Category: General Posts

20 Mar

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Manry at Sea—In the Wake of a Dream


RM slides 18-brereton 06 cleaned_edited 1200wide

RM slides 18-brereton 06 cleaned_edited 1200wide

Interview with Steve Wystrach about the upcoming feature documentary called Manry at Sea—In the Wake of a Dream

For more information on the film and to watch the trailer, click here.

1. How did you come across the Robert Manry archives?

The seeds of the Robert Manry Project sprouted in 1996 while I was preparing for a voyage from Southern California to Hawaii. I’ve been an avid sailor most of my adult life, with a special love of bluewater passagemaking. During that period, I reread many of my books about solo sailors and small boat voyages.

Since I was in the process of outfitting my boat, I had a particular interest in sections about gear and provisioning. One of the most detailed chapters on the subject is “Comments for Sailors,” in Manry’s 1966 book, Tinkerbelle. His book was exciting and inspirational the first time I read it, and remains one of the best sea stories in my library.

I noticed in Manry’s equipment list that he carried a 16mm movie camera. I simply asked the question, “Where is the film?” That set off a case of amateur sleuthing, and in the end (after two years), I located Robert’s brother John, in Alberta, Canada, who told me, “Yes, it’s all in a box in my garage. I was afraid I might have to toss it in the trash one of these years during Spring cleaning.”

2. Have you always worked in the film industry?

I’ve been a filmmaker since high school, and spent my professional career as a film editor and archivist. I manage the classic TV archive for the US Borax 20-Mule Team show, Death Valley Days (1952-1970), and just completed the restoration of all 452 episodes for the Library of Congress. It’s currently playing on the STARZ Western channel, and Grit TV.

3. Are you also a sailor or adventurer?

Besides sailing, my other passion is making long-distance walks on the vast network of European trails, particularly in France. I’m leaving in April for a 5-week trek heading south from Reims. I walk solo, and carry an ultralight backpack, and usually stay in bed and breakfasts, or hostels. It’s a fabulous way to see a country. I’ve also walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain three times. I have a website about those adventures at where there’s a short video about some of the trails I’ve walked.

4. What have you learned about Manry during your research that has surprised you?

First, he was an ordinary “everyman,” who nurtured a very strong secret desire to fulfill his life long dream of sailing across an ocean, ever since he heard a lecture by a German adventurer, while growing up in India.

Second, was how the news media feeding frenzy began, and the audacious way that one journalist set out to track down Manry at sea, in order to scoop up the story before Tinkerbelle arrived in England. It’s a riveting twist to the story, and makes the film much more than just a “boy in a boat” adventure.

5. What impact do you think the voyage had on Manry’s relatively short life?

The main thing is that despite the limitations placed on him by culture, class, finances, and family, with humility, quiet tenacity and a joy for life, he made his dream come true. There’s a lot of depth to his biography that is not included in his book.

His fame gave him freedom to pursue other ventures. He had a successful tour of the lecture circuit, and made a second, year-long voyage, in a larger boat, circumnavigating the eastern United States with his family. I own that film, too, so who knows, maybe there will be a sequel. But, first things first.

6. What do you anticipate will the movie’s running time?

This is a full-length feature and runs a little over 90 minutes. We have a finished rough cut, which has been honored as an “Official Selection” at the American Documentary Film Festival, coming up in Palm Springs. In late March, I’ll be participating in a film pitch forum, competing for a grant that will go toward completing the film. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. There’s a second trailer rough cut you can watch here.

7. What is your expected movie release date?

If the financing and creative details like composing the score, animation, and a massive amount of film restoration all come together, we’re looking to complete by November – in time to submit to Sundance. ###

Read the eBook PDF of Tinkerbelle here.

Filed Under: Blog, General Posts

23 Sep

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Finding Pax: The Unexpected Journey of a Little Wooden Boat (Excerpt)



An excerpt from Chapter 2: The Best and Worst of Days, pages 30 and 31

From FINDING PAX: the unexpected journey of a little wooden boat
by Kaci Cronkhite, for readers of Small Craft Advisor


DURING THE HOUR’S DRIVE to Port Angeles and the hour-and-a-half Black Ball Ferry crossing to Victoria, Adam answered questions, offered advice, and quelled my nerves. Outside the ferry terminal, in welcome contrast to the horde of tourists, stood a young man with a fuzzy beard, a fisherman’s cap, and glasses. It had to be the owner, Derk Wolmuth. When he raised a hand, I waved, and within seconds we were on our way to see Pax.

