September / October 2021


Lessons of voyaging in a gaff schooner

For 40 years, Tom Gallant has owned and sailed the 47’ schooner AVENGER. Through the decades, and over thousands of ocean miles, he has learned valuable lessons from the boat.

It was 1955, and my father and I were driving along the LaHave River in Nova Scotia to the summer cottage we rented every August. I was about nine. It was a fine day. Suddenly, Dad pulled the car over. “Look at that, Tommy.”

Sailing down the river was a gaff-rigged schooner. She had a bone in her teeth. My father knew I loved schooners. He also knew I’d never seen one under full press of sail. I was transfixed. To his eternal credit, he stood there with me until she sailed out of sight. Then we got back in the car and carried on, stopping twice more when she came into view. 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.

But the process was not linear. I dove headfirst into a career as an actor, playwright, songwriter, and anything the traffic would bear. After six years in Toronto, I found myself starring in three national television series of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In the eyes of the world, I was bound for glory. But there were problems, and in a moment of rare wisdom I loaded my ’72 Volkswagen van with my cat, guitar, and clothes, and drove east, back home to Nova Scotia.

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