Lou Boudreau shipped out of Nova Scotia in the 1950s at five months old in the 98ft schooner Doubloon. His father, Captain Walter Boudreau, was one of the pioneers of the Caribbean charter business. As he grew, young Lou served under his father until he struck out on his own at 17 and joined the Bluenose II, one of the greatest schooners of all time. His life story reads like every man's dream of the sea and his book about it, Where the Trade Winds Blow, is a rollercoaster from its early pages on the beach in nappies to its last chapter on the Nova Scotia shore with a family growing under his wise guidance.
Aged 13, Lou and his younger brother were given a 25ft island sloop in which to cut their teeth cruising from Marigot Bay in St Lucia. If you've ever sailed between St Lucia and Martinique, you'll have seen Diamond Rock and perhaps wondered, as I have done, about how anybody could ever get ashore there. Here's a boy, barely more than a child, telling us how.
The Peggy was our first real ship and we had many adventures in her. The Skipper's policies regarding our expeditions were clear. We had to file a ‘flight plan’ before departure, and hold to it. From the safe confines of Marigot Bay, we often took day trips to bays and coves along the coast, and mostly went where we had been given permission to go. However, had the Skipper and Mother known just where some of our voyages took us they might have keeled over.
When I was 13, we planned an overnight voyage to Pigeon Island. The crew was made up of myself as captain, my brother Peter as mate, and one of my dad's crew Lewis as deckhand. Stocking the Peggy with a container of Mother's fried chicken, a small plastic pot of her homemade mango chutney, as well as bread and water, we set off on yet another exploit.
It was a fine day. A blue tradewind sky hung overhead, filled with puffy white clouds. A nor-easterly breeze tossed spray over the Peggy's bow as we laid a course northward from Marigot Bay, and our little boat danced merrily over the waves, dipping her lee rail occasionally. Before we knew it we were miles offshore, and well past the point that Dad had instructed was a safe limit. As I looked to the north, the island of Martinique and Diamond Rock were temptingly close.
Lou Boudreau grew up around boats and the sea
“Pete,” I said excitedly, “let's go to Diamond Rock.” My brother looked at me with a little uncertainty. He knew the rock was still a long way off, and most definitely out of our bounds. “Do you think it'll be okay?”' he asked, although the tone of his voice told me he already knew the answer. Lewis, on the other hand, had no qualms about voicing his uncertainty.
“De deeper de wata, de more dangerous it is,” he said, and launched into a tirade about sea devils and mysterious disappearances, but Pete and I out -voted him.
It was 19 miles across the channel, but we closed the distance rapidly. Diamond Rock lies on the south side of Martinique, and was closer to us than the big French island. The formidable citadel rose precipitously from the sea, growing in size as our little ship approached. Stone cliffs dotted with black-mouthed caves appeared, and jagged precipices overhung the sea. Suddenly, I felt a stinging sense of uncertainty. Pete and I had seen Diamond Rock from the decks of our father's schooners many times, but now it was different. Alone, our confidence waned.
Lou Boudreau with his mother and father aboard a Baltimore clipper ship.
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