Kids, Don't Try This At Home!

Hi, and welcome to the adventures of "Triton", a 45' Robertson & Caine Leopard catamaran we purchased in July of 2007, in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. We sailed her back to Emeryville, California, located in the lovely San Francisco East Bay area, worked a few more years, then set off cruising in the fall of 2014. This journal is the story of our ongoing adventure, the folks we've met along the way, and the hardships and joys of that journey. Please read along and let us know what you think!

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here to start from the very beginning of the entire adventure. You can navigate from post to post simply by clicking the NEXT or PREVIOUS phrases at the top or bottom of each page. To find out what we've been fixing, changing, upgrading, click on the Triton Boat Work link under Related Websites. If you want to subscribe to this blog (and get emails letting you know whenever we update it) just click on the icon that says "subscribe to: posts (atom)" at the bottom of each page.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

All Is Lost


No, the Triton didn't sink, we have not given up hope, nor are we abandoning ship.  The post title is a reference to a recent film about sailing, which we review (quite bitterly) a bit later on in this latest entry.  Spoiler Alert:  If you haven't seen the movie yet, and think you might want to [I only recommend doing so if you know nothing about sailing, marine electronic equipment, emergency preparedness & response, survival at sea, or physics] then read the next three paragraphs and skip on to the next post.

As to our current status, we will be so bold as to paraphrase Mark Twain: "there are three kinds of boat work: boat work, damn boat work, and slipped schedules".  In other words, we are still in Emeryville.  Boat work continues apace and we are actually making progress, but we've decided that our best plan is to finish the projects properly, without bleeding through our eyes or rushing just to meet a self-imposed schedule.  So we trudge on, and refuse to give any future hint as to our departure date.

This has caused a bit of consternation for our friends who had money riding in the "When Will They Finally Leave!!!" pool.  It was started by good friends (I can only imagine what my bad friends are betting on) and each entry date costs five dollars.  I think you can still get in on it, but here's a tip: I wouldn't put anything down for January.

We have only a few projects left to complete, but we are debating whether we'll head to Mexico directly, or instead spend the summer cruising the Bay Area Delta, or perhaps head north for British Columbia.  Nothing is certain yet, except that once the bimini and fuel tank projects are finished, we'll cast off the dock lines and go cruising somewhere.

Okay, back to my rant about stupid movies.  During the holidays, we took an evening off and went to see "All Is Lost"; a film about a lone mariner on a small sloop somewhere in the India Ocean, who encounters one problem after another, and through no fault of his own, somehow survives them all.  We thought this might be a good film to see, something to cheer our spirits and motivate us.

It did not.  In fact, we walked out of the theater grumbling out loud about the stupidity and incompetence of the protagonist.  It is hard to catalogue all of the mistakes that the main (in fact the only) character of the movie makes, but suffice to say that the story finds him asleep while sailing alone in the Indian Ocean on a boat that has inadvertently struck a submerged shipping container and is now taking on water.

The movie has almost no dialogue and a lot of very good music.  The only actor in it is Robert Redford, whom a friend of mine described as "so cute I'd be happy to pay just to watch him do laundry".   Granted, he has boyish good looks, and he comes across as a solid, decent human being in almost every movie I've seen him in (even his villains seem like folks you wouldn't mind buying a beer) so perhaps that explains the rave reviews.  It doesn't help that everyone (who doesn't sail) who sees this movie will think that this is a typical sailing story.  It isn't.

Sailing alone isn't unheard of, in fact, folks do it safely all the time.  But if you are going to cross an ocean, you may want to have taken a few precautions first, like learning what to do in the event of flooding, storms, or any other disaster that might befall the lone seaman, and perhaps bringing a working EPIRB with you. Ah, but then we wouldn't have a movie, now would we?

The skipper, upon discovering that his boat has a large hole and is sinking, begins a long series of actions that make the situation worse, compounded by the fact that his boat is inadequately equipped.  His batteries are dead (he makes no attempt to revive them), his engine won't start (he makes no attempt to get it going) and his only link to the outside world, a VHS radio, has been damaged.  He does try to fix that, but it is clear that his understanding of electronics is only marginally worse than his understanding of safe seamanship.

