Bilgewater News 2013
Life of Pi and Additional Oceanic Films
Life of Pi
We were very happy to hear that the film adaptation of Life of Pi was nominated for 7 Oscars early in 2013, and even happier that it won 4, including a second for Ang Lee as Best Director. The movie garnered numerous other awards as well on the international circuit, such as at BAFTA (the British equivalent of the Oscars), Film Critics, Golden Globe, and others. Considering the enormous number of people who contributed essential elements to the film, I was quite surprised and flattered by Ang and scriptwriter David Magee who have been extremely generous with their comments to the press about my contributions, and to find that Ang had given me a leading credit. I'll take it with thanks but am more proud to have been one of a large crew who put together this movie, which had been considered "unfilmable." Ang hired me as Survival and Marine Consultant, and asked me to help make the ocean into a major character, to bring authenticity to the film, and to help make it convincing, so I always had to lobby for as much realism as possible. Realism had to be balanced with other creative and practical needs, though, so the film could have ended up looking quite incongruous and, frankly, silly. We also did many things that had never been done before in order to tackle the long-standing adage in the movie business to never make a film on the water, with children, or with animals. Not only did we do all three, but the film was also shot in 3-D. There surely was a lot of room for problems. During shooting, it was hard to know how it would turn out. Many times I thought that the film either would be a complete disaster or something truly inspiring, giving film history a number of iconic images. In the end, the talents that so many brought to bear created a wonderful expressionistic vision that not only wowed critics but grossed over $800 million as worldwide audiences gave it a big thumbs up. Check out the synopsis of the film and see the entire list of cast and crew at Internet Movie Database (IMDb). I talk about my role in the film here in my website.
All Is Lost
One of my hopes was that, if we could succeed with Life of Pi, other film makers might consider producing ocean-set films. Well, that seems to have worked in spades. No fewer than 6 other movies involving ocean survival are in some state of production. By the end of 2013, All Is Lost starring Robert Redford was released. Reviews have been mixed, with non-marine audiences generally loving it and sailing audiences hammering it. Having recently seen it, I found no scene without glaring technical errors. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to recall anything realistically portrayed. Redford appeared to be sleep walking, and the "story," much of it implied, composed just one element of a typical survival experience. I can assure anyone without offshore experience that the drama and dynamics of normal life offshore, and particularly a similar survival event, would swamp what appeared on screen. Although I'm a Redford fan, I found little to recommend this one from beginning to end, unfortunately. Hopefully, others' efforts will be a step up.
In the Heart of the Sea
Toward the end of 2013, I was asked to contribute to the film production of In the Heart of the Sea, based on the National Book Award-winning nonfiction saga by Nathaniel Philbrick and directed by Ron Howard. It's in post-production now and will likely reach theatres at the end of 2014. The tale is sometimes called the "real Moby Dick" because it centers on a Nantucket whaling ship, the Essex, that was rammed in the Pacific by a large sperm whale in 1820. The survival voyage that followed was staggeringly difficult. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, who was launched into A-list actor status thanks to his ongoing role as Thor in several Marvel Comic Book films, and more recently in Rush another Ron Howard film about Grand Prix auto racing, which has been positively reviewed and received by the media and public.
During September 2013, I spent some hours speaking with Jack O'Connell, who is playing Louie Zamperini in the film adaptation of Unbroken, another nonfiction survival tale written by Laura Hillenbrand (Sea Biscuit). Louie was an Olympic running star who, during World War II, survived a plane crash in the Pacific and substantive liferaft journey only to land on an island controlled by the Japanese. They immediately took him prisoner for the duration of the war. Louie's story is a survival tale virtually beyond belief. The film is being directed by Angelina Jolie in Australia. Best of luck to all the cast and crew in this production, and congratulations to Louie for not only surviving during the war but also for his active life since, including inspirational speaking engagements well into his 90s.
Naked and Marooned
On television, Naked and Marooned with Ed Stafford was aired on Discovery Channel: Ed is an adventurer who has hiked the length of the Amazon, among other things. During this show, Ed hopped off a boat naked onto a remote Pacific island and survived for 60 days. Along with other survivors and specialists, I was asked to review footage of his quest and comment on it. Some of this commentary has been incorporated into the program. Check it out here. Photo: NakedandMarooned.com
Publications: Adrift and Capsized Continue to Float into the Future with Other Projects on the Horizon
My book, Adrift, Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea, continues to chug along. The new e-book edition rose to the New York Times best sellers' list on 21 and 28 July 2013. Adrift also continues to be translated, this year into "Common Chinese" in mainland China and Bulgarian. That brings the number of languages in which Adrift has been published to18.
Meanwhile, Capsized: Jim Nalepka's Epic 119-Day Survival Voyage Aboard the Rose-Noëlle was republished in the fall by New Street Communicatins. Originally published by HarperCollins in 1993, Capsized had since been adapted for stage and radio dramas. Now the story is available again in print and, for the first time, in e-book and audio editions.
Capsized chronicles four men's 119-day drift aboard a flipped, half-flooded boat as seen primarily through the eyes of crew member Jim Nalepka. The crew spent most of their time crammed into the space of a double bed with 20" of headroom. Capsized details the longest survival voyage in cold waters of which I am aware by a long shot, but the real story rests in the relationships of the crew and how each adapts. It's a story of the discovery of what is important in life, including love and the depths of true friendship. It is a tale of redemption. Despite the desperate circumstances of the survivors, Jim's memories lend the yarn a surprising amount of humor as well. As four very different men struggle to get along and survive, slowly creating a functional survival team, they discover how everyone's strengths can become liabilities at times, while their weaknesses sometimes became strengths. The story of how this micro-society evolves provides a mirror, which reflects our lives ashore and demonstrates how all types of people must learn to rely on and support one another to survive and thrive, to create a functional society.
