Is the Bluenose II in danger of sinking?
Questions are being raised about whether the new Bluenose II is as watertight as it should be.
CTV News has learned there was a flood on board the vessel late last fall, revealing what may be a costly problem with the watertight bulkheads. On Nov. 27, the ship started taking on water while docked at the wharf in Lunenburg, unknown to workers on board.
“Accidentally, a bilge pump hose was put over the side of the vessel and what happened then, it acted as a syphon instead of a pump and pumped water back into the vessel,” says a worker, who has asked not to be identified due to fear or reprisal.
He says there was no check valve on the hose to prevent that from happening, and estimates water flooded the vessel for over an hour. He says the issue wasn’t discovered until workers took their lunch break.
“By one of the workers in the engine room, he noticed the water coming up from the floor boards.”
Luneburg Foundry president Peter Kinley admits the ship took on water.
“That’s pretty well the case. I wouldn’t call it a flood,” he says.
But the worker, who was on the boat that day, says some are worried the Bluenose II might sink.
“In the deepest compartments, there was three-and-a-half to four feet of water…enough that there were people concerned they were going take their tools off.”
An incident report was prepared the following day and filed two months later, but was never provided to the Nova Scotia government.
“It wasn’t an important issue at the time,” says Kinley.
But Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter sees it differently.
“We expect to receive reports on all those matters in order to be satisfied that we’re getting what we paid for,” says Dexter.
Some of the workers on board the Bluenose II that day say it only took minutes to discover the source of the flooding and stop it, but they say it did reveal what may be a serious issue involving the watertight bulkheads.
According to the unnamed worker, watertight bulkheads would allow water from a leak to stay in one compartment. If they’re not watertight, water will flow freely to all compartments.
“When this happened, the water level was consistent through the vessel. One compartment wasn’t higher than the other,” he says.
“In other compartments, it was a normal level,” says Kinley. “This one compartment was higher.”
Both men agree that, in a wooden boat, there is seepage around the bulkheads and keel, but the worker says not to the degree that occurred in November.
He says the bulkheads were tested using soapy water and air pressure.
“What they were doing was forcing the air through the one side of the seam to see if there were any bubbles, similar to when you check a tire,” he says.
“You want to be sure before you put to sea that you get through all of the testing to ensure things like the bulkheads are watertight,” says Dexter.
The worker says two decks, accommodations, engines and tanks would have to be removed to deal with the bulkheads.
Kinley says there was no damage done to the diesel engines in the flood and that the boat should be turned over to the province by July or August.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant