The Seamen’s Bethel, a New Bedford, Massachusetts chapel, was built in 1832 by a group of that town’s leading citizens, concerned about the “arduous and licentious” lifestyles of the port’s whaling seamen. Immortalized by Herman Melville in Moby-Dick, the chapel was meant to uplift and comfort mariners in need.
It was more or less effective, but times have changed and if you want to find an institution with results that make the Bethel look like a dim oil lamp flickering in the fog, travel to New Orleans and take in the glories of Chez Legier. Granted, you won’t find any colorful whalers or Gregory Peck spewing hell’s fire and damnation from the pulpit, as he did in the movie. What you will find is much better.
There will be a pack of parched Rhodes competitors with hosts Jane and Dave dispensing massive amounts of food, drink and hospitality. The surroundings, with pool and bordering park, will sooth your soul in ways that most mariners can only imagine. The results are so beneficial that some Yankees return time after time for long stays.
This has been going on since the ’80s’ and for those poor unfortunates who haven‘t felt the joy, host Dave is Dave Legier, Captain of Fleet 7 and Gulf Coast Governor. He began sailing in 1985 or so on Rhodes 19 “SNAFU,” with his brother Bill. An overnight grounded on Cat Island South in the Gulf on a Pearson 32 and the contagious enthusiasm of Fleet Seven’s members cured a brief fling with cruising boats. He purchased SNAFU in 1989 and from there his sailing has followed a predictable learning curve.
There have been two capsizes in thunder squalls, crewing stints with other fleet seven sailors and introductions to the thrills of trailing to distant points. Dave trailed Vitesse, nee SNAFU, to Marblehead in 1996 and 2000 as well as to Hingham in 2001 where he provided post 9/11 return transportation to other New Orleans participants. He won the Don Quixote trophy in 1999 on the Lake.
The boat‘s name change from a WWII acronym signifying stupid chaos to the French term for quickness in order to inspire those on board is the best clue to Dave’s rounded personality. He is a man of many parts. Growing up in New Orleans he attended its Catholic school system through high school. After obtaining a BS from Southeastern Louisiana University, he worked for six months in Quality Assurance for Shell Oil before being gobbled up in the U.S. Army’s draft.
He survived his two-year obligation, one of which was an infantry assignment with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam and Cambodia. After his discharge, he returned to Shell in Texas, was moved back to New Orleans in 1973 and retired with 30 year’ service in 1998.
Dave’s post retirement years have been filled with creative professional and community service activities beyond Fleet 7. He is developing an historical and architectural tour guide for New Orleans business neighborhoods and conducts two French Quarter tours per month for The Friends of the Cabildo, volunteers for the Louisiana State Museum.
Other volunteer activities include board membership for Girls and Boys Town that maintains four group homes and two shelters for runaway – cast off kids in New Orleans. Dave also serves on the alumni board of his New Orleans high school. During our interview for this profile he was psyching himself for carnival that he celebrates each year by parading with the Krewe of Okeanos, a family oriented float organization, and with a more outrageous collection, Krewe du Vieux that marches in the original Mardis Gras style on foot.
Since 1999, David has been indulging his passion for black and white fine arts photography with classes at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. A subliminal wish to be a veterinarian got lost in Vietnam and because of the economic imperatives after it. Oh well, hosting sailors is close enough.
The goal of continuing Fleet 7’s growth in numbers with enhanced racing and camaraderie is complicated by today’s demanding commitments to work and life complexities. Finding fixer-upper boats for new recruits is a constant challenge. Dave is dedicated to strengthening the Rhodes Gulf Coast Region by enhancing ties between New Orleans and Fairhope’s Fleet 4.
David’s spare time from all of this is spent with wife Jane and their Basset Hound, Duchesse, at their Exposition Boulevard home or roughing it in their Gulf Coast cottage. David feels “truly blessed” with a wonderful, loving family and great friends. If you’re ever lucky enough to spend some time in his gourmet New Orleans kitchen, get the secrets to his Cold Water Coffee and the esoteric cult names for an array of ever hotter Tabasco sauces that grace it.