Robertson II, a ship that sailed with the Bluenose

It’s amazing how Neptune reclaims his own. July 1, 2007 the Robertson II grounded on Minx Reef, just outside Winter Cove. Many months were spent trying to refloat her, but now she remains as a reminder of the danger of reefs to sailors.

She was the last of the Sailing Schooners on the Grand Banks. Launched in 1939 and completed in October 1940. When retired she was purchased by the SALTS (Sail and Life Training Society) society in Victoria. An innumerable number of folk remember being on board for probably the best sailing adventure they could ever experience. Even though she was retired in 1995, she still drew attention wherever she went.

The Robertson II was built on the East Coast specifically for fishing. In those days sails were the norm. Some were fitted with auxiliary engines but they still relied on sails when under way. Accommodations were in the stern of the ship and a forward bunk area, the rest of the vessel was storage for fish. When bought by SALTS the entire hold was removed and bunks were installed for the student crew. She had crew accommodations originally for 40 men, but usually carried 26. Six rowing dories were on deck.

Robbie as she was affectionately called sailed from Nova Scotia to Florida. Everything from Halibut to Swordfish were caught in the Long Lines she fished with. When she was bought and on her way to Victoria it is said that every time she hit a swell the smell of fish wafted up everywhere.

The main reason for Robbie's survival was her construction, and a large naval contract. Her builder W.G. MacKay and Sons made her of 3” planks with a further 3” lining. There are places where the hull was actually 16” thick. Boats of her day were made of unseasoned wood. This contributed to a very short life. However due to the contract, which lasted 6 months, the Robbie was delayed for the naval boat's construction. When they returned all the timbers had been well seasoned.

During her time in Victoria many youth sailors were taught sailing. But they also got an important education in life skills. Something many say will last the rest of their lives. SALTS retired her in 1995, she was then moored in Victoria for tours until 2003 when she was sold. In 2007 she was in the middle of a restoration and refit. At almost midnight she ran aground on the reef. There were hopes that she would refloat on the the rising tide, but as fate would be it was the highest tide of the month. According to Roy, her master “she just stopped”. However once the tide dropped a rock pierced the hull. Many attempts to refloat her were attempted, but all to no avail.

Today she remains on the reef. Stripped of her once tall masts and deck fittings she has become a marker for the end of the reef that ended her sailing career. She is missed by many.