The history of the Bluenose Class sloop begins in 1946 when naval architect William J. Roué designed the wooden one design for a group of sailors from the Armdale Yacht Club. The first Bluenose class sloops set sail in Nova Scotia water in the spring of 1946. They were carvel built of pine planking on oak frames in East Chester NS, under the direction of master boatbuilder Lloyd Barkhouse. The boat shop still stands and can be seen on the left as you make the turn at Goat Lake, East Chester, on Highway 3. The first twelve boats were all built at the same time, and legend has it that all the owners worked on the boats, and drew lots to see who got which boat when they were all finished. This prevented an owner from spending too much time on what he knew would be his boat. Production was brisk in the early years, with as many as fifty boats built by 1949. Many of the boats built in the late 40's and early 50's remained in Nova Scotia; however, some migrated to the United States and throughout Canada. Production of wooden boats has continued, with mahogany planking becoming very popular. The newest wooden boat sailing in Chester is Peggy Findleys 'Pea Green' B-93, which was built in 2002 in Chester, using many of the original patterns from Lloyd Barkhouse's shop.
In the mid 1960s, George McVay of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia – under license with designer W.J. Roué – began manufacturing a fibreglass version of the Bluenose class sloop design. Mr. McVay fibreglassed the hull of B-71, Skylark, a wooden boat that was in good condition at that time, and used that hull to make the mold he used for production. The fibreglass boat numbers started at B-101, which is actively raced today. McVay's design incorporated a small cuddy and a self-bailing cockpit. Interestingly, he appears to have adopted this design feature from early wooden boats. There are pictures of early wooden Bluenose's that appear to show a self-bailing cockpit and a hatch just abaft the mast. Most wooden boats have had the self-bailing cockpit removed, and replaced by seats. The self-bailing cockpit of the McVay boats is a safety feature that appeals to beginner sailors as well as those with small children. Today, Nova Scotia is home to both wooden and fibreglass Bluenoses. A recent trend has seen some original McVay boats reborn in a style that mimics the wooden boats. The deck mold is removed, eliminating the cuddy and self bailing cockpit, and is replaced by a flush deck, so that from a distance, they resemble the original wooden boats. The popularity of the Bluenose class continues, and it is possible to have a brand new Bluenose built today, in the material of your choice, wood or fibreglass. The modifications and improvements in construction over the years reflects the needs of an evolving race fleet – dedicated to rightly maintain the one-design features of the Roué-designed Bluenose Class Sloop.
During the past few years, the Bluenose Class Association has witnessed an increasing interest in Bluenose class sailing. A recent race at the Chester Yacht Club held annually to honour the memory of the late Isabel Warren, drew thirty-two boats for the start. We boast an ever growing membership, an impressive sailing fleet and we are poised to honour Nova Scotia's marine heritage.