PICTOU – A sigh of relief could be heard throughout the Hector Heritage Quay’s courtyard Wednesday when Ship Hector’s three masts were return to the replica ship.
After sitting without its masts for almost 10 months, volunteers and supporters of the Ship Hector turned out on a cool April morning to watch the work being done by rigger Mike Freeman and master shipwright Ralph Anderson.
“It looks so much better,” said Hector Quay Society spokeswoman Darlene MacDonald as others around her watched closely as the third and final mast, the mizzen mast, was lowered into place.
The three masts were taken off the Ship Hector this past July under the watchful eye of Freeman, who was involved in the construction of the rigging in the early 1990s. The mizzen mast was replaced with a new mast built in Luneburg under the direction of Anderson while the foremast and the main mast had some repair work done.
Volunteers like Ann Matheson worked on repairing the rigging on the lower masts over the course of the winter. She also made sure before the masts were returned to their rightful spots Wednesday that the ritual mast stepping ceremony took place.
Wren said the when the masts were first put in place in the 1990s, a Dutch, Canadian and Scottish coin were put under the main mast for good luck. When the main mast was struck by lightning in 2008 and removed for a brief period of time for repairs, a 2008 toonie and loonie were placed at its base.
This time around, a 2014 Olympic coin and Hector Quay Society medallion were placed at the base of the main mast.
“It’s superstition,” she said. “It has to be done. I took photos of them and enclosed them in a plastic bag with today’s date.”
Freeman said he was happy to return 13 years later to work on the rigging once again.
“There is a lot of wear on it,” he said. “But it’s sitting out in this environment. Look at us, we are all cold and freezing. We aren’t doing to well are we?”
Now that the lower masts are up, he will return home Friday and come back to Pictou at another time. Anderson will remain on site and work on getting the ship’s floor and hatches. The next two sections of the masts, along with their riggings, will go up over time.
Wren said volunteers will also be busy painting the ship and doing whatever needs to be done to make the Hector and its property look top notch for all visitors this season –including the royal ones.
The Hector Heritage Quay will officially open May 20 for the season, the day after Prince Charles and his wife Camilla make a brief stop at the site as part of the Canadian tour. Other stops for the royal couple include Halifax and Prince Edward Island.