The list of best ‘sailing movies’ is familiar and dated. There’s only been a handful of films featuring sailboats, and a hint at the lifestyle that draws us. Like most stories churned out by Hollywood, sailing movies are rife with cliches, inaccuracies and improbabilities that can make us scream at the screen, but at the same time, take some satisfaction in seeing sailors doing their thing.
We’d like to hear about your favorite sailing movies, and hope you’ll educate us on films beyond the usual suspects like Master and Commander, Wind, White Squall, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Calm and yes, even Waterworld.
We imagine this more as a book club rather than creating just another list with a brief summary telling us all what we already know. We’ll pick a film, give our analysis, have you discuss, then publish your responses. In particular, we want to hear what the movie in question meant to you — if anything. What are your favorite quotes? Were you inspired to head south? Were you inspired to buy a boat? Or did you watch the film and swear you’d never give Hollywood another dime of your money again?
One of our favorite things about movies is making fun of them, especially films that have aged a little (like bad wine). We like to take early ’90s adventure rom-coms seriously, and laugh hysterically at movies meant to be dramatic and solemn.
Let’s start with (dare we say) a classic — a movie that we recently heard quoted by many of you. It’s a story about two men.
One man is a face among millions in a cold, sprawling metropolis. He looks dejected, even lost in the crowd as he ambles through busy streets in the opening. He’s stressed, tightly wound. As he walks into his office building, our protagonist — Martin Harvey, played by Martin Short — is trapped in a revolving door by an inconsiderate younger man. Is it a metaphor? Stuck in a spinning cycle from which he cannot escape?
All the while during this decidedly early ’90s opening sequence, a bike messenger zips, without explanation, through busy, frozen city streets. Oddly upbeat (and decidedly ’90s) reggae-ish music is juxtaposed in the background, strangely sanguine against the bleak world our protagonist inhabits. The paths of the messenger and Harvey, it seems, are destined to cross. Without him knowing it, the sea calls to our hero.
Harvey crams into an impossibly crowded elevator. A rotund and especially garrulous man reveals (embarrassingly, inappropriately) to the crowd in the elevator that our hero wants to write a novel. "I mean that’s what he told me. But what’re you gonna write about, adventures in new product development?"
"I just said someday . . ." Harvey starts to answer.
"Well my point exactly, someday," the chatty man says dismissively. Just then, the bike messenger crowds into the elevator. He has a package, for Harvey — his uncle just died, and left him a boat in the Caribbean.
The other man is Harvey’s antithesis. Loosely wound, his feathers unrufflable. A tanned and dreadlocked sailor. Swashbuckling, beer-guzzling and wearing a patch to cover his glass eye. His presence is large, he leaves a trail of empty bottles, broken hearts and angry husbands. His motto: "Don’t worry, they’ll get out of the way." Indeed, our other protagonist believes that all of humanity will simply ‘get out of his way’ to accommodate the happy-go-lucky course he’s charted through life.
This is the story of Captain Ron (played by Kurt Russell).
Wackiness ensues. The boat Harvey inherits (reportedly one of two 50-ft ketches used in the movie) is a beautiful disaster. The family — consisting of a wisecracking boy, a teenage daughter getting in touch with her sexuality, and a mom who’s the upbeat, unsung hero of the movie — reluctantly go to work on their new home (a staple of late ’80s and early ’90s movies seems to revolve around the ‘fixer-upper’). Enter Captain Ron.
Captain Ron steadily emasculates Martin Harvey by simply being cooler and easier-going than the suburbia dad who has "worked very hard to plan a spontaneous adventure" for his family. In the end, Captain Ron sacrifices his own manhood so that Harvey — who learns to throw at least a little caution to the wind — can reclaim his own.
One thing we think Captain Ron did very well was portray sailing as something truly magnificent. When the family — accompanied by a band of anti-communist guerrillas (not gorillas) — finally sets the sails, the moment is shown in all its glory in a way that Hollywood does so well. Did a sailor consult the filmmakers, or did the filmmakers figure out that sailing was something special unto itself?
Please share your thoughts about the (dare we say) iconic Captain Ron.
PS: You can rent Captain Ron off the Internet through YouTube or a number of other streaming services (said one Latitude editor to another this morning: "You paid money for Captain Ron?")
