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Old 06-18-2007, 03:50 PM   #1
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Hello,

I am writing a screenplay about some senior citizens who sneak off from a nursing home (on a suicide mission) to sail away for adventure on an uncharted sailboat. In order for my screenplay to have the elements of BELIEVABILITY, I am doing some research on the experiences of the elderly and cruising.

I too have a desire to SELL ALL and embark on the cruising life. This has been my life-long dream, but quite frankly, I haven't thought PAST the notion of what I would do as I age and possibly become physically unable to sail... Personally, my screenplay is written on the notion/emotion that I would much rather SAIL OFF INTO THE SUNSET and take my chances, rather than waste away in a nursing home. Do you catch my drift? (no pun intended)

What are your opinions about "growing old" and sailing? Do you ever plan to stop? Also, do YOU plan to continue to sail, with no intention of EVER stopping, or do you see yourself in a retirement home, or as a landlubber in the final stages of your life?

If any of you have known others in this situation, or can recount stories of the elderly and sailing, even disabled people on sailboats, please drop me a line here.

Thank you so much!

Helen
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Old 06-18-2007, 04:11 PM   #2
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Hi Helen - welcome aboard.

When we were cruising we met a solo circumnavigater (on his first circumnavigation) in Kenya. We met him in the bar ashore where he was celebrating his 80th Birthday. Unfortunately we did not really get to know him as he left two days later for his passage up the Red Sea.

I do not remember his name or the name of his yacht but we were told that he completed his circumnavigation back to the US the following year. He was a very likeable, quiet, humble man.

Good luck with your writing - a great topic that so many people dream about.
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Old 06-18-2007, 04:33 PM   #3
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I sure wish I could meet that man to shake his hand. Thank you so much for writing this. It is an encouragement to see 80-plus out there, and living the dream. And thanks for the warm welcome too!

Helen
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Old 06-18-2007, 04:39 PM   #4
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Dear Helen,

My aunt skippered her small sailboat for the last time as she approached 80, but dementia had begun to take hold and she ran the boat aground, breaking the bowsprit and thus the mast. My step-father took me with him on his last sail before cancer left him too weak to continue. My mother used to panic when he went out alone in his debilitated state, but I convinced her he'd die happy if he were sailing.

I think health and strength are the main issues. I've read about people sailing into their eighties. If my husband and I aren't sailing our big boat, we certainly hope to be sailing our small one. I have friends who plan never to leave their 37-footer until someone carries them off or they go down together in some foreign port or in the middle of the ocean. But, they're only in their late fifties and early sixties (as are we), so who knows what any of us will do when the time comes. My husband jokes about rigging a hoist to move me about the boat if my knees give way... (He was designing one for my aunt before she died.) We've also told the children to set us adrift instead of putting us in a nursing home, not a suggestion that garnered much enthusiasm from them. Perhaps we'll be able to untie the lines ourselves...

Let us know how the writing goes. I write sailing stories also.
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Old 06-18-2007, 06:07 PM   #5
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I have friends who plan never to leave their 37-footer until someone carries them off or they go down together in some foreign port or in the middle of the ocean. But, they're only in their late fifties and early sixties (as are we), so who knows what any of us will do when the time comes. My husband jokes about rigging a hoist to move me about the boat if my knees give way... (He was designing one for my aunt before she died.) We've also told the children to set us adrift instead of putting us in a nursing home, not a suggestion that garnered much enthusiasm from them. Perhaps we'll be able to untie the lines ourselves...
THANK YOU, this is an encouraging reply!

Although it may sound gloomy (with a bunch of fed-up nursing home residents sneaking off on an uncharted sailboat for a suicide mission) the story is actually about conquering and taking charge of one's life, no matter HOW OLD one is. (Especially when you think you're at the "end of the road" in life.)

I think the premise of this story is something we can all relate to, and something we will all have to deal with eventually - decisions on HOW we want to retire and WHERE. The story actually has a good ending, with the elderly discovering their inner strengths and a renewed zest for life (true youth). Above all, life IS worth living, no matter how old!

