Pirates, Sinking, and other such Calamities

Tom Hanks captains his ship through the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia near the horn of Africa. With an admirable display of courage and leadership, he endures being taken hostage by the Somali pirates.

Robert Redford, on a solo voyage across the Indian Ocean in his 39-foot sailing vessel, hits a shipping container, encounters a storm, and loses his boat (and, perhaps his life).

Inevitably, when we tell others of our plans to cross oceans and sail around the world, two topics quickly surface: Pirates and Storms. “Aren’t you scared?” “What will you do if you encounter pirates?” “How will you survive if you are caught in a storm?” These worries are now magnified for many by two recent movies, All is Lost and Captain Phillips.

Of the two movies, Captain Phillips, is the much better film (in my humble opinion). From the first minute of the film to the final moments, the film is intense and pregnant with the sense that bad things are likely to happen. The production of this film is incredible, and Tom Hanks continues to prove that he is one of the best actors ever. Hanks provides a model for displaying courage under pressure.

I was eager to see the second movie, but I was quite disappointed with All is Lost. Robert Redford is a great actor, and performed admirably in a film with almost no dialogue. One reason I was frustrated with this movie is that his actions as a sailor were just plain inexplicable and inexcusable at times. I have gathered limited sailing knowledge over the past couple of years, but, even to me, it was obvious that his nautical decision-making was questionable. The film also lacked any character-development on the part of Redford (We don’t even know his name. In the credits, he is listed as “Our Man.”) I’m sure this was intentional, but it made the film less interesting. I found it difficult to relate to this generic gentleman.

Stepping out of my movie critic shoes, the most significant thing about watching these two movies is that I watched them with Cindy. And… she still wants to go sailing around the world with me! This was the ultimate test! Other than unforeseen health issues, I’m not sure anything can stop us now. If she can watch a sailor lost at sea and another taken hostage by pirates, and is still willing to abandon terra firma to sail the vast blue sea, then our dreams are in pretty good shape.

What do we make of the dangers of piracy and storms at sea? First, piracy. There are well-known areas of the globe (primarily off the Somali coast) where the risk of piracy is quite high. However, the vast majority of the seas are safe. It is quite easy to avoid those high-risk areas. We do not plan to sail into waters which are known to be high risk for piracy. Does this insure that we will never have our safety threatened? Not at all, but there are no guarantees of that at home. (Ask those folks in New Jersey and elsewhere who were minding there own business when they were attacked and knocked unconscious in the “knock-out” game.) People are assaulted, have their homes broken into, and otherwise suffer violence every day on land. This threat doesn’t disappear on water, but, as long as one uses common sense, the likelihood of violence is quite low. I am certain that the ocean is a much safer place than many cities.

Cindy encountered this pirate at "Squid Lips" in Melbourne, FL

Cindy encountered this pirate at “Squid Lips” in Melbourne, FL

What about storms? How will we deal with those? First, we will use our common sense to avoid all we can. Sailors have been roaming the seas for hundreds and thousands of years. Global weather patterns are fairly predictable. Taking advantage of readily available knowledge significantly lowers the likelihood of encountering life-threatening storms at sea. We plan on staying out of areas during their tropical storm season. We plan on being smart about when to leave port to head to our next destination. Beatitude is also well-equipped with several layers of safety equipment. The bottom line is… we are not really worried! No one’s life is immune from the possibility of bad things happening at any time. We don’t think the risk is any higher out on the open oceans. The wonder and adventure is worth the risk!

Even living at the dock, one may be subject to attack by wild beasts

Even living at the dock, one may be subject to attack by wild beasts

I must pause to be thankful for my amazing wife, who is not exactly an adventurer and risk-taker by nature, but is all-in for our future sailing plans. She has displayed remarkable courage already and does not shrink from future adventure. I would not represent reality well if I did not acknowledge that she has more fear and apprehension than do I. But, that just means she shows more courage than I!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in you sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Besides, we always have Wilson!

Besides, we always have Wilson!

(By the way, I came across a discussion of All is Lost on a cruisers forum. The comments of a young lady named Julie helped me make the most sense of the movie. [Spoiler Alert!] All was lost for Redford long before he took off on this solo ocean voyage. He had lost everything important to him prior to leaving. He never intended to return home. He, however, did not want to just kill himself. He wanted to go out with a perception of valor and courage. This explains his sometimes inept handling of himself and the boat. He was a man who felt he had nothing to live for and wanted to die. I found this helpful and it at least somewhat rehabilitated my opinion of the movie.)

One thought on “Pirates, Sinking, and other such Calamities

  1. Your blog makes me feel better because it reaffirms my confidence that you’re going to take good care of my Sister 🙂 A lot of intelligent people (and non) do not have common sense…but I know you do. You’re avoiding trouble before it hits you (like bad weather and pirates) . Although I’m a little apprehensive I admire you guys for going for it and looking forward. To hearing your adventures (AND being a part of some of them!) Love you guys

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