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Old 11-17-2013
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Re: " All Is Lost" movie

As a former sailboat delivery skipper currently cruising, I went to see "All Is Lost" in eager anticipation of witnessing Robert Redford dealing with incidents and accidents while single-handing a sailing yacht at sea. I was blown away by the praise of the reviews.

I saw the movie last night at the MV Film Society.

I was not blown away by the film.

I got the allegory of "Any Man" (Redford in the credits) tying into "Jedermann" (Thomas Mann in the literature): I got the inference that everyman is alone against his fate and he answers to his own gods and suffers his own trials. I got the swimming up from the depths to the light of redemption; the standard story in near-death experiences. I got the symbolism of a helping hand into Charon's boat.

I didn't get the practical inaccuracies of the sailing and sinking story. A friend, sitting in front of me, turned at the end of the movie and declared "I'm never going sailing." Any sailer I know would tell her that the story on the screen is so far from accurate that she need not fear a sailing trip. Even in the Indian Ocean.

Much has been written about sailing safety since the Fastnet Race and the Hobart Race disasters in the '70s and 90's. As a result of the learnings from those fatal storms, all sailboats - racing or cruising - have ample books, articles, dvds and internet forum to provide details and sufficient equipment to keep them safe at sea. "Any Man" would have been a safer boat handler than Mr. Redford. The simple omissions of safety and common sense at sea were striking.

A single-handing sailor sleeping in the v-berth forward rather than aft by the companionway? A single-handing sailor topside and on deck without an inflatable life preserver? Without being tethered to the boat while working on deck or overside fothering the hull? Without a bucket? Without a GPS Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon? Without a battery operated GPS or VHF radio as a backup to the main system? Without a simple and cheap solar still for fresh water, without an abandon-ship bag with foil packets of fresh water, without the mandated number of parachute, smoke and signaling flares, without a mirror for signaling? Yes, I used to deliver boats between New England and the Caribbean with a zenith portable for time signals, a sextant, a compass and a walker taffrail log. But that was then (and if the movie was set in that period, where was this stuff) and this is now.

And on and on...

All of these things are required to be carried on sailboats on ocean races and in cruising rallys; all prudent off-shore mariners carry them when passage making.

There are boat handling matters and other "personal choice" sailing preferences that I found odd. But these are not the safety measures that I have mentioned. The lack of the safety measures is what destroyed the movie's credibility for me. And my friend, in the row ahead, won't go sailing because "Any Man" was a poorly prepared sailor.

And my friends along side in the theater, who might still go sailing, found the movie "average." "Life of Pi, without the tiger" was a comment.

Perhaps the praise of the movie in the reviews of the NYTimes, the New Yorker and the rest were written by people in awe of Robert Redford's reputation and his facial grimaces. They could not been in awe of his seamanship.

And what did happen to his bilge pump handle - why did he have to whittle one out of the nice teak cockpit cocktail table? What happened to his hearing? I can hear a mouse fart when I'm asleep on a passage!

But, to be fair, he did do a nice job of patching the hull - even if he wasn't tethered to the boat.

I hope the movie doesn't scare people away from sailing.
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