His car smelled like wood smoke and was cluttered in a familiar sailor’s way with tools, rope, books, and bags. I crawled into the backseat, giving Adam the extra leg room as Derk passed around a bag of fresh-steamed salmon buns. His thoughtfulness and the warm local food put us all at ease.

As we made the half-hour trip across the peninsula together, the guys talked wooden boats while I listened, contemplating my decision and watching the British stone formality and urban buzz of Victoria’s inner harbor give way to the open, arty, tree-lined streets of Oak Bay.

Through a clearing in the trees, I spotted sailboat masts and the rocky headlands of Cadboro Bay. The sun was hot on my face when we got out of the car at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where Derk had Pax moored.

The bay was warmer than Port Townsend, protected from winds in three directions. Only a slight current of tide and whisper of wind nudged the mooring buoys. Otherwise, all was peaceful. Still as a picture.

As we waited for the club’s security gate to open, conversation stopped. I scanned the docks, expecting to see Pax. Derk pointed out into the center of the bay.

Of course. She was unmistakable. The reflection of her tall wooden mast extended toward us like a ribbon on the water.

We followed him to an empty slip marked “RVYC Guest” and waited while he went to get the boat.

As he rowed away, I took a wide-angle picture of the bay with my phone, then zoomed in for a second shot. As I framed him in the foreground and Pax beyond, his face was hidden in shadow, and something else, maybe his posture, made it feel too private a moment. I lowered my camera and instead watched the perfect line of the wake of his rowboat and the even pattern of his strokes on the water.

From what I heard on the drive and could see in his easy manner, he had been rowing and sailing boats his whole life. Now, when he got to Pax, he shipped an oar and put one hand on her cap rail to stop, then crossed the oars and stepped aboard her with the fluidity of a lifelong mariner.

With him in view onboard her, I finally had perspective. She was larger than I thought.

To order the book click here.

27 Jun

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Team Angus Rowboat Update 1 — #R2AK



Came back to our first update message from Colin Angus. He reported last night that all is going well although it has been a bit of a slog, either directly into the wind or rowing in almost no wind at all. Colin led the pack out of Victoria for the first 20 minutes or so. He joked that his two favorite times to lead a race are the start and the finish, so now that he’s led the start he can relax the rest of the way to Ketchikan. We should have another update from Colin tonight.

Team Mad Dog continues to dominate the overall fleet, moving at 10-12 knots in moderate northwesterly winds and closing in on the soon-to-be-open tidal gate at Seymour Narrows.

The smaller-boat fleet is a tighter race, with teams Angus, Shadowfax, Excellent Adventure, Vantucky, and Liteboat all in the mix. More later…—Eds

22 Jun


Little Boats in a Big Race #R2AK




The fast and famous “Bad Kitty” docked forward of Team Mail Order Bride’s F-boat.

From the moment the Race to Alaska kicked off its second year by calling out billionaire America’s Cup mogul Larry Ellison, the gossip and speculation has surrounded the biggest boats in the fleet. Ellison never called back, but another presumably wealthy and well-connected sailor did plan to enter an America’s Cup 72. The only catch was that he said they’d require a motorized support boat, which would mean a formal exemption to R2AK’s only two rules. Fortunately race management objected.

Then word came that the 34-foot custom catamaran Bad Kitty had signed on. While not as fast as the America’s Cup boats, the regional legend and Swiftsure and Vanisle 360 champion is arguably far more formidable in these waters (as demonstrated in part by their NOT requesting a motorized support boat.)

If the arrival of Bad Kitty took wind out of the sails of the many F-Boats eyeing the $10k first prize, seeing Team Tritium enter the 73-foot ocean-racing champion Lending Tree trimaran must have deflated them entirely. But then a few days ago word arrived that Tritium sailed into a rough patch on their way up the coast to the starting line and the Lending Tree boat broke. That’s the thing about this really fast boats, they can also be a little…delicate. To their credit, Team Tritium scrambled and came up with their own bright orange F-boat and made it to the starting line here in Port Townsend yesterday.

With all of the talk about big, expensive boats, one might assume that the Race to Alaska is going the way of so many other sailing races and becoming contest to see who’s pockets are deepest, but in fact this year’s fleet has plenty of modest entries, including some very small and home-built boats. Of the 44 teams aiming for Ketchikan, 22 of them—fully half the fleet—are in boats 24-feet or under. And 17 of the teams are in boats of 20-feet or less and therefore eligible for the Small Craft Advisor Side Bet prize, $1,000 and the cover of our magazine.


