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August 18, 2017

Is ‘Captain Ron’ Sailor’s Favorite Sailing Movie?

Who could have imagined that Captain Ron, a whacky, early-’90s family-comedy, would cement itself into sailor’s hearts as their favorite sailing movie of all time? Not only do sailors enjoy the movie at face value for it’s comedy, locations, stellar sailing scenes, iconic one-liners and general entertainment value, but many a mariner has been inspired by Captain Ron to face their fears and head out to sea, because, if anything’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there.

“An old saying teaches us that the hardest thing to do is untie the dock lines,” wrote Bob Johnson. “It means that we will leave the safety of the harbor for the adventure that awaits every sailor when the sails are raised. Captain Ron shows us in extended detail why this is true. Things go wrong. The unexpected arrives. There are many challenges. And then we get to feel the exhilaration that comes from when the wheels kick, the wind sings and the white sails shake. It really is one of the finest movies about sailing.”

“Not bad for a movie from 25 years ago,” said Wayne Cederquist “I had always been a little interested in sailing, but that movie made it look so cool and fun that it moved me to learn to sail, own a boat (now on my third) and go on several charter trips with friends and family that I captained in the Caribbean. Most definitely a formative motion picture for me!”

Like a lot of stories churned out by Hollywood, sailing movies are often rife with cliches, inaccuracies and improbabilities that can make us scream at the screen. Hollywood sure did get the sailing right in Captain Ron, e © 2017 Touchstone Pictures
At it’s heart, Captain Ron is a story about two men.

One man is a face among millions in a cold, sprawling metropolis. He dejected, lost in the crowd and tightly wound as he ambles through busy streets 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. Perhaps it’s a metaphor: stuck in a spinning cycle from which he cannot escape.

Martin Short plays Martin Harvey, a quintessential high-strung middle-management, mediocre middle-class American man in 1992’s Captain Ron. © 2017 Touchstone Pictures

All the while, during the cheerful opening sequence set in a wintery Chicago, a bike messenger zips through busy, snow-covered city streets. Oddly upbeat (and decidedly ’90s) island-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, the sea calls to on of our heroes.

Harvey crams into an impossibly crowded elevator. A rotund and especially garrulous man reveals (embarrassingly, inappropriately) to the crowd in the elevator that Harvey 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 tries to answer.

“Well my point exactly, someday,” the obnoxious man says. Just then, the bike messenger crowds into the elevator and fates collide. He has a package, for Harvey — his uncle just died, and left him a boat in the Caribbean.

Mary Kay Place plays Katherine Harvey in Captain Ron. Forgive our male gaze in assuming that Captain Ron and Martin Harvey are the only protagonists. Place played the generic ’90s family comedy mom brilliantly. In this scene, she works some physical comedy as she tiptoes up a sliding gangplank in absurdly high high-heels. (“Clearly the wrong shoe choice,” she muttered.) © 2017 Touchstone Pictures
The other man is Harvey’s antithesis, both in personality and in dramatic oppositin. He is loosely wound, his feathers unrufflable. He’s a tanned, 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 hero believes that all of humanity will simply ‘get out of his way’ to accommodate the happy-go-lucky, anything-goes course he’s charted through life.

This is the story of captain Ron Rico, played by Kurt Russell.

Wackiness ensues.

The boat the Harveys inherit (reportedly one of two 50-ft ketches used in the movie) is a beautiful disaster. The Harvey family — including Martin, a wisecracking pre-teen, a teenage daughter rapidly growing into her sexuality, and a mom who’s the upbeat, unsung hero and glue 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’ plotline.)

Kurt Russell as “Ron Rico. But call me Captain Ron boss. Everybody does.” © 2017 Touchstone Pictures

Calamity ensues.

Captain Ron steadily emasculates Martin Harvey by being  indefatigably easier-going than the suburbia dad who’s “worked very hard to plan a spontaneous adventure” for his family. In the end, captain Ron temporarily sacrifices his own manhood, pretending to be wounded when he’s not so that Mr. Harvey — who learns to throw at least a little caution to the wind — can lead and shine.

It’s the perfect arc for both our heroes.

A friend of mine likened captain Ron’s character to Mary Poppins. Really? “He swoops in, teaches everyone an important life lesson, and then swoops away just as fast as he arrived, onto the next family,” my friend explained.

“I guess I’ll go with a . . . Margarita!” © 2017 Touchstone Pictures

T. Michael Leonard wrote: “We were cruising on a Flicka in Mexico when Captain Ron hit the theaters. It was the end of the cruise and we were back in the states to get the trailer to bring the boat home. The boat Serendipity was in Mazatlan (much of our adventure was chronicled in the pages of Latitude — including the 700-mile trailer home — via the Changes section.)

“We went to the theater to see the movie when we got home [to Tucson, Arizona]. I don’t remember the exact scenes we laughed so hard at, but the ‘regular’ people at the movie just didn’t see the humor. We started to get nasty looks from the folks in the seats around us because we were laughing so much. Keep in mind Tucson doesn’t have many cruising sailors. I still enjoy the movie, especially the end when they turn around and head for the great unknown rather than go back to Chicago.”

Michael Moen said that Captain Ron was on his “short list of best sailing movies, not only because it showed an attainable boat, but it also showcased the things that can go wrong, such as boats needing maintenance and the concept of ‘this is an adventure’ that we all know and occasionally love.”

Don Fox thought Captain Ron was robbed of consideration by the Academy Award. “Kurt Russell should have got an Oscar for that movie and a sequel.”

Captain Rongrossed $22.5 million, against its budget of $24 million, said the internet.
© 2017 Touchstone Pictures

Here’s our always-being-updated list of sailing movies, some of which we’ve already reviewed: Moana, The Four SeasonsCaptains Courageous, Wake of the Red Witch, Moby Dick, The Sea Wolf, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Wind, White Squall, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Calm, Captain Blood and Waterworld.

Doin’ the Un-Doo Dah

"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.

Madison marked her first trip to Angel Island.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

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.

Already an inland-cruising vet, young Madison takes the helm of the Islander 36.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"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.

Phaedo3 Off to New Zealand

Phaedo3 flies down the homestretch of the Transpac, in Molokai Channel at sunset.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

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.

The Pac52 Beau Geste in the boatyard, getting prepped for the Rolex Big Boat Series.

© Marianne Armand / KKMI

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.

Beau Geste racing in the 2016 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

© Andrea Francolini

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.

Baja Ha-Ha Deadline and Crew Party

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.

Join the fun. Sail south with the Baja Ha-Ha departing San Diego on October 30.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

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.

The historic Spaulding Marine Center will be transformed from boatyard to Crew Party host on September 6.  

© 2017 Spaulding Marine Center

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.

Last weekend’s Drake’s Bay Race, a two-day event that combined OYRA and Singlehanded Sailing Society fleets, saw more wind than in the past few years.
In a ‘Lectronic Reader Submission from earlier this month, Janet Baker asked what we thought was an improbable question: "Have you ever had glacial ice in your whiskey?" The