It’s the Motion

Cruising World contributers and readers alike have gotten into the swing of using video as a way to bring the viewer to the experience. "Editor's Log" from our July Issue

June 17, 2008

Burnham Panama 368

John Burnham and Chip Johns on their way through Panama. Susan Daly

As long as the boat was slogging into the trade-wind swells, the idea of putting my video camera to work didn’t hold much appeal. But what little I shot that first rough day at sea was, in retrospect, some of the best footage I brought home from my trip across the western Caribbean. That’s because video captures motion. Watching later from the stability of my desk chair, it was the next best thing to being there, especially because of video’s other powerful asset: I could hear the swoosh of the bow wave, the creak of a block, the click of winch pawls, the wry comment from the helmsman.

“Passage from Panama,” my experiment in video narrative for CW’s website, includes such sights and sounds as the Gatun Locks closing to the tune of a warning bell, the engine humming as I track radar targets north of Cuba, and even the noise and motion in my cabin as we pound upwind in the Gulf Stream.

Other CW editors have posted videos to as well. Andy Burton’s series of short seamanship videos are in the same vein as such CW print stories as his “The GPS Broke. Now What?” (See page 84.) Our readers have been even more prolific: At the same web link, they’ve posted more than 100 videos, taking you across the Atlantic, on island passages, and into the heart of a South Pacific gale. One of my favorites describes a typical day of cruising in a 95th-birthday “letter” from the skipper to his mother. You’ll also find videos paid for by our advertisers, particularly tours of their new boats.


Sailing videos have been around for years, of course, and two of this month’s authors are old hands at the form. Don Street was ahead of his time in 1985 when a 40-year-old British ad exec named Gavin Shaw signed aboard Street’s 46-foot yawl, Iolaire, to sail and film a three-month, 5,000-mile transatlantic trip from Ireland to Antigua. Rereleased on DVD, the two-hour documentary encompasses the rhythms and frustrations of ocean passagemaking, punctuated by scenic port visits and crew changes, some planned and some not. Along the way, Street dollops out his accumulated sea sense, navigational pointers, and a steady diet of one-liners. Although the film is 23 years old and sometimes shows it, the lessons are timeless and the trip enjoyable.

Lin and Larry Pardey have produced several videos over the years documenting their voyaging and, in the process, teaching the skills they’ve gathered. I recently watched Storm Tactics, their detailed guide to heaving to. The DVD complements the new, third edition of their book of the same name, which includes not only lessons learned by the Pardeys in heavy weather but also those reported by several other cruisers. While the footage of Taleisin hove to in a gale is unique in itself, I especially enjoyed Larry’s simple demonstration of tying a rolling hitch and his diagrams of different storm-sail combinations and parachute-anchor usage.

In this month’s Hands-On Sailor section, Lin provides an excerpt from Storm Tactics that describes chafe-prevention techniques, learned while weathering gales at sea, that can be used every day in the mundane but critical task of securing your boat to the dock. (See “Avoiding Chafe,” page 82.) Don Street contributes a story, “Off the Beaten Track” (see page 80), that leads you to less-traveled harbors and easier passages in the eastern Caribbean.


I caught up with Lin and Larry at the Strictly Sail boat show in April and with Don at the Kinsale Yacht Club in Ireland in May. In both venues, we were regularly interrupted by friends and fans dropping by to say hello or ask a question. Like cruising sailors everywhere, they’re always happy to share their ideas. But they’re always in motion, and if you want their undivided attention, I suggest buying their videos.

–John Burnham

For Lin and Larry’s DVDs and books, visit their website (
For Don’s DVD, visit his website ( or popular marine web retailers.


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