A dramatic and thrilling portrait of a long-forgotten true adventure and astounding seafaring achievement.
In The Raftsmen, author and documentary filmmaker Ryan Barnett takes readers on an astonishing maritime adventure set in the aftermath of World War II.
For four French expatriates who escaped the clutches of the Nazi regime to find asylum in Canada, adventure was to be the antidote to depression brought on by the cruelty of war. In 1956, armed with nothing but the flannel on their backs, a small stock of food, and some crude navigation and communication equipment, the quartet set sail from Halifax.
Their goal: to become the first crew to cross the Atlantic by raft. Fashioned from telephone poles and built entirely by hand, the raft they called L'Egare II would be their home for 88 harrowing days as they crossed the North Atlantic from Canada to Britain. And they made it!
In The Raftsmen, Barnett and comic illustrator Dmitry Bondarenko explore the adventure-fueled men aboard the L'Egare II, and the complex emotional undercurrents that led to their daredevil voyage.
Original archival photography and film stills taken by the crew aboard the raft, along with news reports and contemporary interviews with still-living members and other key players, round out the re-telling of this amazing journey.
Sixty years after they set sail, the epic story of the raftsmen's historic Atlantic crossing is brought to life for the first time.
Ryan Barnett is a documentary filmmaker and a producer at Historica Canada.
Dmitry Bondarenko is a Canadian artist and illustrator who lives and works in Toronto.
The account of the voyage is gripping, as is the illustrated narrative... The core story comes across every bit as odd, remarkable, and worthy of being remembered as Barnett intended.
Now, the account of L'Egare II has arrived in book form as The Raftsmen, a storytelling tour de force that sees author Ryan Barnett and illustrator Dmitry Bondarenko combine their talents to remarkable effect.
One of the great unsung maritime adventures of the twentieth century is the 1956 crossing of the North Atlantic by three French Canadians on a 30-foot raft built of nine telephone pole length logs and 6,000 feet of rope. Captained by Henri Beaudout, a draftsman, the voyage was designed to test his theory that a raft launched between the latitudes of 45 and 50 degrees north and powered only by a sail and the Gulf Stream has to end up in Europe in 100 days at most. But there was a more personal reason, too: Beaudout hoped the excursion would exorcise the demons that had plagued him since his experiences in WWII. Joining him as his crew were Gaston Vanackere, the cameraman who recorded the voyage, and Marc Modena, the radioman. The narrative nonfiction account of the 89-day voyage from Halifax to Cornwall in England is heavily illustrated with Vanackere's photographs, supplemented by comic art interludes drawn by Bondarenko. The highly dramatic account makes compelling reading for armchair adventurers of all ages.
Ryan Barnett's combination of words and photographs combine with Bondarenko's graphic comic to make a book that is not only fascinating but also handsome.
An inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "The Raftsmen" is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of real life action and adventure fans, and will prove to be a unique and enduringly popular addition to community library collections.
A fascinating and thrilling real-life adventure story.