ISSUE NO. 282
September / October 2021
A Tale of Two Schooners
Tom Gallant has owned the 47' schooner AVENGER for more than 40 years. In his article describing his tenure with the boat (page 56), he describes his very first encounter with a gaff schooner under sail while driving along the LeHave River in Nova Scotia with his father in 1955. He was 9 years old. “She had a bone in her teeth,” he writes, recalling the scene as if it we yesterday. “That day marked me for life. It contained all the information a heart needs to attach itself to a dream that only grew, became more serious, better informed, and, finally, a way of life.”
Years later, and through a circuitous route winding through a career as an actor, author, and singer-songwriter, Tom found AVENGER , scraped together the resources to purchase her, and proceeded to cruise her tens of thousands of miles. His article in this issue is a distillation of the lessons learned from the schooner over those years—from being a green new owner to one humbled and made wise by the joys and travails of ownership. “The thing about sailing,” Tom further writes, “is, if you’ve managed to buy the boat, you’re automatically the captain, no matter how green and clueless you are.” Having visited with Tom aboard AVENGER on a few occasions in his home waters of greater Lunenburg, I can attest to the fact that the man today is neither green nor clueless. He is one with his boat.
There is a sidebar on AVENGER ’s design in Tom’s article (page 60). It describes David Stevens’s background as a designer-builder and his conception of the so-called “47s”—AVENGER ’s design. He was at the height of his career when he carved the model for this vessel for the sheer joy of it. The first one, built on speculation, was launched as SKYLARK and later, under the ownership of Randall “Randy” Peffer, became SARAH ABBOT.
Randy, a longtime and regular contributor to this magazine, has owned SARAH ABBOT for a time equal to Tom’s with AVENGER . For many years, he operated a seamanship and science program aboard her for Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts—an experience that informed one of his many books, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society (2000).
About six months into the pandemic lockdown last year, Randy called me with an article idea. “This one is a little unusual,” he said. He and his shipwright son, Noah, were in the process of gutting SARAH ABBOT ’s utilitarian interior and replacing it with a more functional and updated accommodation. He wanted to write about the lessons of that—but more the life lessons rather than the nuts-and- bolts process of gutting and rebuilding. He had known, at the outset, that the interior project would lead to some colorful interactions with his son. “[A]s much as Noah and I love each other, he knows that spending extended time with his old man will lead to more than a little head-butting. He’s a cautious, professionally trained mariner [and] carpenter.… I, on the other hand, gained my mariner’s chops dredging oysters aboard a Chesapeake Bay skipjack.” Randy’s experience afloat, he said, is rooted in “the bravura and quick-and-dirty maintenance that comes with a hardscrabble life in workboats. Father and son, oil and water.”
Here was a serendipitous opportunity to combine the life lessons of two schooner veterans in two articles. We leapt at the opportunity, and it’s been fun and interesting to absorb the combined wisdom of these two men. As Tom writes in his article, “There’s always more to learn. That’s why sailing is so interesting.”
Editor of WoodenBoat Magazine