The “All is Lost” Drinking Game

Sailors are used to sailing being represented badly in films and on television. Whether it is little things like a Viagra ad with a sailboat that is obviously being towed with the sails on the wrong side of the boat or John Candy’s huge boxer shorts being used as a spinnaker to add an improbable performance edge to an unlikely boat in an unrealistic regatta, to big things where entire movies like Waterworld and Cabin Boy are allowed to exist.

All is Lost is a recent sailing movie starring Robert Redford. If it hadn’t been done at least once by at least half of the sailing blogs on the Internet, and almost all the sailing web sites, it might be fun to pan this fairly poor movie on a moment by painful moment basis. From watching it, it appears the only sailing consult was the sales clerk at a West Marine whom they asked “So we’re like, making this sailing movie and we need to put stuff on a boat, so what should we get?”. At this point and blow by blow analysis would be redundant.

There should be a more fun way to address this. Sailors still watch bad sailing movies, because we still like to see sailing even if the context is wrong or stupid – sometimes they still get the cinematography down right. Shout “bring out the Whomper” during a race and almost everyone on board will either laugh or groan – we’ve all seen Wind even if we rank on some parts of it some of the sailing footage is exhilarating.  And many sailors have, on rare  and special occasions, been known to lift an adult beverage or five.

In the spirit of the many State of the Union (drink every time the President says ‘economic opportunity’, two if the Vice President yawns), Star Trek (drink one for every ‘dammit Jim’ and two every time Kirk’s shirt rips and shows his chest), and other media themed drinking games…I think we have our review.

So kick back, loosen your foulies up, pour your favorite concoction and have some refills on standby, and let’s have a go.

The Rules…

· Take a drink every time law of sailing or ocean physics gets violated. This may include containers that appear to be self-propelled, boats that sail quickly with no wind, or an old guy being dragged over board by his harness that vaults back on the deck like a fourteen year old Olympic gymnast mounting a balance beam.

· When you see a poorly trimmed sail take a drink. Scratch that…just take a wee, wee sip because it could get ugly fast.

· Hoist a cold one every time Robert Redford’s character (hereafter ‘Our Hero’) eats something cold and nasty directly from a can.

· When Our Hero breaks out an obviously under-powered or inappropriate piece of equipment, like a cheap 700 Candela coastal flare instead of a 15,000 candle power SOLAS off shore flare that is good for one drink.

· Drink two each time Our Hero could have ended the movie Right There if he’d had a handheld VHF radio. Or an EPIRB (a device to tell rescuers where you are and that you are in distress), or any other basic safety equipment that almost everyone that heads out to sea has.

· Each time something goes wrong…wrongly, like a loose connection at the masthead that causes the VHF to flicker in and out like it has a loose power cord you should drink.

· When Our Hero appears on deck without a life jacket or PFD. Never mind…you will get alcohol poisoning and need a stomach pump, as he never wears any flotation throughout the whole movie.

· Every time a life raft, drifting with next to no wind and no sails, makes more than 200 nautical miles of forward progress in a single day drink two.

· For each precise position plot made with no idea of speed or direction of drift drink one.

· Drink if you see a shark.

· For each inappropriate use of a nautical item, e.g. taking out something called a “storm jib” and putting it up in the middle of a storm when you should be reducing sail area, or throwing out a sea anchor to hold yourself stern-to the waves and wind to encourage waves to come over the transom of your boat and swamp it, have a drink. This is a slightly arbitrary category for some actions.

· For each object inappropriately stowed loose on a counter top while sailing off shore, you should have a chip or snack because by now you will be pretty hurting and need something in your stomach.

· Every time you think “Why doesn’t he have…” and it’s some sort of thing a normal sailor might have, like a ditch bag or things IN the ditch bag like a radio, GPS or smoke signal take a sip.

· Drink when Our Hero does something non-sensible or inappropriate when the appropriate thing could have worked – such as using a tiny handheld flare in the middle of the day instead of a daytime approved aerial flare or smoke.

· Take a cold one for any broadcast of “This is the Virginia Jean calling for an S.O.S. instead of using a proper Mayday call (what are we, on the Titanic?).

· Every time the wind and waves differ on different camera angles in the same scene (or a “continuity error”) take another drink.

· Any time you, or anyone watching with you, blurts out “Now why the hell is he doing that?” or any equivalent phrase drink up.

· Drink every time you see something that is clearly done for dramatic tension or artistic reasons, not because any actual sailor would think it makes sense. This may overlap several of the above categories, that is OK. This includes things like shaving instead of putting up your storm sails when you see a storm coming or going forward at night, in a squall, to put up a sail you do not need.

Yes, I get the movie is an artistic medium and the sailing is more of a metaphor for the larger message and all that. That doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens of experts that would have happily made this movie better and realistic. Manufactured crises from poor sailing do not make for a good flick if you know even a little about what is going on.

Frankly my biggest concern with this movie is that people who don’t know better will think that Our Hero is a good sailor. The people who care about us worry enough about what we are doing without thinking we are just as unprepared as this guy is.

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8 Comments

  1. Redford Fan says:

    Wait. I was planning on doing some ocean sailing, and as my only experience to date is sailing dinghies on a little inland lake, I bought the DVD of this movie to use as a training aid. I have watched it 17 times and have been taking copious notes.

    Are you saying I ought to read your blog instead?

    1. B.J. says:

      Oh geez no. The only post you can stake your life on in this blog is the Mudslide recipe.

  2. Brittany says:

    You. Are. Brilliant. I am automatically friends with anyone who can create a solid drinking game. Love it! (though I have not seen the movie, I have heard many complaints from actual sailors so this sounds like a guaranteed BENDER!)

    1. B.J. says:

      Feel free to add new rules. I realized I forgot one..
      – Every time something awful happens while Our Hero is sleeping…drink!

  3. Colin says:

    When the sailboat was inverted he was looking down at the hatch. The boat rolled upright and he headed out to see the damage. The companionway was open and the washboards weren’t there but the boat was dry. Must of been air lock LOL.

    1. B.J. says:

      I remember in Kindergarten the teacher showed us this cool trick where you stuff a paper towel in an inverted glass then push it down into a bucket of water and the paper towel stays dry because of the trapped air.

      This is likely the same principle the director was operating on, suspending the reality of the difference between a gentle demonstration in a bucket and a violent rolling in the ocean. And he forgot what happens if you tip the glass…

  4. Wally Moran says:

    Great read – clearly not a game for those without some serious capacity for alcohol….Thanks!

  5. Me says:

    Sorry to poop on everyone’s parade, but this film is a period piece, 1970’s, before GPS and such electronic gadgets. Redford was out there with only basic stuff, including a sextant.

    As far as f**king up over and over, I’ve been there, singlehanding after a week or two makes your brain go soft from overload.

    Still, it’s a pretty sh**ty movie concerning how to solo handle a boat at sea from a technical standpoint. Drama-wise, it’s stunning, especially the ending which brings up the give up or keep soldiering aspect of staying alive.

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