two part polyurethane paint job by the roll and tip method, giving her a new rich colour complete with an impressive gold leaf cove stripe.  All of the original mahogany and teak in the vessel was replaced with new wood carefully selected for quality, colour and grain. Extra care and was put into the yacht’s fittings which included new ash shelled blocks and bronze cleats and chocks made in England by Davey from the same patterns that company has been building fittings from since 1885 (Petra if there is space this is the place to insert photo of Blocks).  The yacht’s running rigging comes from Langman of Holland and is made of polyester made to the look and feel of high quality hemp being braided in the 1940’s for performance yachts. 

Custom Blocks

Charles’ work on this Bluenose is not an aberration from his usual woodworking.  He told us that over the past several years his woodworking shop, that was originally centred largely around fine furniture, elaborate architectural doors and windows, and sometimes kitchen cabinetry, has evolved gradually into being almost exclusively woodworking on boats. Charles told us of his woodworking education years ago in Holland which unfolded over four years, learning all of the different aspects of wood and its characteristic and applications in a detailed way so that today he applies this knowledge in beautiful practical ways.  He has a thorough knowledge of the natural attributes and behaviours of different wood species.  Laco’s consulting and distribution business has been involved in a number of classic yachts, both new builds and refits, including of the famous S&S yawl DORADE, the P Boat BERNICE, among numerous other historic sailing ships and classic yachts.   He says “I like making traditional sailing yachts perform to their potential without compromising authenticity”.

Outside for first time

The completed yacht was picked up by her new owner and launched at Hamer Bay Marine on Lake Joseph this past July.  The stepping of the mast and the rigging went well as did the placement of the last fittings – they held that off till the stick was up in order to ensure correct alignments and fair runs of the various lines.

According to the proud Laco, “We sailed the boat to her owner’s island property in light air – she behaved well and I reckon will be a successful yacht.”

Information about the class association can be found here:  http://www.nsbluenoseclass.com

Wenneker Woodworks: www.WennekerWoodworks.com

Hardware and rigging used in this refit may be seen at www.nwmaritime.org/chandlery
Wenneker Woodworks, Midland

Gordon Laco and Charles Wenneker