High Seas Schooner chronicles a three-week voyage from the Virgin Islands to Gloucester. With veteran crew and student navigators, the schooner Harvey Gamage brings maritime history to life. It is education with an edge.
Each passing day shows novices and seasoned crew developing confidence in each other. In the occasional brief interviews, the crew is eager to share their thoughts. However, the journal is not a travelogue of idyllic, fun-filled days. It portrays a classic wind-driven craft on a working voyage, with an emphasis on working.
Some of the most memorable scenes on this DVD are filled with muscle-straining teamwork. There are realistic conditions of pitching wet decks, and commands drowned out by flogging canvas. The infrequent moments of relaxation help balance hours of serious effort.
This superb work should become a classic. As documentary journalism, it is exceptional. As art, its composition, camera work, music, and voice-over blend naturally into a captivating tale. Narration by veteran sailor David Berson is concise and delivered well.
A special mention on the camera work. The Harvey Gamage’s sea-motion in heavy seas is so realistic that your stomach will feel the heavy schooner’s deck rise and drop as it beats to weather.
The music editing was also spot-on. Upbeat, enlivening at introduction and evocative at journey’s end, the score was understated and polished.
Two minor points: the audio was faint in two spots due to deteriorating weather, and a bit more narration would have explained sail handling as the boat plunged into wind and waves. Both are understandable considering the dramatic conditions. Those same points strengthen the breathtaking realism and urgency of the crew’s response to a storm. Anticipation builds with miles logged, from the schooner slipping through the quiet beauty of the Caribbean to the cold whistling wind and slamming gear in the northern Atlantic.
High Seas Schooner is an honest glimpse at traditional passagemaking — the interplay between man and inexorable elements. An emotional and physical work of wild beauty and bold sailors, the video speaks loudly to all who celebrate kinship to the sea.
Concluding the journey in a quiet harbor with Berson’s reflections, the epic left me spellbound and thoughtful, wanting more. I would not have missed it for the world.
In this world of “two-thumbs-up” superlatives, a fitting tribute is difficult. Perhaps two thumbs and a smile … all turned up.