When Peter Aitkin started racing boats in the seventies, naming his boat The Black Duck was an easy choice. The fastest rum runner boat from the twenties, The Black Duck had a rich history from which to draw. Years later, when he opened his first restaurant, there was no question that the retired boat would pass the name to his new venture. Now, so many years later, The Black Duck Cafe is a mainstay in Westport life. Read a little history about the origin of The Black Duck.
It was December 29th, 1929 when the feds opened fire on The Black Duck without warning. “Killed my first mate and mechanic. I jumped over the side,” said Charles Travers, rumrunner and skipper of the infamous prohibition era-fastest boat, The Black Duck. Charles was a big man with a shock of white hair—tall, broad-shouldered and powerful-looking even in his later years. “We had a load of liquor on board all right and we was making headway speed through the fog, coming into Narragansett Bay when they started shooting. No warning, just started shooting that machine gun into the wheelhouse.” He held up his left hand. The middle finger was gone above the second knuckle and there were scars on both sides of his hand where a bullet had passed clear through. He studied it for a few seconds. "When the machine gun stopped, I crawled back in the boat and took off, out to sea.” His face darkened. “I radioed back in that I had a man all shot up but he still alive. But the bastards held me offshore for an hour and he died at my feet.” The man was Charles's brother, Johnny Goulart. "I was bleeding bad and after an hour I couldn't wait any longer so I brought the Duck back into the harbor and headed for the (Coast Guard) cutter. I figured if they was going to finish me off they'd do it then.”
“For months The Black Duck had shown its heels to frustrated Coast Guard pursuers. Boatswain Cornell, who headed the team to fight rum running, had not taken it well. The one time Cornell actually forced the Black Duck to heave to, his search turned up nothing. But Cornell had been heard to warn the Black Duck's captain, Charles Travers, that ‘someone' might fire into his boat someday.”
“We had a load of liquor on board all right and we was making headway speed through the fog, coming into Narragansett Bay when they started shooting. No warning, just started shooting that machine gun into the wheelhouse.” ...
It's now the 1970's and racer, Peter Aitkin, who has his place in the National Power Boat Association's Hall of Fame named his boat, one of the most successful in power boat racing history, The Black Duck after the historic rumrunner boat.