Helen
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Old 06-18-2007, 07:17 PM   #6
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Hi Helen

Welcome to our community. It really is a friendly one and I am sure you will get all the help you can wish for in writing your novel. Should you decide to make the break yourself then I am sure you will find encouragement and support here too.

My own take on the issue is that I believe I can sail until such time as my body or mind has run its race and then, when I can cope no more, I would like to think that nature would take its course and I would end my final voyage at sea. Far rather that then spending years steadily declining in an old age home.

Good luck with the novel and don't hesitate to post any questions you might have here.

Aye

Stephen
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Old 06-18-2007, 08:25 PM   #7
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Eric Hiscock and his wife Susan are notable cruisers. Eric died at age 78 while living aboard their last boat, Wanderer V. Susan wrote several articles after his death about the accomodations she needed to make after Eric's death in order to continue to live aboard the boat. She did eventually return to land when she was (I think) in her 80s.

We've met people who, into their 70s and early 80s, continue to cruise, though often trading their sailboat for a power boat.

Although living on a boat, regardless of whether it's a sailboat or a powerboat, requires more work to maintain one's "home" than a home firmly planted on land, a sailboat requires more physical strength than a powerboat to operate, one reason that there comes a time when the older person looks to stop sailing and either return to land, or convert to a powerboat.

At what age that a person considers him(her)self "older" and ready to give up the physical demands of a sailboat is extremely variable. We've met couples in their early 80s who finally had to give up their sailboat, and we've met couples in their 60s who found sailing too strenuous. Some find that hiring or "adopting" a younger couple to cruise with them and do some of the more strenuous work can extend their cruising life for several more years.

Old people sneaking away from a retirement home to a sailing adventure could be a comedy, or it could be a tragedy. Depends on what any of these people know about sailing. If they know nothing, it will be a tragedy.

Some sails that went wrong: http://www.cruiserlog.com/forums/ind...showtopic=3789

Read the link to the Flying Pig travesty and our comments: "how things can go wrong, grounding on a reef" - http://www.cruiserlog.com/forums/ind...showtopic=3138

And it's "uncharted seas", not "uncharted sailboat". A chart is a map.

I'd like to see this story written, and treated well, it can indeed be about not giving up and rotting away, but instead realizing a dream. But a sailor dreaming about cruising away is like a medical school graduate dreaming about being a doctor. An old guy unhappy about growing old in a nursing home dreaming about sailing, something he knows nothing about, is not much different from an 8-year-old dreaming annoyed because he's not allowed to go out to play until his homework is done, and dreams about taking his/her parents' car out for a spin. Results would be pretty similar.

Sorry, I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but just because someone can drive a car doesn't make that person even remotely capable of taking a sailboat offshore, and I really do not want that misguided fantasy to be promulgated or even more idiots will lose their lives. We read about them every day. Don't encourage them.

I still hope you write the screenplay, though!
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Old 06-18-2007, 08:44 PM   #8
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Of course you are correct Jeanne, but I believe the story has merit and is a lot more believable than many a novel. Of course Helen will have to do some research, but that is why she is here. Maybe the best thing we can do is to encourage Helen to do a spot of sailing before writing the book and, maybe, allow one of us to proof read it?

Write the story Helen. We all have our dreams

Aye

Stephen
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Old 06-18-2007, 10:10 PM   #9
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Surfwriter,

Get yourself to Newport News, Virginia this Saturday (23 June) and meet Harry Heckel, who's being awarded the Golden Circle Award by the Joshua Slocum Society.

Harry is being recognised for completing a second solo circumnavigation (westabout and eastabout) at the ripe age of 89.

We met him while sharing a dock in Kuching, Borneo a few years ago. He was featured in an article published in Latitude 38 a year or two ago. At 89 I believe he holds the record for the oldest person to go around the world alone. And he's done it TWICE.

