Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A Wooden Boat and a Renaissance Man

I saw the beautiful boat and assumed it was local, like some of the others I'd seen around the marina.  It was a classic Caribbean wooden sloop built in the traditional island way.  The mast was nothing more than a varnished timber, the paint job unique and the lines beautiful.  She stood out like a rose in a field of daisies.  Her name:  Summer Wind.  

I got to talking to some folks and discovered that it was not, in fact, just a local boat. "Have you seen the guy around with the dreadlocks?" I had. "Well, he's sailing that boat to Florida and there's a documentary being filmed about it".  Rad.  I immediately jotted in my brain:  Must. Meet. Mister Dreadlocks. right before I pulled Isla away from the pool's edge, where she was reaching for a floating leaf (what is it with this baby and leaves?).  The documentary, I learned, is called Vanishing Sail (check out the trailer!), and while it's not specifically about s/v Summer Wind, she will most likely make the final cut.

The captain of this beautiful boat is a guy named Denis and if you think we are cool, well - he is infinitely cooler.  He's got a "hippy" mentality and the looks to match.  He's had a long-time love affair with wooden boats and possesses a visceral passion for sailing in it's purest form.  He gives off that elusive "one with the sea" vibe and it is instantly obvious that he is very skilled and competent when it comes to all things boat.  He would probably despise being likened to a Jimmy Buffet song, but this is a guy who probably was born "two hundred years too late".  Fortunately, there is no such thing as "too late" for a guy like Denis, which is why he's launching his "renaissance" aboard a wooden boat that fate aligned him with.

His goal is to "pursue art, music, and consciousness through the ancient art of sailing" and he is calling this mission "Movement Sailing". He sums it up best on his Facebook page:
There are ... some of us that possess that same passion that our sailing ancestors did long ago, slowly nursing the dwindling flames of the sailors arts. There are those of us that see beyond the plastic vessels and price tags of luxury, using the new as a conduit to the old. This is the essence of Movement Sailing; Breathing creativity through the timeless imagery of our dearest mother, the Sea. 
He's an artist, a musician, photographer and (judging from the snippet above) a poet.  As I approached the sloop to take some pictures and talk with him, he was contentedly huddled over a pile of three strand line, most likely splicing, whipping or creating some undoubtedly awesome nautical craft.  He gave me a warm smile and invited me aboard.

There are simple boats, and then there are SIMPLE boats.  This boat is the latter.  When you go below, the sweet, musty smell of wood dances in your nose.  It's incredible, intoxicating and to a boat lover - is like nature's finest perfume.  There is literally no interior;  no berths, no galley, no head, no comfy settee, no book case, no pillows, nada.  In fact, when you go into the belly of this boat it's like being inside a whale; all you see are perfectly constructed ribs, and the sleek, simple construction of a classic Carricacou sloop.  There are a few floor boards to cover the bilge which is full of hunks of lead for ballast.  Actual hunks of lead that look like concrete blocks!  This boat is bad-arse.  While it does have an inboard diesel engine, "it's under pitched so really only useful for parking" he told me.  I liked that, parking.

"You should hear the sound she makes when she charges through the water," he told me, his eyes lighting up, "She rumbles and creates this amazing wave off her bow....I guess 'gnarly' is a good word to describe what it's like sailing her".  Before Denis was commissioned to bring her to Florida, she was - literally - bare bones and had no instruments, not even a compass.  "I watched wave patterns and the southern cross to get myself to St. Maarten" he told me.  This blew my mind.  Wave patterns?! Southern Cross?! Who to the what to the how now!?  "But I didn't want to sail any further like that" he laughed.  Once there, he got to work updating this sturdy girl.

While he prefers the simplicity of this beautiful, traditional sloop - he cannot deny that having a few gadgets aboard is wise.  So begins the love/hate relationship that is so common amongst purists.  He spent a lot of time meticulously designing her electronic suite for her owner and has equipped this basic beauty with a GPS with AIS (integrated with his iPad mini, which acts as a chart plotter), a Fusion stereo (also integrated to the iPad mini!), a compass and a couple DC/USB outlets.  There is also a windlass and some safety gear but, overall, this boat is staying true to her roots.  Denis, while enjoying this modernization, still wants to keep her traditional look so all of these systems are strategically hidden behind panels and out of the way so as to keep her aesthetics pure.  I can appreciate that.  Too many gadgets on a boat like that would be like seeing a satellite dish coming off a Masai hut (which, lets face it, probably exists).  In addition to these upgrades, he is also going to re-vamp the interior by making the living space a little more conducive to offshore sailing.  Right now, creating a quarter berth is top priority.  A place to sleep is kind of a big deal and, as it is, sleeping in the belly of that boat would leave you needing a chiropractor as a co-captain.

When that is complete, Denis will embark on his epic journey to Florida to deliver this proud vessel to her owner where they will go forth as a team.  She is a ship of dreams and this adventure  - this renaissance - has only just begun.

If you are interested, check out Denis's Movement Sailing Facebook Page (the incredible photography alone is worth it) and while you are at it, check out the page for Vanishing Sail as well.  Both are well worth a look and might just inspire the inner purist in you (For the record: I am not a purist.  Far from it.  But I appreciate them nonetheless!).










10 comments:

Lindsay said...

As I started reading this post, my husband leaned over my shoulder, saw the first picture of Denis and said, "That doesn't look like fun at all. I'd rather work in my cubicle," and walked away pouting hahaha :) Great post about a super cool dude! And what a beautiful boat!!

Jake DiMare said...

My only question is how does one purchase a traditional Carricou Sloop??? Sounds like there is an opportunity to set up an ethical, fair trade business for the locals who create these masterpieces...

Magda said...

Is it possible to find out what nav electronics (at least company) he used to integrate with his iPad mini? I'll be looking to do something similar.....

KaseyAnne said...

Loved this post! Thank you. :)

SailFarLiveFree said...

Awesome story Brittany, thanks for sharing! Denis and his boat have inspired me by their looks alone. Oh how I wish I had dreadlocks and a vibrantly painted boat. Actually, our yellow boat is bright, but my hair is altogether too un-hippy at the moment.

Is that block ballast in one of those photos? Really cool!

Robert Salnick said...

Gorgeous boat!

Leigh Ann Fisher said...

It doesn't hurt he is pretty hot either. ;)

Mike said...

Great post and what a beautiful boat!

....and what a bad-ass knife that is! I want one!

Mike
www.siochana.us

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Wow, what a beautiful boat ... love the yellow paint! However, the interior is just a little too bare for my comfort .. LOL!

Great post, and the captain is pretty cute too in a rustic kinda way. The dreads work on him!

April said...

Oh wow - Belaying pins and lead bricks. Be still my heart. What a lovely boat.

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