Skip to main content

Sailing Hits the Big Screen

Reviews of the year's films fit for the nautically minded

This past year has been unusual in that there have been, by my count, five films released that focus on sailing and the sea. Even better, three are actually worth watching! The best two are a pair of documentaries that were created and released by independent filmmakers.

Maidentrip, directed by Jillian Schlesinger, follows Dutch teenager Laura Dekker as she successfully pursues her dream to become the youngest person to sail alone around the world. Though Laura’s voyage was controversial, as the Dutch government sought to block it, Schlesinger refuses to sensationalize the story and instead focuses on what the voyage meant to Laura. The driving force—more than the fine soundtrack and charming animated cartography—is Laura’s own voice. In it you can hear her growing up.

The film is also very true to ocean sailing. Though it paints a somewhat impressionistic portrait of our sport, it is quite accurate and is filled with small visual details that all sailors can relate to and that also make sailing accessible and comprehensible to laypeople.

Raw Faith, meanwhile, follows a sailing dream with a different trajectory. George McKay, an office-worker with no sailing experience, is well into his middle ages when he is struck with a fervent desire to go to sea in a bizarre mock-galleon. McKay’s family rallies around him as he constructs his ticky-tacky dream ship, but fall away one by one as it becomes obvious how unseaworthy and impractical it is. McKay ultimately is left alone with his fixation and ends up with nothing, as his beloved ship sinks and is lost on its first serious passage.

Produced by Gregory Roscoe and David Berez, the film is visually arresting, as the ersatz ship lends itself to dramatically framed shots. It is also dramatically paced, as much of the story concerns McKay’s battles with the Coast Guard and local harbormasters. I watched in slack-jawed amazement and was left with a fine appreciation of our government’s inability to prevent us from doing stupid things on boats.

The most anticipated sailing film of the past year, of course, was a major feature, All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford as an unnamed solo sailor who loses his Cal 39 in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, the film’s creators made no effort to make it at all realistic, and any sailor watching it is apt to feel insulted and annoyed.

Redford’s performance was hailed as Oscar-worthy, but all I saw was a man who looked confused and aggravated for an hour and a half. I had the exact same expression on my face the entire time I was watching him.

Another feature film I was looking forward to but was disappointed by was Kontiki, about Thor Heyerdahl’s famous raft voyage across the Pacific. Though the cinematography was great, the story was very slow and literally put me to sleep.

In the end, the one nautical feature film I enjoyed was Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks. You sure won’t be nodding off during his tense, well-made portrayal of a cargo-ship hijacking off Somalia. The only problem is there are no sailboats in it! 

Related

X5_plus_slide-01

Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s ...read more

01-LEAD-AdobeStock_40632434

Cruising: Offshore Prep Talk

When I began preparing Minx, my 1987 Pearson 39-2, for extended Caribbean cruising, I had to balance my champagne wish list against my beer budget. Every buck spent on the boat before leaving would be one less frosty can of Carib down in the islands. On the other hand, I had to ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Barcelona Venue Shaping Up

The decision to host the next America’s Cup in Barcelona ruffled the feathers of some fans, but the Defender is happy with how the venue is shaping up. The process of allocating team bases, spectator zones and the race village is underway. “I cannot speak highly enough of the ...read more

ELAN-GT6---273

Boat Review: Elan GT6

Elan’s first sporty “Grand Turismo” yacht, the 43ft GT5, launched in 2017, and was actually a bit of a mash-up. It combined an existing go-fast hull from Elan’s sexy E5 racer with a new deck and interior optimized for cruising comfort, and a somewhat detuned rig to create a ...read more

OVI-Gyre-22_KH_Crew-clean-deck-and-catch-nets_260622-11

Ocean Voyages Institute Recovers Nearly 100 tons of Plastic Waste

After 45 days at sea, the sailing cargo ship KWAI has docked in San Francisco with 96 tons of recovered plastic, including ghost nets and derelict fishing gear from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Ocean Voyages Institute, a non-profit organization based in Sausalito, CA, uses ...read more

01-LEAD-ARC-Multi_JMitchell-JM5_2883

Multihulls and the 2021 ARC

The days of multihulls being the weirdos of the sea are gone. Nothing illustrated this better than the 2021 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), which departed Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (in Spain’s Canary Islands) in November and wrapped up in December on the island of St. Lucia ...read more

01-LEAD-12364-Sunbeam_401-GSP

Bowsprits: Why They Make Sense

There is, of course, nothing new about bowsprits—sailing ships have been using them for centuries. That said, these days they are more popular than ever on cruising boats, thanks to advances in sails, sailhandling technology and boat design in general. With today’s furlers, an ...read more

01-LEAD-DJI_0009_logo

Multihull Review: Nautitech 44 Open

For years, Nautitech Catamarans has been doing things differently from other production cat builders, and it seems to be paying off. When the French company launched its Open series in 2013, it shrunk the saloon and dedicated more space to the cockpit where most catamaran living ...read more