Angus Walters: the man behind the Bluenose

Posted Jun 9, 2015

Just a few months short of Angus Walters’ 40th birthday, Bluenose was launched — and the mighty vessel changed the course of his life.

Of course, Angus was no stranger to sailing, as he was the son of a fisherman and sea captain. Growing up in Lunenburg as one of 12 children, he began his fishing career at the age of 14 — grabbing and slicing fish as a “throater.” He sailed on his father’s ship and learned about life at sea — taking in all of the information in the hope that he’d one day be commanding his own vessel.

Angus got his first shot as captain at the age of 23 — on Minnie M. Cook — and quickly proved himself to be a skilled seaman. Just three years later, he launched his own boat — Muriel B. Walter, named after his sister — and remained captain for eight years. He continued upgrading to larger vessels while setting impressive fishing records, and his reputation for speed spread throughout the province.

He really caught the attention of the fishing community during the first International Fishermen’s Race, held between fishermen of Gloucester, Massachusetts and Lunenburg. His schooner’s mast broke during the trial, but he was expected to have won if it hadn’t been for that setback. So a group of businessmen established a racing committee in order to give Angus — and Canada — a better chance to win.

They enlisted Halifax marine architect William J. Roue to design a new ship for Angus to captain. It was to be called Bluenose — finer and more majestic than any ship they’d ever seen.

Bluenose was launched on March 26, 1921, and Angus raced her for the first time — and won — on October 6, meaning he was able to represent Canada in the second International Fishermen’s Race. He smoothly won the title, and then continued to win five prestigious international titles.

Bluenose was a Canadian icon and a source of pride during the Great Depression, but she shone especially brightly for Angus — giving him opportunities to travel the world, meet King George V. In 1937, an image of Bluenose first graced the Canadian dime. Angus was selected to lead the Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Federation during union negotiations with government and merchants the following year, because he was well known as a courageous, fair captain.

Angus sailed Bluenose in one last regatta in 1938, winning three of the five races and retiring undefeated after 17 years. Although staggering maintenance costs forced him to sell the Bluenose to the West Indies Trading Company in 1942 — and she was destroyed on a reef four years later — his contribution to Canadian history was never forgotten.

Angus became one of the first inductees into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955, and was a key consultant during the build of Bluenose II that was finished in 1963. When he passed away in 1968 at the age of 87, Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant-Governor noted that his death had “brought to a close the era of wooden ships and iron men that had been so central to shaping Atlantic Canada’s history.”

But Angus’s legacy lives on. Forty-four years after his death, his grandson, Wayne Walters, would follow in his footsteps by captaining Bluenose II. And today work continues to restore Bluenose II to its rightful place as an ambassador for Nova Scotia.

It’s never too late to take a chance, to chase a dream, to embrace the unknown …