We are hoping to continue work with New Street Publications, not only to publish my own writings but also others' work. We want to help New Street build a marine list in a variety of formats. As for my own writing for 2014, I have a couple articles lined up for Professional Boatbuilder magazine, but I hope mainly to concentrate on writing projects that have lain dormant for some time, including a novel and nonfiction projects about survival and seamanship.
The Passing of Some Maritime Greats
We were very sad to hear of the death of Dick Newick. In my book, Dick was one of the most important boat designers of the last 100 years. He was a true multihull pioneer who invented an entirely new type of boat with his Atlantic proa Cheers! as well as an organically oriented aesthetic unlike anything anyone had ever seen, which has slowly influenced and streamlined modern sailboat design. His numerous multihull race winners have become legendary, and his approach to and advice about seafaringgenerally to leave shore life and all one's "modern inconveniences" ashore in order to sail fast and in tune with nature—will continue to influence the world for many years to come. For more information on Dick, see my article on him published by Professional Boatbuilder.
Another multihull great, engineer extraordinaire, and pilot Alex Kosloff also died recently. I believe that the catamarans of the recent America's Cup would not exist without pioneers like Dick Newick; but they certainly would not exist without Kosloff. Winner of the Little America's Cup and creator of his many C-class and other racing catamarans, Alex developed the first composite chainplates, built the first all-carbon fiber boat, and was an early advocate of computer-aided-design (CAD) and finite element analysis. Features developed for the Little Americas Cup, including the wing sails, were really pioneered decades before by Kosloff and his peers. Check out a memorial to him, Dick, and others in Professional Boatbuilder.
Warren Luhrs also passed away in 2013. Warren created Hunter Marine, one of the largest builders of production sailboats in the U.S. He was a consummate seaman and record setter. He, especially in conjunction with the late Lars Bergstrom, developed the ultralight Tuesday's Child, Thursday's Child, and Hunter's Child, three monohulls that would help to shape racing monohull design. He participated in the 1984 OSTAR and BOC singlehanded race around the world race, and he set a record around Cape Horn to San Francisco, breaking the hold the great clipper ships had on the passage for generations. Check out a memorium that Barry Picktall wrote for Sail World.
Legendary sailor, sailmaker, and designer Ted Hood also died in 2013. Hood revolutionized sail making in the post-World War II era as synthetic fibers began supplanting natural cotton. Hood's custom-made Dacron cloths and sail-shaping skills propelled Hood Sailmakers to dominate the trade for many years worldwide. Notables who sailed and worked with Ted include sail maker Robbie Doyle, multihull guru Walter Greene, and designer Ted Fontaine. Hood's brilliant designs included a series of Robins that won numerous premier racing events and showed how moderately heavy centerboarders could also give sparkling performance. As skipper, Hood won too many races to count, including the 1974 Americas Cup aboard Courageous. He also designed two America Cup 12 meters and created the Little Harbor line of boats, among many other successes. Check out his obituary in Yachting.
Dick, Alex, Warren, and Ted were all thoughtful, kind gentlemen as well as true trailblazers. They will be missed by all who knew them as well as by the sailing world.
Media, Others' Books, and Museum Display
It must have been a slow year for news because, thanks largely to Life of Pi, I ended up in the press quite a bit. Articles appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, the English Daily Mirror and National Geographic Traveler in Poland, among others. I was also interviewed for National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" and the BBC shows "Outlook" (this online interview contains several in addition to mine, and its page is titled "Omosexy: The Queen of Nollywood") and the "Jo Good Show."
Programs unrelated to Life of Pi included an online roundtable discussion with Gotham Chopra, Deepak Chopra's daughter, about surviving cancer, which can be accessed via the Chopra Well on Google's Google+ platform (scroll down to the 3 June 2013 posting). Closer to home, Portland Magazine saw fit to include me as one of "Ten Most Intriguing" folks in Maine for 2013, which might demonstrate just how sleepy a state we live in more than anything else, but I was honored nonetheless.
All this media is indicative of how any and all one does in life ends up woven into an interrelated tapestry. Indeed, I have been one lucky dude, not only to survive shipwreck and other disasters, but to be given the chance to extend what I gained to projects sometimes decades later, such as recent feature films Life of Pi and Heart of the Sea.
The Adrift story also has gone on to influence other writers. In the past it was incorporated into such books as Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales and Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls by Edward Leslie. This year, it was best-selling author and TV-survival specialist Bear Grylls' turn. He included it in his recent book True Grit.
Finally, upcoming on the Discovery Channel, an episode of Mystery at the Museum will include the story of my time adrift. The program is based on the ocean survival exhibit at the Mariner’s Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, which includes both my own tale and that of the Rose-Noëlle. The exhibit was supposed to close in the fall of 2013, but has been held over into 2014.
Although consulting on several design and refit projects in recent years, I've not done much design work, but the builder of the Solo 22-2 continues to slog away on his project. Recently, he sent me photos of the deck being fitted, and he hopes to have the boat launched in 2014.
Copyright © 2011 Steven Callahan