If you wish to know the details about next weekend - send me a PM.

Cheers,

Kirk
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Old 06-18-2007, 11:47 PM   #10
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Hi,

It would be nice to see a movie made based on your idea. For it to be even conceivable, one or more of the nursing home residents would have to be experienced cruisers IMHO. Of course, its pretty believable that a few old salts would be in a nursing home at some point.

The 1998 movie "Captain Jack" has a different plot, but yet is probably worth watching since the underlying theme is of Captain Jack (an old sailor with an old boat of questionable seaworthiness) following through and doing something he's dreamed of doing. His crew is not suited to the task but really want to be "part of" Captain Jack's journey.

Blockbuster online rents the movie and here's the synopsis:

"Robert Young directed this fact-based British comedy-adventure. In 1791, Captain Scoresby sailed from Whitby in northern England to the Arctic. Mariner Captain Jack (Bob Hoskins), obsessed with Scoresby, is troubled by the fact that Scoresby has not been adequately acknowledged and honored in his town -- so Jack sets out to retrace Scoresby's journey with a curious and offbeat crew -- an Australian hitchhiker (Peter McDonald), two elderly sisters, and stowaway Tessa (Sadie Frost). They set sail, pursued by NATO, the Royal Navy, and a mixed bag of various journalists and photographers. Shown at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival."

++++

A person I always thought there should be a movie about is Britton Chance. He's an elderly sailor that you can run your thoughts by. Just google him for his contact info at U Penn. He's an amazing fellow. He's 94 years old and when I saw him in Miami a couple years ago (2003 time frame) during a conference, he had plans to sail in Key West on the weekend following the conference. I haven't kept up with him, but at that time he was still riding his bicycle to work on U Penn campus. He's small and frail looking, I don't know how he does all this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britton_Chance

I know this fellow from his work in physics. He's still active in all the appropriate professional associations and has a lab full of PhD students doing great things. His biomedical optics career started in his twilight years when most people would be setting off into the sunset--and he rose to the top of his field. He's an overachiever to the max and seems to end up a leader in any field he's been associated with. In regards to sailing, he's an Olympic gold medalist (1952 5.5 meter class) and he designed the rigging for one of the America's Cup boats in the 1960's or 70's. He's well networked and friendly, I'm sure he has numerous sailing friends that you could contact as well.

The first owner of one of our boats was a man by the name of Sandy Moffat. He was one of the founding members of the Cruising Club of America (established in the 1920's) and owned 26 different boats throughout his lifetime. I've heard from his family that he sailed actively until a few years before he died at age 97. It wasn't cruising that he was doing at that age, I'm sure, but still...

I wish I could recall the name of the boat (and its owner!)--there's a 3 masted Marco Polo built in the 1950's that was owned by a WWII vet who was paralyzed. He sailed it (I think almost every year) back and forth from the USA to the UK in the 1950's and 1960's. He and his wife--alone--did this trip. He sat in the cockpit manning the helm and she ran about and did what needed to be done.

I know many elderly people who have remained active into their late 80's and into their 90's. They're NOT in nursing homes. The same determination that keeps them physically able to do the things that they do also keeps them out of the nursing homes and independent of the help of other people. Your story would be more believable if it included elderly people who are not in a nursing home as the instigators of the trip; else you will have to have some interesting reason to have these physically fit and mentally competent folks in there in the first place.

Good luck with your project!
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Old 06-19-2007, 12:12 AM   #11
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Hi Helen,

I heard a story about a guy in his eighties that went solo around the world. He ended up dying by himself in his boat off the west coast of Africa I believe. Some friends told me about it couple years ago and they had bumped into the guy somewhere along the way. The locals finally tracked down his daughter through his passport to notify family. Anyway, after hearing that I decided that's the way I wanted to go! He just kept going until he couldn't and it must of been on his terms....

