One of Canada’s most anticipated ship reconstructions was celebrated Saturday as the famed schooner Bluenose II descended into the harbour in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter called the Bluenose II an ambassador for the province he expects will prove to be a boon to the local economy.

“There was almost a constant stream of people coming to Lunenburg to specifically see what was happening here,” Dexter told CTV Atlantic.

He said the two-year, $15.9 million restoration has generated interest from around the world.

“The ship building alliance that came together to make this a reality is now getting orders from around the world,” said Dexter. “We’re starting to bring more business to Nova Scotia as a result of that, which is a very happy consequence.” 

The federal government covered $4.9 million of the ship’s costs with the province covering the rest.

Dexter was among the crowd gathered along the Lunenburg harbour under grey skies to watch the 43-metre vessel slowly descend into the waters

He said the Bluenose II will allow the province’s younger generation have pride in Nova Scotia’s ship-building history.

“We don’t just build ships,” said Dexter. “We build icons. We have become part of the Canadian consciousness as well as the Nova Scotian consciousness.”

Among the thousands who gathered along the Lunenburg harbour was 92-year-old Charles Tanner, who was a crew member on the original Bluenose.

He said over the years he has witnessed the ship’s return to the water hundreds of times.

"It's nice to see this happening," said Tanner, who was 19 years old when he began working on the schooner. "It doesn't mean so much to me, but for the younger people, it's really something to look at."

The schooner's entire hull and much of its Douglas fir deck were replaced in the reconstruction.

The Bluenose II, launched in 1963, is a replica of the original Bluenose, a Grand Banks fishing schooner that won worldwide acclaim for its graceful lines and flat-out speed.

The schooner is featured on the Canadian dime.

Bill Greenlaw of Nova Scotia’s department of Communities, Culture and Heritage said the Bluenose is a true Canadian symbol that has brought much pride to the country.

“We took on the Americans as the underdogs and we were able to defeat them time and time again,” Greenlaw told CTV New Channel on Saturday. “Canadians, whether it be in our hockey or sailing history, do enjoy when we overcome and beat the Americans and become the best in the world.”

Greenlaw expects the Bluenose to attract 100,000 visitors yearly.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Todd Battis and files from The Canadian Press