The Last Grand Bank Schooner

This news made it to the East Coast's Chronicle Herald.
Most people would be unaware that there is still one of these ships still in service.
I sincerely hope that they manage to refloat her and being her back to working shape complete with sails.

Former Cape Bretoners are racing to rescue a Shelburne-built tall ship that wrecked off the British Columbia coast on July 1.

The 67-year-old Robertson II hit a reef in the Gulf Islands. The 29-metre, 100-tonne vessel is lying on her side.

At low tide, most of her keel and the port side of her 40-centimetre-thick hull are completely exposed.

"She’s got a bunch of stubborn Cape Bretoners on her," said William Strickland, a transplanted North Sydney fisherman who sometimes works aboard "the Robbie."

It could be a cruel final chapter to the boat that spent its first 34 years fishing the Grand Banks out of Lockeport.

"She’s always brought everyone home safely," said Mr. Strickland, who hopes to return that favour to the old girl.

"There’s lots of life left to her," he said.

Her owner, Roy Boudreau, an Arichat native, has been on the boat nearly every waking hour since the accident, Mr. Strickland said.

So far, he has cooked up a plan to stuff her hull with inflated tire tubes to keep the schooner afloat once she’s pulled off the reef.

Mr. Boudreau was at the Robertson II’s helm on July 1, taking a number of guests to a lamb roast on Saturn Island when she struck the reef.

"It’s a narrow channel with extremely treacherous, fast-moving tides," Mr. Strickland said.

Initially, the ship remained afloat and Mr. Strickland had several hours to get the hatches sealed and a boom put in place to contain the diesel fuel.

The Robertson II is said to be the only surviving Grand Banks fishing schooner.

According to information found on the Sail and Life Training Society’s website, the Robertson II was built by W.G. MacKay and Sons Ltd. in Shelburne.

Her first captain was Gordon MacKenzie of Lockeport. She was still sailing out of that South Shore harbour when the ship was purchased for use as a sailing school adventure program for young people on the West Coast.

In 1995, the society retired the Robertson II from active use and for a time it was used as a floating museum in Victoria Harbour.

In 2001, with restoration costs estimated to be over $1 million, the society decided to sell.

Mr. Boudreau’s Atlantic Pacific Fisheries bought the schooner for $15,000 in 2003.

Since that time, Mr. Boudreau has rented the vessel out to groups and has also used it for personal cruises.

The wreck occurred at about 2 a.m. on Canada Day, said Rod Nelson, a Transport Canada spokesman.

"Ultimately, the vessel is (Mr. Boudreau’s) responsibility," Mr. Nelson said.

Transport Canada is monitoring the ship to make sure that it does not become a navigational or environmental hazard.

"Our concern would be that later on it would break up," Mr. Nelson said.

He has heard there is a plan in place to move the ship, but lately Transport Canada has not been able to reach Mr. Boudreau, Mr. Nelson said.

The hope is that within the next couple of days, Mr. Boudreau will be able to rescue the boat, Mr. Strickland said.

On Monday, a West Coast tire company offered the use of several hundred large tire tubes. As well, Mr. Boudreau has a tugboat lined up and plans to bring in a large tuna boat, which he owns, to be part of the rescue attempt.

Once freed, there are several options available to Mr. Boudreau, including beaching the Robertson II to allow for temporary repairs to be made to her hull.

Beaching boats for repair work is commonly done on Nova Scotia Cape Islanders and the Robertson’s hull is very similar to a Cape Islander, Mr. Strickland said.

Ultimately, Mr. Boudreau’s plan for one of the few surviving schooners that worked on the Grand Banks would be to restore her sails, Mr. Strickland said.

The Robertson II was sold without the sails, but Mr. Strickland believes his friend has some on order.

After hearing media accounts of the Robbie’s plight, Mark Gumley of MG Shipyard & Dive Service in Washington state arrived with large inflatable bags that helped support about 80 tonnes of the vessel’s 100-tonne frame. He also brought divers and other equipment to help right the schooner and raise spirits.