Nova Scotia Schooners


Silhouette of a typical three-masted schooner

During the late 1800s until the early 1900s Nova Scotia was a leader in wooden shipbuilding.  Thousands of sailing ships were launched in this region all built from native timber.  The most popular of the ships that were built were known as ‘tern’ schooners.  These ships had two, three or four masts.  The most common being the three-masted schooner.  These ships were known for speed and being able to run with a small crew; a typical three-masted schooner only needed a crew of seven.   With the age of sail coming to an end in most places around the world, the schooners were kept busy into the 1940s.  These ships trade routes included sailing to ports along the east coast of the United States, the islands in the Caribbean, and occasionally overseas to Portugal, Spain, France and England.  Life was hard working on these ships, there was no electrical power and in the later years some of the ships did have a small gasoline powered "donkey" engine onboard that powered a winch to assist with heaving the anchors and raising the sails.  The main exports were spruce lumber that was stacked high on the deck and preserved salt fish.  The ships would often return with loads of molasses, salt and general cargo from trips to the Barbados, Bahamas and other Caribbean islands.  Although these ships were sturdily built, their owners considered themselves lucky if a vessel provided 20 years of service.  The owners often had a hard time making a profit competing with the growing steamship fleets, this put quite a strain on the schooner trade.  Not many of these schooners careers ended in quiet retirement, the vast majority found their demise on rocks and shores or quite often they sailed out of port only to be never seen again.

Belliveau Cove

Schooners in Belliveau Cove, Nova Scotia (From the Belliveau family collection)

Map of Nova Scotia - Click to enlarge

Belliveau (pronounced Bell-iv-oh) Cove was established in 1768 and is located on the west coast of the Nova Scotia peninsula on the St. Mary’s Bay.  Like many of the small Nova Scotia coastal port villages, Belliveau Cove was known for their wooden ship building, shipping industry and attendant services.  All of the Belliveau family ships were built on the beaches just north of the north wharf along with ships for the Theriault family and other interests.  The second largest wooden ship ever constructed in Canada, the County of Yarmouth, was built there in 1884.  The wooden pepper-shaker-style lighthouse on end of the north wharf was established in 1889 and existed until 1973; its foundation had much deterioration and a storm caused the lighthouse to fall in the ocean.  A replica lighthouse was built at the same location in the 1980s by the community and is maintained as a private navigational aid.  The harbor is still used today by a small number of pleasure craft and small fishing boats.  Due to the 22 foot tides, the harbor can only be used for 4 to 6 hours on the rising and falling tides.

Aerial Views of Belliveau Cove - Early 1960s

Looking north (From the Belliveau family collection)

Looking south (From the Belliveau family collection)

Looking south (From the Belliveau family collection)

Looking south (From the Belliveau family collection)


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Copyright John Belliveau 2018