Skip to main content

Winter's Woes

January means various things to a sailor. If you live in the southern regions it probably means that you don't sail as often as you might in, say, milder months like December or March. If you are a snowbound northerner then you are almost certainly counting the weeks until the cover comes off the boat and life can get back to what you wish was normal.The only consolation about cold winters

January means various things to a sailor. If you live in the southern regions it probably means that you don't sail as often as you might in, say, milder months like December or March. If you are a snowbound northerner then you are almost certainly counting the weeks until the cover comes off the boat and life can get back to what you wish was normal.

The only consolation about cold winters is that there is an undeniable pleasure in battening down the hatches (in this case windows and doors), stoking up the fire and either reading a book or reclining in front of the idiot box with a good supply of DVDs.

While there is a deep well of excellent seafaring literature to carry you through the winter months, the same, alas, cannot be said for sailing films. All too often, when a small sailboat appears on a screen, its sails are trimmed not to catch the wind but to give the cameraman an unobstructed view of the actors' resolute expressions. Often, said actors have all too obviously never been near a sailboat until they arrived on set, and they either lurch around the deck like seafaring zombies or sit frozen in the cockpit trying to keep their caviar down while mouthing nautical platitudes.

It is hard to enjoy a film when you are wincing at trite lines ("Time to tack onto a new gybe, so belay that sheet!") or peering horrified between your fingers at sailcloth flogging disconsolately while the characters sit obliviously, fixing the horizon with a determined glare.

There is the odd exception, and I think I have suffered through enough bad movies to feel justified in recommending some good ones. One of my all-time favorites is Riddle of The Sands, a terrific spy movie set in the shifting shallows of the Dutch coast in the years leading up to World War I. Produced and acted by sailors, it is long on suspense and short on cringe-inducing moments.

If you like dark movies, try Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water or Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream. I've always had a soft spot for the now-classic Dead Calm, and not just because of Nicole Kidman. It's a pretty good thriller and believe me, you'll treat your flare gun with a bit more respect after you've seen it.

If you are good at suspending disbelief—a skill that all movie-watchers should develop—you shouldn't miss the classic Wind, in which the local heroes win the America's Cup with the aid of the Whomper—which, you have to admit, is a better name for a sail than Code O.

There are a few classics out there if you aren't scared to go back in time. African Queen isn't about sailing but is one of the best films ever to feature a small boat. Old-school pirate films are always fun, especially if you have some youngsters to watch them with. A High Wind in Jamaica is one that's especially worth watching, along with The Crimson Pirate and Captain Blood.

So, pour a drink and hunker down. Let's face it, you'll never have time to watch TV during sailing season.

Related

Background-02

Notice to Mariners: A Blog from the SAIL Editors

As a teenager, I stumbled across a copy of Derek Lundy’s Godforsaken Sea in the back room of a used bookshop. I had never heard of the Vendée Globe and frankly found all the boat-speak in the first 50 pages a little difficult to get through. But Lundy’s storytelling and the draw ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-01-13-at-9.26.59-AM2048x

VIDEO: Celestial Navigation Episode 2

Celestial navigation is an invaluable tool for all kinds of sailors. In episode two of the celestial navigation series, learn the basic elements of navigation and the sight reduction process using declination and GHA to determine the Geographic Position and navigate using a ...read more

Film-poster

Cruising: Year of the Sea Shanty

Along with other timeless pursuits, like baking sourdough and gardening, singing sea shanties surged back into popularity during the recent lockdown, thanks, in part, to the app TikTok and its “duet” feature, which allows singers from around the world create music together. By ...read more

Book-Cover-9780712353700

Book Review: Sailor Song

Sailor Song is the ultimate guide to the music of working sailors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes lyrics and sheet music for 50 of the most beloved sea songs with fascinating historical background on the adjoining page. Chapter introductions provide ...read more

Screen Shot 2022-01-12 at 10.42.33 AM

Race Update: RORC Transat

With the fleet leaders about halfway to Grenada, the 2022 RORC Transatlantic is shaking out to be a tactically interesting one. The race, now in its 8th edition, began on Saturday with 30 teams ranging from 70-foot catamarans to a 28-foot JPK 1010. Early in the race, light winds ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_1585

Experience: Fire Down Below

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, local racing had resumed with household crews only. My wife, though, while always up for a pleasure sail, was not up for this kind of thing, so, for the fifth time in what was any measure an unusual sailing season, I found myself singlehanding my ...read more

BestBoats2022-logo

Best Boats 2022

In case you hadn’t heard, the fall 2021 boat show season was one for the record books. If there was ever any doubt the sailing public still enjoys making its way to Newport, Rhode Island, or Annapolis, Maryland, to see the latest in boat design, those doubts were put to rest ...read more

01-LEAD-Dominique-David-2048x

Mulithull Show Coming to La Grande-Motte

After a year without boat shows, 2021 proved to be a blockbuster summer and fall for events around the globe, and the International Mulithull Show is looking to continue that trend in 2022. First held in 2010, the show, which takes place in La Grand-Motte, France, on the shores ...read more