"This summer the Delta was so hot…" "How hot was it?" "It was so hot we stayed in the Bay."
Delta Doo Dah vets Gene and Cheryl Novak planned to take their 9-year-old granddaughter Madison on Doo Dah 9 to escape the Sacramento heat. "We planned a trip up to Stockton the week of June 17-23 on our Islander 36 Fantasy, but due to high heat in the Delta, we stayed around the Bay," writes Gene. The Novaks live near Sacramento, but keep their boat in Alameda.
It was Madison’s first time at Angel Island. "She left her mark by spelling out her name on the beach while watching the sea lions watch her. We had a nice little tour of the island exhibits so Maddy could learn a little of the history of Ayala Cove before we headed over to Sam’s in Tiburon for lunch. Sitting in the warm sun out on Sam’s deck, watching the seagulls steal French fries from the patrons really amused her.
"Tuesday was a ferry trip from Alameda to San Francisco so we could play around the shops at Pier 39 and walk around Fisherman’s Wharf. Madison had a ball in the kite shop looking at the variety and sizes of kites as well as the bubble makers.
"We putzed around Alameda and Oakland the rest of the week taking advantage of the many restaurants in Alameda and Jack London Square and enjoying temperatures that were 25 to 30 degrees lower than in the Valley and Delta. We hope to make it to the Delta next year — unless the heat keeps us in the Bay again."
Air temperatures in the Delta have cooled down from June-July; this is an excellent time to make the trip. And there’s still time to sign up for the Delta Doo Dah, but only just, as registration will close at midnight on August 31.
Hong Kong-based department-store baron Karl Kwok has long had an affinity for ultra-fast racing sailboats and has owned a plethora of them over the years. From custom 45-footers to TP52s and even 80-ft maxi yachts, Kwok has campaigned his boats near and far in pursuit of some of sailing’s great challenges. Keeping our ear to the street in Honolulu, we have recently learned that Karl has added one of the USA’s most famous racing yachts to his New Zealand-based stable: the MOD70 Phaedo3. We’ve waxed poetic about our love affair with the VPLP-designed trimaran for years, as it has broken world sailing speed records and won major regattas all over the world under the ownership of New Mexico’s Lloyd Thornburg. Kwok will no doubt stock the boat with talent of the same top-tier caliber, so it’s with bated breath that we wait to see Beau Geste 70 (or whatever they call it) hit the water in anger. A delivery crew consisting of American multihull ace Ryan Breymaier, along with members from both the Phaedo and Beau Geste syndicates, left Honolulu last Sunday and can be tracked here.
Speaking of Kwok and his stable of Beau Geste racing yachts, one of them is in KKMI’s Point Richmond yard right now preparing for a Rolex Big Boat Series showdown that promises to be one of the most significant divisions to race the regatta in years: the Pac 52s. Kwok’s ace skipper Gavin Brady was instrumental in helping form the Pac52 class, and the Kiwi has played a pivotal role in the success of the young class’s standout, Frank Slootman’s Bay Area-based Invisible Hand. Four Pac 52s began the season, Beau Geste made it five, and just this week Britain’s Tony Langley has confirmed that his Gladiator syndicate will enter the Pac52 Cup and the 2018 circuit. This new California-based fleet is quickly gaining momentum and cementing itself as one of the world’s premier racing fleets.
St. Francis Yacht Club will host the Rolex Big Boat Series on September 14-17. Keep an eye out for our full preview coming soon.
If you’re dreaming of heading south this fall, one of the best ways to make it a reality is by signing up for the 2017 Baja Ha-Ha. Already 126 boats have signed up, and many more will join them by the September 15 deadline.
Finding crew shouldn’t be a barrier. You can sign up for the Baja Ha-Ha now, and, if you’re in the Bay Area on September 6, attend the Fall Crew List Party at Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito for free. Or find crew or boats by perusing the list of people currently signed up on our free online Crew List.
Just want to sail the Bay? The Fall Crew Party is for you too. Beautiful fall sailing and midwinter racing are ahead. The historic, nonprofit Spaulding Marine Center is a Bay Area jewel and ideally located on the Sausalito waterfront. If you’re cruising through the Bay Area from the North you can anchor out in Richardson Bay or find a guest slip at one the Sausalito marinas.
We’re looking forward to seeing you there.