Reviewed by David Krapf, Editor
If you need to learn more about the evolution of the offshore boat business and the people and companies that nurtured its growth, Rise of the Cajun Mariners may do the trick.
For offshore boat veterans, Woody Falgoux’s book will bring back familiar names and events as it relives the beginnings of the offshore boat business, which got its start in Louisiana’s bayou country.
The story begins, and, it could be argued, centers on Bobby Orgeron. Soon after the start of the shallow-water oilfields in the late ’30s, Bobby’s dad, Juan, breaks into the oilfield service business in 1941 after chartering his 48-foot shrimp boat Herman J for seismic work. After a post-war lull, Juan bought a 36 SSSq wooden crewboat and began running crew from Lafitte to oil wells in a nearby bay. Bobby eventually convinces his dad to let him work for him.At 16, he captains his first crewboat.
But the book is about more than just pursuing the American dream. It is, as the book jacket says, “a candid account of a colorful time in a vital business.”
The book SSRq s other prominent players are Minor Cheramie, Nolty Theriot and Sydney Savoie. In 1949 in Galliano, Minor Cheramie, despite being short on education and money, began laying the foundation to become a prosperous oilfield boat operator. It all started with a single 32 SSSq wooden boat he built at a Golden Meadow, La., shipyard, and would eventually lead to the “ultimate supply boat.” Cheramie, like many, got his start on the deck of a boat. He worked hard and played hard, with boats, women and alcohol among his obsessions.
While Theriot may have never captained a boat, he was always on the move, always full of ideas. In the 1960s, he would help bring the oilfield to the rough waters of the North Sea. He not only introduced a boat he designed and built to handle the North Sea, but also exposed Europeans to Cajun culture. In the 1970s, it was Orgeron’s turn when he moved his supply boats into Central America and discovered a region full of opportunity.
Though the book gets bogged down in spots with personal details and side stories, it mostly sticks to the history of these workboat pioneers, providing an interesting account of the industry trail they blazed.