Ketchikan sailmaker Louis Bartos keeps 'old ways' alive

Posted: Friday, February 20, 2009

KETCHIKAN - When asked how he got started as a sailmaker, Louis Bartos cites two major influences: his love of sailing and the valuable advice and guidance he received from an old Swedish sailor.

Bartos was about 12 at the time, living in Wisconsin, and he never knew that sailor's first name. He was just "Mr. Amundson," and he helped Bartos get started on a lifelong journey.

"He was wonderful," Bartos said of Mr. Amundson. "He taught me a lot of things. And patience. It was the old way - over and over and over again."

Bartos has been sailing and making sails for about 60 years; much of that time has been spent researching and learning the "old way." He credits another old sailor friend, Capt. Adrien Raynaud, for sparking his interest in the history of sailmaking. Bartos said that leg of his journey started when he asked the captain how a certain kind of old sail was made.

"He said, 'You got the brains and ability to research. Why don't you find out?"' Bartos said.

Raynaud stressed to him that the old ways were vanishing, and needed to be documented, Bartos said.

"The further I got into it, the more I believed it," he said.

Bartos has spent a lot of time conducting research, much of that spent with old sailors, learning directly from the masters. He said it sometimes took a while to gain their trust.

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