I wonder if it's the same guy Lighthouse mentioned?? I'm not positve it was the west coast, but more so then not. This must of happened 2-5 years ago???

Good luck on your project!

- J
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Old 06-19-2007, 12:29 AM   #12
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Thank you ALL for taking the time to respond. Each point presented was valid and makes sense.

To be brief, the protagonist, (main character) IS an experienced sailor. A question was raised that this could be a "tragedy"... the premise of the movie IS about a suicide, but a change of heart happens.

It is very encouraging to see others in agreement that they too prefer "living life to the fullest" to the "last minute" rather than succumb to a nursing home. This is where my own thoughts went. Years ago, I had candy striped as a teen in a nursing home, and I did a short spill as a cook. I've seen a lot of things, and I still wonder after those residents. I published a story about my experience at an estate sale, where I discovered the bed "just slept in" by the owner who was taken that VERY DAY to a nursing home. His family was already selling his life's possessions.

I especially remember an Alzheimer patient who hadn't sat up in bed in months. As her newly employed cook, I insisted on spoon feeding her too. Before I had quit a few weeks later, she was sitting up in her chair eating and communicating, to the amazement of the staff (and I'm sure, to their chagrin.)

Needless to say, this movie isn't a bash against nursing homes, but rather it is about finding HOPE, and fanning it alive. Today I was called, "old" by my 10-year-old, and I'm only in my early forties.

I would love to take some of your offers for further contact and research. I'm an author, venturing into screenwriting, with some family in the movie business. I do believe this story is marketable with a message. Although it may sound tragic, it IS a comedy with a good ending.

Thanks again! I'll be checking out those links!

Helen
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Old 06-19-2007, 06:22 AM   #13
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It is a bit to much to be believed. Someone is in a nursing home because they cannot take care of themselves in a house or an apartment, a boat is a lot more work. Unless one is "put in" one by evil relatives. It is just to hard for somebody in that kind of condition. Makes a nice coffin.
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Old 06-19-2007, 06:54 AM   #14
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I think you are being a little harsh Lynx...There is no suggestion that this is a documentary. Looking at the current crop of movies on cable at the moment we have such believable works as 'Willie Wonker and the Chocolate Factory', 'Shrek', a festival of 'Lethal Weapon' movies, 'The Terminator', 'Waterworld' and 'Americal Grafitti'. Surely the qualification for the success of any fiction work (written or otherwise) should be its value as entertainment, not its factual credibility.

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Old 06-19-2007, 12:20 PM   #15
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Why does it have to be a nursing home? Would that possibly be a misnomer? I have difficulty with a name for the facilities being built nowadays - "retirement home", "assisted living facility", "age-restricted community" "independent living facility". My mother-in-law moved into one of these, and was very happy there in her small apartment. We enjoyed visiting her and were happy that she was able to maintain her independence as her physical abilities decreased with advanced age.

However I would have hated to live in such a place where one of the weekly social occasions was a memorial service for whomever died that week.

The average age of the place was close to 90, and we felt sorry for a life-long bachelor who moved into the place in his 60s. For many people, such a place is urged on older people because it is preferable (to their families) to their moving in with their children. It should be mentioned that for many older people moving in with their children would be worse than living in one of these places, so they must fill a need for many in our society.

I can easily imagine the older fellow whose wife has just passed away and is feeling lost. Moving into one of these places must feel like a welcome haven for him. And then one day he looks around and sees a lot of people just waiting there until they die. "get me out of here!" could describe his desperation. Yup, any adventure is better than none.

good luck.
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Old 06-19-2007, 12:38 PM   #16
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Yidaki - I may be a little harsh (mayby a lot). A lot of fiction on the tube but I do not want to see somebody try it when I am around trying to help them out. Way too many people who run out of gas, engins won't start, stearing problems etc.. without adding to the problem of comming out of some old foks home. Just drive in the west coast of Florida some Feb afternoon. I could tell you a few stories.

