By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,734)
Long before Bruce Schwab became an icon in the sailing/racing world, his life was intertwined with that of the prominent boatyard Paul E. Luke, Inc., of East Boothbay, through no effort of Schwab’s. Schwab went on to race in the 27,000 mile Vendee Globe race in his 60 ft. open sloop OceanPlanet. Schwab was the first American to complete the nonstop race back in 2005-2006 when he was 46 years old. He finished 9th in the grueling solo endurance test.
This afternoon he had an opportunity to reconnect with the son of Paul E. Luke, Inc., Frank, at the annual Maine Boatbuilders Show – an annual event hosted by Portland Yacht Services on the Portland waterfront.
When Schwab, a California native, was 13 years old his father went searching on the East Coast for a boat that he and his three young sons could cruise on for a year or two. That was in 1973. On Chesapeake Bay, off the Virginia coast, the elder Schwab located a 38 ft. cutter, the Astral. that he purchased. The wooden boat was built in 1942 in the East Boothbay yard of Paul E. Luke, Inc., Frank’s father. “The boat leaked like crazy,” said Schwab this afternoon at his booth at the Show. “My father changed her name to Sarah B. for his mother. We sailed her to Florida, through the Panama Canal and up to Santa Monica, working on her all the time.” The elder Schwab sold the Luke boat in San Diego and purchased another to replace her in New Zealand. “No doubt that year or so spent board Sarah B. sparked my serious interest in sailing,” Schwab told Luke this afternoon at the Show.
Luke told Schwab he’d heard about three years that the owner of the Sarah B. had started to truck the yacht back to the East coast to restore it. But the owner spent so much in shipping costs that he could not afford to restore it as planned when it arrived back. He agreed to check on its status and let Schwab know of is condition. “My father would be interested in hearing about this,” said Schwab, who now owns a business and lives in Woolwich.
Back in 1936, Luke’s parents, Paul and Verna started their boatyard in East Boothbay. “They made something from nothing,”said Luke. “They made 75 wooden boats, mostly sail and 25 aluminium boats between 1945 and 1985. Wooden boats are fun to build and relatively clean to build and satisfying. Wood is easier to look at,” he said. But Luke had no interest in building boats. He turned the boatyard into a service yard. Today they make and market anchors, propellers, stoves and other boat products. “My father, Paul, didn’t deal with the younger generation well. He didn’t think they were capacble of doing jobs as well as his generation,” Luke, an accountant, continued.
“We’ll keep in touch,” said Luke as they shook hands and returned to their respective booths at the 27th Maine Boatbuilders Show.