James "Dave" David Sadler

Passed 07/15/2019

Obituary for James "Dave" David Sadler

SADLER, James David, 81, of Halifax, passed away on Monday, July 15, at Hospice Halifax. He was the eldest son of the late Frances (Frankie) Eva Mae Gastonguay and the late J.D. (James David) Sadler.

Dave’s life was about boats, sailing and jazz, in that order, and he had a talent for so many things that he was able to make a living doing what he loved. He was a talented bass player from a young age, and could have continued with an early career in jazz. But what won out was the world of boats. He was gifted with his hands and possessed an intellect that allowed him to pursue a lifetime of projects. At the time of his death, he was still intent upon completing an upright bass he had fashioned from carbon fibre. And up until a few years ago, he had pushed ahead — the odds and the doubters be damned! — to begin building a 59-foot yacht of his own design. The glorious hull got only partially built before Dave found it too hard to be on his feet for long stretches. But the boat always had a name: Wing and a Prayer. That was how Dave lived: on a wing and a prayer, and on his own terms.

He was best known in the Halifax yachting scene for his expertise with fibreglass and flawless colour-matching. He could be found summer after summer in the yards of yacht clubs and in the various tall sheds he had over the years, working away with jazz playing away on the sound system, whistling along as he sanded, gel-coated and sprayed hulls. His standards were high. The work had to be perfect. If it wasn’t, it had to be redone until it was. The bill rarely reflected all of the time and energy that went into the work.

In 1964, he married Vangie Sadler, who supported him in many of his endeavours, and they went on to have two daughters, Charlene and Evangeline, whose summers soon became filled with sailing, boisterous yacht clubs and wild regattas, too.

Dave made a huge and lasting contribution to the Roue 20 class. He built 15 of them, and was a co-builder for four others. In the 1970s, he rejuvenated the fleet by making Roues out of fibreglass rather than wood, leading to some of the best years of racing for the fleet. The Sadler Trophy at Armdale Yacht Club was created in his honour.

He was a great helmsman, racing for decades at Armdale Yacht Club, the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron and in Chester. He designed and built his custom 32-foot sloop, Melville Island, in 1975 in the chapel on the grounds of Armdale Yacht Club, racing in the Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race and winning the Prince of Wales Trophy that year.

He began building boats in his 20s, starting with a Snipe in the basement of the family home on Newton Ave., then canoes in his yard on Reserve Rd., across from Armdale Yacht Club, before moving to a proper facility in Kinsac Lake. At 27, he built his first Roue 20 on Reserve Rd., his progress watched with interest and some doubt by AYC members. He called it Swallow, and raced it until he built another Roue, Scrapper. The habit of building Roues had begun, and would define his life for many years. He came full circle in 1993 with L’Hirondelle, the last Roue he built with his daughters Charlene and Evangeline and friend Shaun O’Leary.

He was educated at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, painting and drawing with ease. But he left art studies to begin gigging at jazz clubs in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, as Halifax’s jazz scene heated up. He was following in the steps of his father, J.D., a keyboardist who made a living playing the jazz standards in Halifax and San Diego, where J.D. and Frankie moved with family. Dave formed part of the Joe Sealy Trio, and for a few years he played with big-name musicians who passed through Halifax. He was encyclopedic about jazz, and it was a passion he held his whole life.

His early work was in the production department of CJCH television in Halifax in the early 1960s, building sets, before deciding he would be better off working for himself.

He is predeceased by his mother, Frances (Frankie) Eva Mae Gastonguay (Halifax) and J.D. (James David) Sadler (Chatham, N.B. and later San Diego, California), brothers Lorne (Timberlea) and Robert (Bobby) (San Diego). He is survived by his daughters Charlene (Rob Roberts, Halifax) and Evangeline (Jean Gagnier, Baie d’Urfé, QC), former wife Vangie Sadler (Halifax), brothers John (Kauai) and Peter (San Francisco), and granddaughters Fiona, Cait and Aislinn Roberts.

David has donated his body to science. A celebration of life will be held this fall at Armdale Yacht Club. Check back here ( in September for the date and details. The family thanks the staff at Hospice Halifax for their extraordinary kindness and compassionate care in the last four weeks of Dave’s life.

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Hello to "Johnny" Sadler - I am sorry for your loss. I echo Dave Smith's comments. When the Beatles came upon the scene, he made wooden cut-out guitars for us to use. I remember his shop on Newton Avenue as well. As a sailor since my teens, I often heard stories of his great skills and interest in boats. A truly talented man, and a big loss.
- Mike Casey
My condolences to Charlene, Evangeline and family.I have many fond memories of "Skipper Dave" as known to the crew of Greeneyes.....he taught us all how to fly a shute,fiber glass a hull,navigate the ledges and more.I will never forget all the laughs with dave on the helm i.e retrieving a crewmember from the stern( D.K.Walker) under sail and winning the race....R.I.P Davexo
- susan robinson
So sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing, Charlene. Heartfelt condolences to you and your family!
- Nina Waite
Hello everyone, sorry to read about Dave’s death. I remember the days when Dave was building “Melville Island”, a wonderful/talented craftsman. His memories will live on, he touched many people. Thinking about everyone.
- Joan McGinn
I first me David as a young lad playing with his younger brother John.It always intrigued me cutting through the family garage on Newton Avenue and seeing his guitar and sail boat works in progress in the early 60,s and am not surprised to see what he did in the future.Always an interesting person.I knew his folks and other brothers until they moved to Sunset Cliffs,San Diego,California.All the best to the Family,Sincerly,David B.Smith,Halifax.
- David smith

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