Althouth with us baby boomers getting older it would make a good story ending however unreal it is for us that have been tossed arround a few too many times.

I should note that I have told my family that I do not want to be in one of those places. Living Will in place. Hmmm, sailing off into the sunset instead of one of those..........Might write a book.
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Old 06-19-2007, 03:44 PM   #17
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Let me add some thing to this thread

I'm 66, my wife is 44 and we cruise a 25 foot Rhodes Meridian. I still work full time as a boat builder.

I have absolutely zero plans to stop as long as I'm physically able to go. My wife can handle the boat as well as I can, so if my capacities reduce, she'll have to take up some slack. We'll probably shorten the trips, but doing it is the thing after all.

My own mother is 86 and until just a very short while ago was still driving the expressways in Houston. She's now been diagnosed with TIA's ( tiny strokes) that make her go to sleep for 10 or 15 second stretches, so she can no longer drive. But she lives in an assisted living apartment and believe me there is some active folks there. She's had a couple of the guys hit on her

Couple other points-

Sir Francis Chichester was 65 I believe when he did his round the world single hand sail. He was quite a bit older than that when he got ill during the OSTAR and had to be taken off his boat, very shortly before he died. He must have been in his mid 70s by then and still racing, singlehand.

Phil Weld was 65 when he won the OSTAR aboard Moxie - his 50 foot trimaran.

Frank Casper was in his late 80s I believe and still sailing Elsie, his double ender. His boat was found wrecked on a reef off Bermuda, with out him aboard. I suspect he went out exactly as he wanted to- sailing offshore

In the Keys some years ago I met a single hander rowing his dinghy out to his ( small) cruising boat. HE was 98.

There are LOTS more too. It isn't the years- it's how well the body holds up. So your tale is definitely within the realm of possible, and in fact, quite plausible.
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Old 06-19-2007, 04:25 PM   #18
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Quote:
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Why does it have to be a nursing home? Would that possibly be a misnomer? I have difficulty with a name for the facilities being built nowadays - "retirement home", "assisted living facility", "age-restricted community" "independent living facility". My mother-in-law moved into one of these, and was very happy there in her small apartment. We enjoyed visiting her and were happy that she was able to maintain her independence as her physical abilities decreased with advanced age.
The "nursing home" thing is the unrealistic part of it. If they're in an "assisted living" place, I could see this story happening. But people are in nursing homes because they are physically or mentally in a poor condition that makes them eligible to be there in the nursing home. Its way more than "assisted living."

I'd totally believe the story line if it was some old salts in an assisted living community. My mother lived in a small apartment in such a community for 20 years. My husband's three aunts lived in one of those communities (3 sisters in the same assisted living community) for 15 years until one died, one had dementia and had to be moved to a nursing home, and the last one--well, she's still in the assisted living community.

Old sailors, yes! Some of the best racing sailors I know are over 65 (most are around 70, as a matter of fact). Old nursing home residents breaking out and sailing away....I don't see it though.
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Old 06-19-2007, 07:46 PM   #19
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Hi Helen,

Perhaps "uncharted sailboat", is a typo. JeanneP made a point of it. I noticed it also and read it to mean an un-chartered sailboat; which has a different meaning; meaning a sailboat one must fully be in charge of and operate, or not hiring a boat with skipper and crew.

Write your screenplay. From the practical side there is "BELIEVABILITY"; the plot is most likely possible. Believability may depend on how it how it is written.

If you retain the part of "On Suicide Mission" than you need not question "BELIEVABILITY". I think it would be easy to convey suicide mission and have people easily accept that as beleiveable.

I would replace the "Suicide Mission" part of the plot, with "We are fed up with life in a home, or our life as mundane and routine as it is, and want something better out of life."

Age is not the most important factor.

The world has some very active seniors, in good health, exceptional physical condition, of clear mind, think on their feet, remain calm in a crisis, have way more experience and perhaps better experiences than their juniors (the rest of us).

