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A Wilderness of Water

A Wilderness of Water

A beautifully-written story of a fishing tragedy off Brier Island, Nova Scotia that captures, accurately and emotion-ally, the loss of two young islanders in a vicious winter gale, just before Christmas in 1963, and its impact on the tightly-knit community. The author, with his intimate relationship to the island, gives a very compelling account of this harrowing event. A must-read.
Captain Keith McLaren, author of
A Race for Real Sailors

Tragedies at sea happen all too often. You see the headlines, hear the news: "Four missing,  presumed dead". Ben Robicheau takes us beyond those headlines, into the thoughts and feelings and actions of his small Island community as it deals with such a loss.  Once you've read this story, you'll never react as you did in the past to a "lost at sea" story.
Andy Moir, Editor,
Passages, The Brier and Long Island News

 Ben has succeeded in capturing the impact of this devastating event and conveying the enduring sense of loss that grips fishing communities at such times.
Jim Prime, author of Beyond the Passage



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  • Book details

    5x8 inch paperback, 182 pages

    ISBN 978-1-990187-90-2

  • Review by Chris Callaghan

    I can't remember the last time I've read a book cover-to-cover in one sitting, but once I opened "A Wilderness of Water", by Ben Robicheau, I literally couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. It is such a compelling portrayal of how life was - and in many ways still is - on Brier Island. Ben has interwoven two tragic actual “lost at sea” events that transpired in the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s. Anyone familiar with Brier Island will recognize the family names – Welch, McDormand, Gower, Garron, and others.

    One of the losses was of David Welch, who mysteriously disappeared while crossing home to Brier Island from Grand Manan, alone on his boat on a calm night. The other was of Donald McDormand, and his cousin Gerald Welch (David’s brother), taken in a vicious winter storm while trying for one more good catch before Christmas. With Ben’s description of the island and the winter storms, I could picture Donald’s frantic father, Ace McDormand, driving through the blizzard in the dead of night to Southern Point, hoping for the sound of an engine, a glimpse of a light, to let him know his son was safe and coming home.

    In this book Ben Robicheau, a native of Brier Island, captures the rugged winter Island landscape, and the isolation and self-reliance of the community as it was six decades ago. The story suspensefully reveals the heartbreak of the certain loss of Donald and Gerald, and the intrigue of the possible survival of David Welch. The stories are so well told. It's a gripping account of a winter fishing trip gone wrong, and the reasons the two young fishermen took the chance they did. You feel the helplessness of the parents waiting back home; you come to understand the conviction of David's mother that he survived the sinking of his boat, and his sister's tenacity in her continuing search for clues of his whereabouts. That mystery might still be solved, I suppose.
    I literally could not put this book down until the last page. It's not only a great story in itself, but will prove to be a valuable account of the history of Brier Island for future generations.

    I bought my copy at School Street Market in Freeport. It is also available at R.E. Robicheau’s in Westport, from, Cole’s in New Minas, Chisholm’s in Kentville, and from the publisher, Moose House Publications. “A Wilderness of Water” would make a great Christmas gift for anyone familiar with the Islands, or who simply is enchanted by sea stories.

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