The Man Who Loved Schooners - By R.L. Boudreau, 170 pages, $14.95, Tiller Publishing, St. Michaels, Md.
What a lovely morsel of a book. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It took me back to my own too-brief stints of ocean sailing, when the smell of salt and canvas filled my nostrils like morning bacon and the water stretched in an endless circle to the sky.
The Man Who Loved Schooners is the story of Walt Boudreau, written by his son Lou. (We on the Bay are perhaps more familiar with his second son, Peter, who oversaw construction of the Lady Maryland and Pride of Baltimore II as well as the restoration of the U.S.S. Constellation. He’s now busy with the Washington-based Spirit of Enterprize and the Norfolk-based pilot schooner Virginia.) Walt Boudreau was one of the pioneers of charter sailing, following close on the heels of Irving Johnson-and even owning Johnson’s Yankee for a time. Boudreau and his wife Terry ran a string of dude schooners around the Caribbean islands over a 50-year career.
More to the point, his was a life under sail, and his stories run the gamut from shipwreck to piracy. Boudreau began his professional sailing career aboard the Angelus, a barkentine out of Montreal bound for Barbados in 1943. On her return voyage she was sunk by a German U-boat while all hands watched, adrift in an ill-equipped life raft. Boudreau was one of two survivors. His meeting in later life with the U-boat captain is one of the more stirring of these sailor tales. Filled with poignance and humor, the stories are told in straightforward, largely unembellished prose. But they are remarkable in themselves as snapshots of a time before the private yacht became the queen of the seas, when the beaches of Barbados were as exotic as they were distant, and when tall ships still stood for Nova Scotia with a deck high with coal.
I couldn’t put it down.