While the younger, more fit, stronger in muscle tone, endurance, lung capacity, may solve problems with brute strength, the older resort to thinking of alternative solutions; maybe planning ahead and preventing problems and situations. Where the older person may not be able to solve a problem with force, they use their mind; apply leverage, tools, knowledge and the like.

We, my first mate and I, are making plans, and preparations to start cruising when we retire. Our goal is to retire at age 60. We hope to have our cursing yacht identified and purchased pre-retirement, or upon retirement. We plan to allow adequate time for outfitting, sea trials, and confidence building, doing coastal cruising, and short off-shore voyages, perhaps to the Caribbean. In other words we want to prove we have the required experience, understand our yacht, and its' equipment, understand how it works and prove it works in all weather, and make adjustments as needed. We want to ensure we are ready and prepared for cruising; than we cast off for places in the seven seas.

We are much like many others, before us, with us, or following us, with our plans.

When do we quit cruising? Not sure; to be determined later. It depends on our health, our desire, if we like what we are doing, having fun, enjoying most of the life style. We can always take a "land-break". We can always shorten the ventures, staying close to land, stay more confined to the MED, the Caribbean, The Gulf of Mexico, The Sea of Cortez. We can always take on a younger crew to assist us, trading and providing our acquired skills, knowledge, living accommodations, an opportunity to sail and cruise, for their labor and man power, at minimal out of pocket expense.

I think there are gadgets and concepts which have not been invented yet, and will be, and will be on the market, before we start, that will make life aboard simpler and easier. Likely electronics, but it could be engineering, hull design, center of gravity (CG), sail design, rigging, energy, power, and fuels, (especially renewable sources). The yacht of the future will go further, faster, require less energy (fuel), smoother, with more interior space, having more amenities (creature comforts), having less draft, and require less maintenance and labor to operate. That is speculation on my part. Some of it may come true; but we are not depending or planning on it.

Age seems to be the question in the "BELIEVABILITY" factor. Health, mental capacity, addictions, and other factors, regardless of age, may be of larger question. I would rather be on board with many 70 and 80 year old people I know, than many 15 to 30 to whatever age I encountered, or stumbled over in the gutter, or went out of my way to get them out of the gutter, and redirect their life's path. For years I dedicated my efforts to salvage the lives of one young teenage boy, and one teenage girl, both drug and alcohol addicted. I mentored; I gave so much. It paid off. I am going off topic. The point is I have that addiction and recovery experience and would rather sail with a senior whom is capable, than an incapacitated junior.

There is another way to write your screen play, without "BELIEVABILITY", or lacking some, or with questionable believability. Hollywood produces all sorts of works including science fiction, fiction, animation, and more, all with some entertainment value to some audience.

Along the same lines of your plot, but adapted to land, the Seniors could escape the retirement home, and have plans to tour a country via a RV; the likes of the large touring bus type; known as a "diesel pusher" to many that do that. There are hundreds of thousands of those in the US, especially in the Southern states in the winter. Would land transportation make the plot more believable? Maybe, to those more familiar with land. On the same note, in the land/sea plot trade off, where you add believability, you remove adventure from the plot. You remove appeal. Stick with "your plot concept".

It has been suggested that you experience sailing and cruising as you compose your works. I concur.

It has been suggested that you have some of the cruisers edit your works. I concur, or at least review it.

Keep us, "Cruiser Log" informed of your progress, if you complete it, and if it is ever produced on stage or on screen. I would like to see it. If you are looking for a film producer, a close friend of ours works for one. We always get invited to the gala pre-public release screenings at the local art center (black tie attire event).

Best Wishes and Good Luck,

Jeff
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Old 06-19-2007, 07:46 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by redbopeep View Post
The "nursing home" thing is the unrealistic part of it.
True.....but what does it matter? It is a novel after all. Novels do not have to be believable; they ought to be entertainable and perhaps even educational in terms of language and grammar.

Aye

Stephen
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