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“Calm Seas Never Made For a Good Mariner”

Jun 6th, 2013

A tribute from Producer Russell Bartlett on his love of sailing, to his passion for filmmaking.

Undoubtedly whatever engages your energy and concentration will define you. For myself, sailing and being out on the water is a way of life. Raised on Nantucket, water shaped where I lived, dictated how I spent my time, and was certainly a part of my life. In the summertime it was days at the beach bodysurfing and getting tossed about by the waves. In high school it was competitive sailing throughout the entire year in the racing scene in Massachusetts. So while I never pursued sailing in college, it definitely followed me.

Photo by Jim Powers

Photo by Jim Powers

In March of 2011 I received a call from a fellow Nantucket High School alum, Connor Wallace, who was, at the time, the first mate of the Impala, a 57’ yatch. The Impala was embarking on her fourth transatlantic crossing and was in need of a fifth crew member and, in a moment of serendipity, I was recommended to be on the crew.

While aboard the Impala, a total of 26 days at sea, the crew did not once step ashore. Our lives were tied to the 57’ foot yacht and she began to take on a story of her own. To me, the Impala is a living, breathing, spirit. The boat didn’t just transport us across the Atlantic, from one side to the other, she bore us across, like a protector and friend. When we were fighting our way through a storm, gritting our teeth in frustration, her wooden sides were groaning with stress as well. The Impala grew on me, just as films I have worked on in the past have grown on me.

Being aboard the Impala was very much a collaborative process. Between relying on Watch Partners to keep an eye out on potential vessels on the horizon, changing sails, assisting in navigation, or what ever else would arise, if the community had not contributed, the crew would not have succeeded. Creating art as a whole is a highly collaborative process as well; from relying heavily on the continued offerings and opinions of trusted mentors and friends, to the communication of ones ideas to a crew or other team members, the community and its efforts are the keys to success.


The fluidity of sailing mirrors the organic flow of filmmaking. Challenges come at you from every single direction while making a film and when sailing, and you simply have to take them in stride. Moving from one task to the next helps progress the film to the next step, and helps to advance you toward the final destination, but it’s hard to get to that next step without a good team.

At times Filmmaking can feel as though all the wind in the world is raging around you and propelling you dangerously out of control, or as if you’re dead in the doldrums listening to your sails flap and lines bang against the mast like an angst-filled teen. It’s all about going with the flow.

When sailing or on set, it’s crucial to recognize what circumstances are out of your control and accepting them. Some days the wind blows and some days there isn’t a ripple on the water.  All you can do is understand the elements that are at hand and figure out a way to employ what you have planned for and tweak the rest to the best of your ability.

Any headway while out in the Atlantic was beneficial, just as any day with something in the can is better then nothing. In the end, just remember three things: Be Prepared, a Boy Scout motto that’s served me well; you can always concoct some sort of “ade”, even if it’s not lemonade; and finally, if people can band together for a shared goal, success will always follow.