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By Dorie Cox
Capt. Peter Weekes Badeau, who was as skilled in the engine room as in the wheelhouse, died on Feb. 6 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Miami. He was 79.
Friends remembered him as a solid mariner, knowledgeable and willing to teach, serious about his work and about the lives of those who sailed with him.
“He was the real deal, a heck of an engineer, a true gentleman and a bit of a buccaneer from days gone by,” said William R. Patton, owner of M/Y Melinda Ann, the 78-foot West Bay Sonship that would be his last command.
Capt. Badeau spent more than 50 years as both captain and engineer maintaining and running yachts, some of which were some of the biggest of their era, including the 121-foot Denison M/Y Sunchaser, and the 120-foot M/Y Lovely Lady. He began his career on sailing vessels and ultimately skippered the 106-foot square rigged S/Y Hawaiian C.
He served as chief engineer on the the 152-foot Hakvoort M/Y Flamingo Daze, the 166-foot Feadship M/Y Illusion, the 165-foot Feadship M/Y Enterprise V, and the 175-foot Oceanfast M/Y Little Sis.
“Peter was a good engineer, extraordinarily detailed; he had lists for everything,” said Capt. David Smith, who worked with Capt. Badeau on a casino boat out of the Miami River in the late 1990s. “He was very careful, knowledgeable, and studied up in advance. He planned things to a T.”
Capt. Badeau was born in Egypt on Dec. 9, 1937, and spent his early years in the region. His father, John Stothoff Badeau, was U.S. Ambassador to Cairo and president of American University in Cairo. Capt. Badeau held a mechanical engineering degree from Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey.
Capt. Badeau’s strong engineering skills were prominent in his thoughts and actions, according to friends.
“Peter always had a watch with a calculator on it; he approached everything with an engineer’s way of life,” said Capt. David Hendry, who hired Capt. Badeau to help him deliver a 94-foot Hargrave 3,500 miles to Michigan one winter and spring. “He was very capable. That was one of the reasons I trusted him. You go to sea with people you trust.”
Former yacht Chef Adam Sohn worked with Capt. Badeau for five years on M/Y Melinda Ann.
“To do my job as chef, I needed an engineer that knew his job,” Sohn said. He said he could always count on the air conditioning, satellite TV and generators to work and for the impellers to be switched out before guests arrived.
Sohn said Capt. Badeau’s level of professionalism was high.
“Peter would come up with excuses to get guests off the boat if he had to pull up the floorboards for plumbing,” Sohn said. “He would find a restaurant or bar, talk it up and get the guests off so we could get the repair done without them seeing the mess.
“The important thing was, he never told anybody on charter that anything was wrong,” Sohn said. “From the point of view of the guest, everything was working. And he was always working; he had a certain level of professionalism and sophistication. It takes discipline.”
Friends described Capt. Badeau as guarded about his personal life, but he was quick to open up to mentor other yachtsmen.
“Peter was always a private person, his persona was professional captain,” Sohn said. “But he always told interesting stories. I learned seamanship, how to be a professional, how to provision for delivery, how to handle lines, everything from him.”
Friend Sandy Davis told similar tales.
“People said he was very closed, not sharing personal things, but with yachting knowledge he would share, share, share,” Davis said. “He would rather teach than see bad things happen.”
That knowledge was part of his life, she said.
“Everything was just so; there was not a thing he didn’t notice,” she said. “He knew his boats inside out and upside down. Crew respected him.”
She also remembered him telling vivid stories, such as growing up Egypt and of his yacht travels.
“I learned a lot from him,” Davis said. “He was a grand storyteller; he made it alive.”
She recalled one of his vibrant recollections, sailboats on the Bosphorus in Turkey.
“He said there were hundreds of sailboats on the river and the sun set in the background of the handmade sails,” she said. “That to me is Peter, he noticed that type of thing.”
Davis went on many trips and deliveries with Capt. Badeau and learned that he had raced Arabian stallions, been a member of a bicycle club, taught sailing and diving, and had a brokerage business in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“He was extremely bright,” she said. “I guess when he was little, he was always making things. “Sometimes his mom would scratch her head, call his dad and say, ‘Peter designed something new in his bedroom again’. He could fix anything.”