The Colin Angus-designed RowCruiser sailing version.

Handicapping R2AK is a fool’s game, as each boat is only a broken rudder, a navigation error, or a deadhead away from an early exit, but there are a few small-boats teams that look especially likely to compete for our $1000 prize.

World-class adventurer Colin Angus will be solo in his 18′ 8.5″ RowCruiser with sailing rig and amas. The RowCruiser-as-trimaran offers good speed and stability under sail and excellent performance under sliding seat and oars if the wind dies. And Colin’s experience and familiarity with local waters are no small advantage.

One might have assumed Colin would be the only R2AK competitor who had once rowed across the Atlantic, but Team Liteboat’s Mathieu Bonnier has done it as well—and he’s also showing up in a rowing-sailing trimaran of almost identical length. The match-up between these two experienced adventurers on similar boats should be fascinating.


The Mathieu Bonnier-designed LiteBoat

But one thing that Angus and Bonnier lack that would nearly double their chances, is crew. Teams like Bunny Whaler (Boston Whaler), Team Nordica (Nordica 16), Team Excellent Adventure (Montgomery 17), Team Coastal Express (16-foot Mirror), Team Vantucky (Windrider 17) and Team Squamish (6M Monohull) have extra hands and someone to give them a pep talk when things inevitably look bleak—also no small thing.

The rugged and relentless Roger Mann would have been among our pre-race favorites, but late word is that he’s been forced to drop out after car trouble delayed his cross-country arrival.


Turnpoint Design’s carbon cat “Felix.”

If there’s a giant killer among the smaller boats it might be Team Turnpoint and their custom carbon Turnpoint 24 catamaran Felix. Demonstrating plenty of speed under sail and pedal power last year, Team Turnpoint’s crew of two was forced to drop out in the heavy weather as their hastily prepared prototype showed its flaws. But a year and many modifications later, the local team returns with a faster Felix and, importantly, three crew members.

Adventure races, just like sailing regions themselves, tend to steer the development of boat design. There are certain boat design characteristics that are advantageous in particular waters and for particular purposes. Obviously a light boat and more than one hull is an advantage in terms of speed, but quite a few of the boats entered in the R2AK look like speed was the only consideration. When we look out over the small-boat fleet assembled, the word that comes to mind is “exposure.”

The open beach catamarans and low-riding trimarans will be fast, but for how long? Somewhere around three days of being cold, uncomfortable, and sleep-deprived has even the most masochistic sailor thinking about warm beds and hot showers. In terms of comfort—and quite possibly race longevity—the “cruising” boats have a distinct advantage, with a cabin to act as a bulwark against wind and weather and warm, dry place to sleep. Here’s where Colin Angus’s RowCruiser with its enclosed cabin, and Turnpoint’s Felix with her protected cuddy (where most catamarans have only a trampoline), look like a better fit for the conditions.


Bill Gifford’s (Excellent Adventure) Monty 17 has been fully vetted

Several of the small monohulls look well-prepared also. Team Coastal Express is back in their 16-foot Mirror Dinghy for another shot at Ketchikan. Team Excellent Adventure, who completed the race last year in 18 days, is back to do it again. After two rudder failures and some close calls night sailing last year, Bill Gifford and crew are carrying an extra rudder and have upgraded navigation lights on his Montgomery 17.

Team Sea Runner’s Thomas Nielsen, who was forced to bail out in his Wharram-designed catamaran a few windy days into R2AK 1, is back in what might be the fastest monohull in the race—an 18-foot Seascape. With a small cabin to duck out of the weather and surfing speeds as high as 20-knots, the Seascape, with its twin outboard rudders, code zero, and spinnaker, makes an intriguing choice.


Thomas Nielsen (Team Sea Runner) aboard his swift Seascape 18.

Many race fans and trailersailors will enjoy following the adventures of teams in popular small production boats just like ones they own. A rugged but heavily-laden Nordica 16 will aim for Alaska with two souls aboard, as will a Windrider 17, a Drascombe Longboat, and a Cal 20, among others.


The Nordica 16 ready for 750 miles of cold water.


Team Bunny Whaler’s Harpoon with custom sliding seat rowing

We’ll be following the action and will try to post a few updates along the way. Wishing everyone fair winds and smooth seas.