Fair Winds for Ye

The Bluenose II is currently docked on the Lunenburg wharf on Nova Scotia’s south shore. I like to think she dreams, while gazing out to the Atlantic, of racing with the same prowess as her predecessor in whose likeness she was created. Visitors are allowed to stroll her open decks at certain times while minding the covid protocols. The Bluenose II has a troubled history. She was built as exacting as possible to the original by private shipbuilders in Lunenburg, launching her in 1963. She was later gifted to the Province of Nova Scotia in 1971. She underwent a rebuild in 2009 that saw huge over-runs in cost and delays upon delays but was eventually launched in 2015. Nova Scotians breathed a sigh of relief.

The original Bluenose was launched in 1921 from Lunenburg. Speed was essential in the fishing trade; the first back to the docks secured the best price for their catch. She earned the title of Queen of the North Atlantic, where her speed went unchallenged for seventeen years. She has adorned the Canadian dime since 1937 but was sold to the West Indies Trading Company in 1942, sinking near Haiti in 1946 after striking a reef, left in her watery grave. She had been reduced to hauling freight, having just delivered a load of bananas when she sank, and there she remained, shredded into nothing by the razor-sharp reef. Nova Scotians never recovered from the sale of her, and her subsequent loss and it is most definitely a sensitive subject with those shipbuilders of yore from Lunenburg, with their strong ties to the sea.

I didn’t sit down today to write about the Bluenose, but rather I was giving thought to the metaphor of sailing, considering the stormy seas we find ourselves in on any given day. Those who call themselves the source of “news” dedicate themselves to disaster rather than hope. It was Franklin D Roosevelt who said a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. FDR was smart enough to marry Eleanor Roosevelt, which elevates him on my list of people who have earned my respect. The pandemic has raised all manner of issues of mental health and how we help our children adjust to the changes we’ve been obligated to embrace. A great deal of uncertainty swirls about as children ready to head back to school. We all want to rescue our children, want to save them from the perils of life, from the disappointments, from the inadequacies, but psychologists advise instead to give children the tools to confront the challenges head on, to maneuver through those rough seas of which Roosevelt referenced.

As I walked on the Bluenose II, Roosevelt’s quote regarding sailing repeatedly popped into my head, with enough force that I was whispering his words as I strolled her wooden deck and leaned on her gleaming railing. The truth is we can go in any direction provided we learn to harness the wind. There are few if any straight lines in life. We must bend and weave, adjust our trajectory, sometimes wait on the wind, and at other times hunker down to ride out a storm. The analogy is quite complete.

I don’t know how to sail. I am indeed a land-lubber. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be with no sight of shore in my line of vision. I’d be uneasy, but I admire the passion of those who rely on skill and grit to race with the wind. So many of our common expressions found their roots in nautical lingo. Down in the doldrums refers to the belt of sea near the Equator where ships are often becalmed, unable to sail, a term we use to describe sadness. Sailing close to the wind alludes to the danger of attempting to sail directly into the wind, used to describe an activity that walks close to the line of the law. All at sea when we are confused, with no land in sight for a guide or reference point. In that vein, I wish you fair winds and following seas in the hopes that we safely ride out this difficult time.

wendistewart@live.ca

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