Every now and then a newspaper publishes a story about the "stepping of the mast" ceremony where coins are placed under the masts of ships for good luck. This week the Chronicle Herald of Nova Scotia published a nice story on a 1963 schooner with a particularly varied and interesting group of coins and medals.
When Bluenose II sets sail again in 2012, she’ll have plenty of good luck beneath her sails — literally.
In keeping with seafaring tradition, a cache of coins meant to bring the ship safe sailing was placed beneath each of the schooner’s two masts when it was built. They include a Spanish doubloon from 1791 and a special edition gold coin worth $200.
Those coins, removed last July when the ship was prepared for reconstruction in Lunenburg, are now on display in the Bluenose Room of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic on the town’s waterfront. Some of them will be put back under the masts when the ship’s restoration is finished in the spring of 2012.
"It was tradition to place a coin beneath the mast of a sailing ship to appease the god of wind," Ralph Getson, fisheries museum curator, said Friday.
Brian and Phil Backman in their book Bluenose wrote of "setting the sticks" of Bluenose II in 1963, he said.
"As each was settled into its step, a small cache of coins was placed beneath, traditionally a sop to the winds of fortune," the book states. "Included were Canadian silver dollars and 10-cent pieces — the latter bearing the effigy of Bluenose — launch-marking medallions and some rare, old Spanish doubloons and pieces of eight, having a special significance because of the Oland family’s Spanish ancestry."
Getson said workers didn’t find any pieces of eight but they did find 10 coins under the foremast and six under the mainmast. You can see the ship’s director of operations, Capt. Wayne Walters, display them on www.youtube.com by typing in Bluenose II coins.
Coins found under the foremast include a 1963 Bluenose II coin made when the ship was launched, a 1963 silver dollar, a 1978 coin commemorating Lunenburg’s 225th anniversary and a 1997 silver dollar commemorating the Canada-Russia hockey series. It was put there by the Bluenose II Preservation Trust Society when it replaced that mast in 1997.
The Spanish silver doubloon was found under the mainmast, along with a 1967 silver dollar and the $200 special edition gold coin.
To watch the YouTube video, see:
Bluenose II Project - Mast Coins
To read the complete article, see:
Lucky coins and fair winds
Wayne Homren, Editor
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