Hold Fast Sailing Documentary

I recently watched Moxie Marlinspike‘s sailing documentary Hold Fast (which you can download for free at that link or get the DVD if you prefer — here’s the trailer) about the adventures of the Anarchist Yacht Club on their rescued scrap boat Pestilence, and in it he recounts the story of the 1968 Sunday Time Golden Globe Race, the first solo circumnavigation. The race was full of “maniacs”, as he puts it (with a few other not-to-be-missed stories of sailors who are equal parts daring and crazy), and seven months in the leader by a significant margin was the French sailor — “sailing mystic” as Moxie puts it — Bernard Moitessier in his 39′ steel hulled ketch. A French armada of yachts was waiting for him at the English Channel to sail home with him from the finish line, and upon his return award him the Legion of Honor in France. He had no radio, so he had to slingshot messages in a film cannister to other boats for them to radio for him, and, shortly before winning the race, he sent the following:

My intention is to continue the voyage, still nonstop toward the Pacific Islands where there is plenty of sun and more peace than in Europe. Please do not think that I am trying to break a record. “Record” is a very stupid word at sea. I am continuing non-stop because I am happy at sea, and perhaps because I want to save my soul.

I find that statement incredibly moving and I tear up every time I hear it. He’d written in his log before sending the note, “leaving from Plymouth to return to Plymouth feels like leaving from nowhere to return to nowhere,” and later wrote,

I am a citizen of the most beautiful nation on earth. A nation whose laws are harsh yet simple, a nation that never cheats, which is immense and without borders, where life is lived in the present. In this limitless nation, this nation of wind, light, and peace, there is no other ruler besides the sea.

Moxie’s documentary makes the point that because of fiberglass construction, and the fact that they keep making new boats rather than refurbishing old ones, there are thousands and thousands of perfectly good ship hulls lying in marinas and back yards, available for almost nothing — they bought the Pestilence for a thousand dollars — or even free. I remember when I was living in La Paz there were a number of abandoned boats free for the taking, some of them completely capable of ocean cruising with only the most basic repairs. Anyway, I highly recommend downloading the movie, whether you’re looking for inspiration in living your dream or whether you just enjoy living vicarious through those living theirs.



  1. scienkoptic wrote:


    Boats become unsexy. Around here you just need to go off into the everglades or farm country to find a abandoned boat. My brother has a sailboat that someone gave him. Boats are for some a hole into which large sums of money can be dumped with little to show for it. You have to be industrious to do it on the cheap.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 3:41 am | Permalink
  2. katalopolis wrote:

    I watched that documentary about a year ago. I loved it. Makes me think about doing a boat project soon.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  3. starbadger wrote:

    Most of the people who start off with the idea of getting a boat on the cheap spend money till they stop spending then they abandon the boat – I could say the cycle continues but at least in Fl. the market is dropping so there is another alternative.

    Really it is a matter of what do you want to do. If you want to own a boat and sail in on short trips you can do it by getting a minimal boat and living dangerously insofar as not trying to blue water or really fix the boat.

    If you have tow US and you watch the weather worse case is that the you will be towed back to Port.

    Fixing a boat that is in decline is expense no matter how you approach it. On your own you will run out of time. If you go to locals you will run out of money.

    I mean for the so obviously case of what you have in the boat you set out to fix up and the boats you can buy.

    That is the opportunity – not for the person who in fact wants to fix a boat and live in a marina maybe but a real sailor.

    Just buy a boat that is being sailed – I’ll give one example but there are many. A friend of mine an expert sailor a couple years ago picked up a fixer-upper Morgan 38 for $30,000. He spent two years of his own time plus his wife to where Charlie Morgan came down and passed judgement that the boat was better than Mint thanks to new items that did not exist when the boat was made such as a diesel Yanmar Engine.

    In a bull market the boat would be worth $200,000 – that is what Charlie had to say to Percy and Ginny as they’d invested at least two years of their labour and professionals (my friend Joe did the Yanmar).

    To make a long story short yesterday evening I was talking to Mike. Mike bought the $200,000 boat for about $40,000. Essentially the deal was $10,000 plus 50% of the cost of the new canvas, the yanmar, gps, single side band radio, etc. exclusive

    I hope this helps – I am stopping because it has
    got so long.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  4. starbadger wrote:

    I had to stop because I was wandering off shannon’s point

    if you want to go sailing just come down here have your eyes open and follow the opportunities

    like shannon says there are boats that are available for free or a few thousand that one need a few things to “sail”

    you can “crew”

    the simple truth is that there is something called the big lie that tells you you can’t do this till you have done that

    well that is the secret

    Fl. has this torrent of old people who come down here and throw tens of thousands at fixing a boat to go sailing

    When they go sailing their health snaps or something else but there is the boat and now it is Mikes’ which is pretty wonderful

    Mike was living one of those do this till I can do that lives – He and his wife wanted to make their pile of money then retire but he had a near fatal car accident in 2003

    They had to put him in a body cast and a lot of his lower spine is now fused – but he was not a quitter – It took a year and he’s walking

    Lucky for him – his wife had a real job with real medical – so he was covered – but she is divorcing him – I talked with Mike and he understood that the accident happened to both of them – of course he’s diminished – damaged goods – he sensed the anger – that the accident was somehow his fault – He seems to understand all this and says with a grin – well the rest of the family still love me – and he’s got this incredible boat and who knows – in his case I think he will become friends with his wife.

    I might sail with him when we go South. It is safer that way. In fact there might be three boats.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  5. starbadger wrote:

    hello scienkoptic and thank you for posting. Yeah as much as 95% of the owned boats in Fl. are either in a backyard, in a high and dry or sitting in a slop – that is what makes Tow US such a bargain.

    A lot of people who don’t sail still send in their $140/yr to say or think they are sailors.

    So the few of us who are “day sailing” have this service – that tows us home – the real cost is thousands but we get the deal of a lifetime because of all those others who insure but never sail or motor anywhere. It’s business.

    It is worth noting that Moxie is a papered blue water boater and I welcome him or anyone fixing or making clearer my comment on sailing.

    Maybe I am reacting to Shannon saying he tears up reading Bernard Moitessier suffice to say it is almost impossible to put to words what a capable blue water sailor he was and still he lost boats.

    It is one thing to read about it and of course I have done a lot of reading and in my case so far no blue water sailing but suffice to say and based on not reading but talking to survivors who have dones so – it is just a matter of time and tide and you buy it – hitting a cargo container floating at the surface but not out of the water more than a few inches – my friend Joe did that and of course he is a good sailor. They were in the water just about long enough to die but did not.

    By now I have read too much about the wave – mathematical it is possible – just add the waves – too many of these to be stories – there you are – and there you are minutes later.

    I think if you blue water sail there is a long straw short straw issue that you are going to buy it skills and boat condition notwithstanding.

    If you sail within an awareness of the weather and not too far off shore you can do it in a less than perfect boat.

    If on the other hand you blue water sail – one day

    Friday, September 25, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  6. starbadger wrote:

    you are fish food

    Friday, September 25, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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