Schooner: Bluenose and Bluenose II


134 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-7704-1861-9





Reviewed by Elsie de Bruijn

Elsie de Bruijn was Associate Head, Woodward Biomedical Library, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.


Bluenose. Her name is familiar to all Canadians. Her image has appeared on our coinage for nearly fifty years. But how, exactly, did this lean Lunenburg schooner become a national symbol? Why were Nova Scotians so unwilling to let her die that they created a Bluenose II in 1963 and, more recently, spent half a million dollars restoring her?

Silver Donald Cameron is the man to tell us. A keen sailor and adopted Nova Scotian, he is also a skillful and engaging writer. Working in three time frames, he weaves an engrossing, multi-level account of both ships, the men who sailed them, and Cameron’s own 1983 voyage south to Atlantic City in Bluenose II. Under the author’s deft handling, Schooner’s three stories separate, than reconverge, each giving added dimension to the others.

The history of the original Bluenose reads more like fiction. We learn how the America’s Cup fever of 1920 spawned, of all things, a racing series for fishing schooners; how bitter (and, in one case, murderous) the U.S/Canadian rivalry became; and how an “aggressive, unsportsmanlike, abrasive” little skipper by the name of Angus Walters became Canada’s most unlikely folk hero.

Most memorably of all, we meet Bluenose as she was then:

She bores into the frame from the right, coming so fast that the viewer involuntarily gasps. She is not pitching or rolling. She is slicing through calm water, and she looks like an avenging angel — aggressive, irresistible, relentless. Beautiful? Yes, but with the implacable, streamlined beauty of a shark or a bullet. The projection room is dead quiet, and the schooner crosses the screen in about four seconds, moving as steadily and remorselessly as a machine tool or a fast freight, and then she is gone.


“She’s doing over fourteen knots right there,” says the quiet voice of Peter Brown. He smiles. Everyone reacts to that shot in the same way. Nobody can believe that anything goes that fast under sail. (p.33)

One might expect the chapters on her lookalike, Bluenose II, to be something of an anticlimax. Not so. Cameron gives a gleeful account of the goings-on during certain phases of her erratic career as a seagoing tourist attraction.

Schooner’s frequent transitions from history to anecdote and from high drama to comic relief are effectively handled. The result is a colourful, moving, and well-constructed book that should appeal to readers of all ages.


Cameron, Silver Donald, “Schooner: Bluenose and Bluenose II,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,