Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sailboats and Sinking


Near Aurora

Friday night, The Old Theater showed All Is Lost to a packed crowd. It was the first in a four-film series with the sea as theme. As usual,all the popcorn you want for free.

Beating the crowd, last week Dick cooked dinner for several guys, and we watched All Is Lost on his big screen. We knew from experience how disappointed the viewers Friday night probably felt. When the movie started, we tried to hold back our dockside, Bean-porch commentary despite some early errors, but the film never got lift. It wallowed in the waves like a ship going down, which it was.

I hope that this is not Redford's last film. The critics nearly gushed. They must not know squat about sailing. Sailors blushed, then ripped the absurdity apart for endless good reasons. At times it seemed that the filmmaker had intended to make a silly sailing film about a silly sailor who made basic error after basic error. As a film, they got the title right, All was Lost.

I did not expect technical perfection, just a good story truly filmed. What a great chance to tell the story of what it is like to be alone at sea, facing a crisis alone at sea and to tell it with Redford in the lead role? It was a poor story (the question of why was Our Man sailing solo in the Indian Ocean was never answered) poorly told, assuming that sailing and boat details should matter in a movie that uses sailing as its driving theme.

Had we not held hope that the film would find its wind and become a good film with a weak beginning, we could have saved a lot of time by stopping it early on. It perished quickly as if holed by a shipping container. Then it drowned, gallon by gallon. I cannot possibly enumerate the many faux pas, but some are as follow:
  • With the hole to starboard, Our Man appears to change tack to keep the hole higher away from the water, but then it seems the tack change was a consistency issue as next scene he remains on the port tack, keeping the hole as close to the sea as possible to facilitate flooding. Heaving to for repairs would have made more sense.
  • Our Man takes no immediate action to limit the ability of water to flood through the hole (stuffing with cushions or similar). Instead he begins a full fiberglass repair albeit with one layer of cloth and no structural support. He is so casual about the repair that halfway through, as darkness falls, he goes to sleep, the hole still open. With a piece of plywood from a berth or settee he would have had a chance of truly patching.
  • When the boat is rolled by a wave, breaking the mast, he uses a knife to cut his stainless steel shroud. We keep emergency bolt cutters aboard with handles almost two feet long for the leverage necessary to cut through wire rigging. A knife would barely scratch the stainless wire.
  • Our Man mostly does not wear a harness despite being at sea alone (when he does wear it, he clips into the lifeline, not a jackline that would have sufficient strength to hold him); he does have a Man Overboard Pole, though it is not clear who will throw it if he falls overboard.
  • Why is he carrying a 12 (or more) person liferaft on a boat that will sleep max of six? I cannot stretch out in our six-person liferaft. Reality would have added another level of tension if he had had more limited raft space.


I could continue, but you get the idea. The concept was intriguing and promising, but Castaway with Tom Hanks pulled off what this film does not, a solo tour de force. I like Redford a lot, but he had too little to work with. It is almost as if the director believed that detail and story were unimportant so long as he had Redford.

Should you see it? Yes. Otherwise, you will not believe that I have not been overly harsh in my comments.

Consistent with the sinking theme, I had my annual "try to sink our boat event" yesterday. While trying to tighten the galley faucet, I leaned slightly on one of the drain hoses. It parted at the starboard sink and, the bottom of the sink being below water line, salt water sprung forth exuberantly inside the cabinet. When I repaired it, I found three different stainless steel clamps that had rusted through and failed. Yes, stainless can rust given enough time and exposure to salt water. The water sprayed everywhere under the sink and drained into the bilge. Houses should be so lucky.

The weather finally is not the focus of our situation. Some pleasant days have allowed Butch and me to have five o'clock-on-the-dock, our evening chat while the sun sets, our first in months. With the break in the cold, Butch has gone walkabout with his trailer, motorcycle, kayak and camping gear. Just to be sensible, he is heading south; the arctic keeps blasting the north.

Cheers.

Waiting for the train.



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