The sailing world lost a devoted advocate of the sport with the passing of Paul “Moto” Gallant on November 2, 2023.
According to Gallant’s wife, Amber, his first foray into the sailing world was through his friend and then-neighbour, John Roy — a seasoned sailor and the former owner of Ocean Yacht Sales. By her account, Paul took to the sport with a fervour that painted the dedicated attitude he would have towards sailing for the rest of his life from the very beginning.
“They started racing lasers with a number of different people. There was a whole bunch of them; they would go out running and started even working on nutrition and stuff way back then,” said Gallant. “I can remember him telling me about watching TV or something, literally strapped up in the living room so they could be hanging like they would be off the laser to get their body ready for it.”
As a young man, Paul Gallant travelled to Sardinia, Italy to compete in the Laser World Championship. While he didn’t come home with a medal, he returned with a renewed sense of purpose. From that time on, Gallant entered the marine service industry. His entrance into the service industry, however, was not his exit from competitive sailing.
“He’s done so many different things. It’s not just one type of boat or a couple of events,” said Gallant. “He and John [Roy] did the North American J24 Championships numerous times and a whole bunch of different events. They did the Melges 32 and Rob Gale joined them at one point and the three of them went in the Etchells and went to the World’s and got ninth. So many people would say that was the pinnacle of his career, and it certainly wasn’t. He’s done Bluenose championships, which he did with me, and we won.”
Among other races, Paul Gallant has also competed in Chester Race Week, the Marblehead to Halifax Race and the Prince of Wales Regatta. What he will be remembered for most, far beyond his racing career, is the dedication he poured into the sailing ecosystem of his community.
“Local sailing; that’s his main focus,” said Gallant. “If you wanted to become a good sailor, he said, then foster your local sailing… He’s coached so many different young teams coming out. One thing that so many have said to me is that right from the beginning, he was adamant about getting women into the sport. Ann Acland, she came to me and told me that he’s the reason so many women are now sailors.”
Acland, an accomplished sailor in her own right, credited much of her formative learning of the sport to Paul. She remembered him as someone who would do whatever he could to get people out on the water, sharing his love of sailing.
“He was one of the few people at that time that was sex blind. He didn’t see you as a male or female, he just saw you as someone who wanted to go sailing,” said Acland. “He was the one who taught me to trailer a boat. The first time trailering a boat down to Newport, he had all the things about how you twist the lines so they don’t go flap, flap, flap; you cover the boat in cheap dish liquid so that when the bugs died on it they’d all rinse off in one go.”
Gallant’s marine service company acted as more than just a job for him. It was a springboard he used to help out his fellow sailors, especially young sailors who were new to the sport.
“He was always their support. He was like, ‘OK, you have something broken on the boat? I’ll fix it tonight.’ He would stay until 10 o’clock at night to make sure they could race the next morning. He really made a lot of this possible,” said Gallant. “We always employed the young sailors as they get finished with school, or if they need to fit in one day a week to save money for rent. We were like, ‘Come on over, and we’ll get something going for you.’ We want people to be living. We don’t want people to be stuck trying to make ends meet.”
Paul and Amber were also heavily involved with Sail Able Nova Scotia, which provides learn-to-sail opportunities to people with disabilities.
“We don’t charge for labour or anything for Sail Able. We might ask for assistance with materials if they’re really expensive, but for the most part, it was just doing our best to help out,” said Gallant. “Paul barely charged enough. He got enough out of just doing the work and helping people and talking. He’s been very generous.”
Beyond being a passionate sailor, Paul Gallant was a passionate husband and father. He and his wife raised two sons, Anthony and Navarre, who she said were his pride and joy.
“One of the things that we were able to have together was our children,” said Gallant. “He just loved being around the kids, and everyone always said, ‘If I’m going to stop and talk to Paul, I’ve got to book 30 minutes, because he’s going to tell me about the kids. ’”
Paul’s other great passion was music. A multi-instrumentalist himself, he played guitar, flute clarinet and saxophone. One of his sailing partners, Shawn Cox, was also a music partner of Paul’s. The two of them, according to Amber, played in many bands throughout their days in high school and university, despite the little to no pay it brought their way.
“He loves funky music. Tower of Power was one of his big ones. Even soft acoustic, he would always make funky,” said Gallant. “He played with me. I’d be on the violin or piano… Music has certainly been a really big thing for him.”
The world lost an accomplished sailor, a funky musician, a devoted father and husband as well as a mentor to many of Nova Scotia’s up-and-coming sailors with the passing of Paul “Moto” Gallant.
“He was a humble man,” said Ackland. “They don’t make them like that anymore.
Photos courtesy of Ann Acland and Christine Morrison Grace