An article by Lou Broudreau for Nova Scotia’s’s Chronicle-Herald.
There are rumors of a pirate’s hoard hidden on Oak Island off Nova Scotia, but what follows is no rumour. A 50-year sea voyage ended not long ago on Quaker Island, off Chester. It was a voyage of plunder spanning the oceans and pirate redoubts across the globe. So read on, brave reader, to my tale faithful and true.
Many have read that best-loved high-seas adventure novel, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, but few lived it as we did. Sixty years ago, my father began a family tradition by reading Treasure Island to us at a very young age. Stevenson’s descriptions inspired in us images of high seas piracy that followed us into our dreams. There were visions of jewels and gold coins, a map with the black spot, a buccaneer’s cutlass and the isle of Dead Man’s Chest.
My siblings and I grew up sailing the Spanish Main aboard the Caribee, a full-sized replica of the famous Baltimore clipper schooners. Her her long, sleek, black hull sported a row of gun ports and beneath her bowsprit a golden-haired figurehead guided us on our voyages. But apart from Stevenson’s prose, there was never a man who could better capture a child’s rapt attention than my late father, Captain Walter Boudreau. It was he who began our family tradition of hunting for buried treasure that would bring joy and wonder to our family for generations to come.
For my parents, the 1950s were formative years in their burgeoning windjammer cruise business that began in Baddeck, Cape Breton Island. But for my siblings and I, we looked only towards the horizon where Stevenson’s infamous Skeleton Island lurked.
But it was there on Norman Island, a small isle in the blue expanse of the Caribbean Sea, that my father set in motion a tradition which forged dreams of buried treasure for generations. There, where the white coral sands and coconut trees rose to brush the trade winds as they drifted over green forests and mountains, the die was cast.
It all began when I was five. One day the Caribee dropped anchor off of Norman’s Island in the British Virgin Islands. Following a month-long primer of Stevenson’s Treasure Island, I already had visions of pirates and treasure swirling round my head sufficient to drive a kid batty.
|Lou Boudreau and his parents are seen on their schooner the Caribbe.|
My father, who always known as the Captain, drew up an authentic a map with the treasure spot, skull and crossbones. Then under the cover of darkness he sent the crew of the 120-foot schooner Caribee ashore to hide the treasure and lay out the clues. An old wooden cigar box (funny how those old cigar boxes come in handy) filled with fake jewelry, copper pennies and old coins of the Spanish Main. Pieces of driftwood, old shells and coconuts, fish bones and odd bits of flotsam and jetsam which had washed up on the beach completed the fix.
At dawn, we rowed ashore and landed on the small deserted beach at Treasure Point.
“Now, according to the map the treasure must be near the end of the beach, just by those rocks,” the Captain told me.
My gaze followed his arm towards the north end of the beach and some loose rocks and bits of driftwood.
“Do you really think so, Daddy?” I asked excitedly.
“Oh, yes. See? The map says so,” the Captain replied, pointing to the black spot on the map.
After a short hunt, I saw the corner of the old cigar box protruding from the sand and, with shrieks of absolute joy, I held the box up for all to see.
Later, back aboard ship, I shared the booty as was the custom, each member of our pirate crew receiving a copper penny or shining bauble.
And so in 1956 I found my first treasure. Today, I can still feel the excitement as I stood there with the treasure box in my hand. And to this day I still have the old West Indian copper coin.
Ever since that first treasure hunt, generations of little Boudreaus have pillaged and plundered beaches and shores worldwide in search of buried treasure. They would all succumb to the intrigue and mystique of Treasure Island and set out on adventures searching for buccaneer booty.
The Boudreau family later made a 14,000-mile voyage across the oceans aboard Caribee before she was sold to 20th Century Fox to make the movie A High Wind in Jamaica, starring James Coburn and Anthony Quinn.
I married late in life a lovely lass from the Isles of Scilly. After a few years of sailing the oceans together we came to Canada and found a lovely place to call home in the delightful village of Chester. We were then blessed with our own two children, Jason and Hannah. A few years later, our two young adventurers were ready to find their own treasure on the shores of the beach on Quaker Island.
Prior to our summer island visits, I began reading to Jason and Hannah some passages from Treasure Island, preparing them for the treasure-hunting season.
The day arrived and the time was at hand. The night before, as they sat sleepily on the sofa, I said, “You know, I found this old treasure map in a cave about a year ago.”
“A real treasure map?”
And then, as if that magical word suddenly registered in their brains, they jumped wide awake and hovered over the map. I played it down, but artfully dropped a few hints and waited to see if either one of them would bite.
“Oh, look here,” I said, pointing to the map. “There’s a big, long beach with big rocks. It’s probably nothing.”
“A sandy beach? With big rocks? Dad! We saw one yesterday. Do you think it could be the same one?” Jason pointed to the end of the map.
Sarah and I knew neither one of them would sleep that night.
We went to wake the kids at dawn but Jason and Hannah were up before sunrise, clutching their crumpled treasure maps in tight little fists while searching the house and yard for signs of Blackbeard. Their eyes were filled with wanderlust,
As we untied from the dock, Jason asked. “Dad, where’s your pistol?”
“Oh, I’ve got it hidden.” I dodged that one.
The trip to Quaker Island on our 22-foot outboard-powered pirate ship was short, and before long we were standing on the shore walking down the beach. Jason and Hannah’s excitement was palpable but it was tempered by visions of Ben Gun, cutlasses and Long John Silver hiding in the bushes by the beach.
“Now, we’ll wait here while you go and find the treasure,” I said.
“Is it safe to go?” Jason asked
“Yes, don’t worry, we’ll be right here.”
I mused momentarily as to what exactly I could do against Long John Silver with a cutlass.
The kids looked towards the loose pile of rocks to the north and then nervously began searching in earnest around the pieces of driftwood, jumping back with a start as a hermit crab lumbered away. So fevered was their hunt, they almost missed what they had come to find. But in a sandy spot behind a short bush, half buried in the white sand, was an old wooden box.
Kneeling, Jason struggled with the latch, and then it popped open, exposing the contents to the brilliant sunlight. He ran his hands through the glittering pile of jewels, rings and coins from across the Caribbean. A pirate’s treasure for sure!
Sarah and I heard their shrieks of joy and smiled.
“I found it! I found the treasure!” Jason screamed.
They were as happy then as they had ever been. And so our lifelong search for treasure came full circle. As I looked into our children’s eyes I realized that the excitement they were feeling was certainly linked to a moment 60 years ago on a faraway West Indian isle.
But our real treasures were not found on old marine charts or cigar boxes filled with sparkling baubles. They were not found on deserted beaches and little known cays on far away tropical islands or a beautiful pine tree isle on the coast of fair Nova Scotia. The real treasures are found in the eyes of children, in that spark of youthful adventure which, once ignited, will burn forever.
The wanderlust has not faded with the passing of time. If anything, the arrival of our two children Jason and Hannah has re-ignited the old flame. We know not who the next Boudreau Buccaneer will be, but of one thing we’re sure.
“The treasure is there.”
Capt. Lou Boudreau spent 35 years under sail, before swallowing the anchor and taking up writing. His books including The Man who Loved Schooners, are available at Lou’s website: http://www.caribbeebooks.com