Author Name: Christopher Madsen
When Christopher Madsen made the snap decision—perhaps a rash decision—to buy and renovate the 1916 yacht for which this story is named, he could scarcely have imagined the consequences that were to follow. Unexpectedly, during the course of the renovation, a window into Rowdy’s past was opened, metaphorically whisking Christopher back in time. Seduced by tantalizing clues and glimpses into the personal life of the original owner, he was steadily drawn deeper into the investigation. In 2002, ninety-three-year-old Hanny, Holland Duell’s only surviving child, came aboard her father’s boat for the first time in 83 years, and from that moment forward, the fading memories of a most amazing cast of characters were slowly and magically brought back to life. The emerging story, bringing to life the era and flair of Hemingway and Gatsby, progressively grew, becoming more and more complex and sensational—at times to the point of disbelief.
The incredible life journey of Holland Duell, decorated World War I major, celebrated New York state senator, powerful patent attorney, and highly accomplished sailor, is told here from an intimately personal perspective as he is immersed in the Great War, politics at the highest level, the birth of Hollywood, fortunes and mansions, love and romance, and scandalous affairs. The epic tale, far from being a story exclusively for sailors, is a gripping, fast-paced adventure and love story, made all the more amazing by the fact that it is completely true, historically significant, and meticulously documented. A newly unearthed gem in American history, Rowdy will enjoyably transport the reader back in time to the Golden Age of Yachting—AND EVER SO MUCH MORE!
My parents were anthropologists and, as a child, I had the blessing of traveling the world with them and visiting many exotic, far-off destinations. My father, by the circumstances of his father’s business, had grown up in the Philippines and for fun played in jungles and warm, tropical ocean waters. Consequently, I became infected at an early age with my father’s love of the sea.
We moved to Santa Barbara, CA in 1967 when I was 11 years old. The Santa Barbara Channel Islands lie twenty miles offshore. To gain passage, I bought my first boat at the age of 18. For the past 40 years those islands have been my playground, and that nautical link is what put me in the same orbit as Rowdy when she became available for purchase in 1998. What followed changed my life, as can be gleaned from reading the book Rowdy. My twin daughters were born six years later, in mid-2004, and I sold Rowdy in early 2006 to give me the freedom to spend as much time as I could with them. I have a much smaller boat now but still need to get out on the water as much as possible, and I take the girls along every chance I get. Of course, they have adapted extremely well to life as little boaters, kayakers, swimmers, and fishermen—and, oh yes, they also love tropical vacations.
After eight years of ownership, I assumed that the Rowdy project would end when I sold her, but it seems there was another seven years of work I needed to complete to satisfy the obligation I felt to share and keep alive this story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.