Author: Joe Russell
That it was possible during the middle of the twentieth century to profitably haul cargo between the Caribbean, Canada and the northeast USA with sailing ships similar to those used in the 1850s will probably come as quite a surprise to many of us today.
This was how the legendary Lou Kenedy, who owned and skippered ten vessels, earned his living from the age of twenty-one during the height of the Depression until he retired and sold his last schooner in 1985.
With his clear and simple style, Joe Russell invites his readers to share the personal experiences, escapades and hardships of Captain Lou Kenedy as he paints evocative images with his tales pertaining to each one of Kenedy’s schooners beginning with his first one, Abundance and ending with Sea Fox.
Russell in his The Last Schoonerman: The Remarkable Life of Captain Lou Kenedy depicts a world that is filled with excitement and much danger. And what a way to earn a living when you have to endure horrendous hurricanes, run-ins with the authorities, tragedies that at times ended in the death of some of your crew members, being attacked by German submarines during World War II, crewmen that get into all kinds of trouble, while at the same time keeping calm and making sure you don’t loose your sanity.
Russell gathered his material from boxes of photos, transcripts, magazine articles, log books, and family memorabilia that were sent to him from Kenedy’s daughter, Patsy who approached him offering the opportunity to write about her feisty father. It should be mentioned, as Russell asserts in the preface, that all his writing up to then was centered on cruising guides and destination pieces for Cruising World. In addition to these resources, Russell used material from a four-part, 1953-54 Saturday Evening Post series. The biography also includes many quotations from an interview conducted by Ralph Getson of the Lunenburg (Nova Scotia) Marine Museum Society that was recorded in the 1980s. And as Russell mentions, “Captain Lou Kenedy was, if anything, a master story teller, and he rarely missed an opportunity to entertain his listeners."
Rich with research and anecdote, this is a remarkable book depicting a character who exhibited a great deal of moxie or as Russell states, “this is a story of a man who successfully pounded a square lifestyle into a round society." It should be pointed out that each chapter contains a brief description of each one of Kenedy’s schooners that includes its name, year of launching, rig, official number, builder, and material, length between perpendiculars, beam dimensions, draft dimensions and depth of hold. The book also contains a very useful glossary of nautical terms, the Beaufort Wind Scale, the 32 Points of the Compass and a comprehensive index.
Russell has done an excellent job of capturing the flavor of a by-gone era that we will never see again providing his readers with nuggets of fascinating tales of not only a unique individual but also of the sea with its unknowable beauty and terror.
The above review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Retired Title Attorney: Editor & Publisher of Bookpleasures. Here are Norm Goldman's Reviews