He does, however, take time to shave, and drink scotch (two suggestions you won't find listed in the Coast Guard's emergency preparedness FAQ) and ignores an oncoming storm until the situation is so dire that he must crawl out onto the bow dragging  a storm sail with him.   Any prudent sailor would have forgone the primping and imbibing and would have instead spent their time pre-rigging the sail and perhaps a drogue, not to mention trying everything they could to get their engine going again.

But that wouldn't have made for good drama, which includes a dismasting, and eventually the boat sinking, leaving the skipper adrift in a life raft, which he ultimately sets on fire in order to attract attention (an attempt he believes has failed) and then gives up hope and decides to drown himself.  Let me repeat that last bit again: this is a movie about a well-groomed captain who sinks his own boat mostly due to lack of preparation and inept seamanship, who then who sets fire to his life raft, and then decides to commit suicide.

As he is sinking below the surface (and at the last possible moment) he spots the search light of a passing motorboat, which rescues him.   There was no rescue for us.  Like watching a slow train wreck--we suffered through the entire thing.  For sailors, this movie should only be viewed as a cautionary tale of what not to do.  We squirmed and writhed in our seats as the protagonist made every classic sailing mistake there was.  It was all we could do not to yell at the screen, "Don't do that, you idiot!"

As we crossed the theater's parking lot our not-so-subtle snarking about the plot was overheard by another theater-goer getting into his black Hummer.   Now, I realize this is probably wrong of me to say, but I think the Hummer is to the military Humvee what this movie was to sailing; it represents the idea of ruggedness instead of actual ruggedness.

When the driver asked us if we really thought the skipper "deserved to die", I think he was a bit surprised by our ardent and emphatic answer, "We live on a boat.  We sail our boat in the open ocean.  If we did the stupid things he did, we would expect to have died as well!!!"  He quickly got in his pseudo-truck (AnnMarie calls them "compensating vehicles") and drove off.

Okay, that may have seemed a bit over the top, but keep in mind that we hadn't seen a movie in quite a while, and  had just decided to delay our cruising departure for over five months because we felt that some of the systems on board weren't as solid as we'd have liked them to be, so we might be a bit sensitive about this stuff.   Sadly, most folks who see this movie will have no idea that the underlying premise is absurd.

In fairness to Mr. Redford, I do think he is a good actor, but I think the movie would have been so much better received if they'd shown him actually doing the right things and overcoming adversity, instead of overcoming some dramatically convenient (self-induced) challenges and then giving up.

That probably would have taken a good script writer a bit more time to craft (no pun intended) but given how few words are uttered, I'm not so sure that English (or for that matter, reality) is their first language.

Cheers for now,

Robb & AnnMarie



Jen Jackson said...

Haahhaahaha. VERY similar experience with this film. I have a few tweaks to your conclusions though:

1. Completely agree that only non-sailors should watch. However, I've asked that none of my non-sailing friends see it. Last thing I need is them getting the WRONG idea of what single-handed ocean sailing looks like.

2. Shave and scotch pre-storm: No. But I approved of him having a hot meal ahead of time. Eating (anything) in the calm before the "storm" has definitely helped me out before and will continue to :-)

And selfishly, I'm glad you're both around a little longer. Big Hug.

alexlifschitz said...

Hey there -

Just stumbled onto this blog and I'm having a great time reading it. There's a chance I may be moving to the peninsula (just abouts of Redwood Shores) in the near future, and decided that if it came together, I would immediately make moves to purchase a Lagoon 380 cat docked up in Washington and bring it down to live aboard.

It would be my first major boat purchase and I'd love to pick the brains of other cat owners in the bay area if you're around!

Mark Bongers said...

HELP! I'm just busy installing a shower/basin sump as per yours on my Leopard 45, but I'm having an issue with them gravity feeding into the sump box. Please let me know if you get this, as I'd really appreciate a moment's advice.....
Mark Bongers
Leopard 45 'Zizi' - Simon's Town, South Africa

S/V Triton said...

Hi Mark,

Placing the sump basin in the lowest part of the bilge was only part of the solution; you also need to make sure that the hoses running from the shower basin to sump basin run flat (no vertical bends) and that the basin has a vent tube running up a foot or two. Omitting those items might prevent the water from flowing into the basin. Include your email address if you'd like me to contact you directly.