Heart of Louisiana: Wooden Sailboat

Heart of Louisiana: Wooden Sailboat

(WVUE) - From the New Orleans Lakefront to communities on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, you find marinas chock full of sailboats. They can be floating escapes from the daily grind.

"There's probably a thousand boats in the water in the Mandeville and Madisonville area," said Skipper Chenault. "A lot of those just never seem to leave the dock."

Chenault has been around boats most of his life. He sailed ships at the U.S. Naval Academy, served on nuclear submarines and now works as a maritime lawyer. He loves a weekend get-away on his 38-foot sailboat.

"Lake Pontchartrain is a very good lake for sailing because it's big enough that there's plenty room, but it's small enough that it doesn't get big seas when the weather gets bad, and there's always some place to go if you need to get out of the way," he said.

He cruises Lake Pontchartrain and enjoys racing. His large, two-masted wooden sailboat, the Ondene, struggles in a light breeze.

"This is a very heavy boat," Chenault said. "So in light air smaller, lighter boats will go faster, but when the breeze kicks up, she really gets going."

His sailboat was built in the 1970s, but it's based on a classic wooden sailboat design that dates from the 1940s.

"Because everything is wooden," Chenault said. "There's always something that needs some sort of repair. And the goal is to try and stay ahead of it."

For Chenault, a perfect day is when you can shut off the diesel engine, the wind fills the sails and the boat glides quietly through the water.

"When I'm racing the boat, especially in light air, that the sound of the waves on the hull is in some ways the best speedometer that I have because I listen to it lapping at the side and can tell whether I'm speeding up or slowing down," he said. "Being on the water on a sailboat brings out the truth in everything. So you're always learning something. No two days, no two storms are the same. So it's always a challenge."

It's a slower pace, a quieter journey, it's relaxation and a deeper connection to your surroundings.

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