A photo in the local newspaper yesterday pictures ice boats on Charlottetown Harbour – which means it may be some time before Ebony gets back into the water. In the meantime I have taken some comfort from the resources available on the internet to continue both my amusement and education as regards things nautical.
I have, in an earlier post, made reference to Dylan Winter’s site, Keep Turning Left. Winter is a professional documentary videographer who several years ago embarked on a not-so-mad scheme to sail around Great Britain in a small boat. Setting out on weekends and holidays over the last five years he has now made it up the east coast of England and Scotland and is set to start back down to where he set out near the Isle of Wight. He is now on his second boat (actually there was a brief fling with a third which proved to be too much capital investment) having worn out the first one. These boats are small, slow bilge-keelers ideally suited for his meandering travels up rivers and into sheltered harbours.
I enjoy Dylan’s running commentary on the places he visits and the people he meets. He is an engaging, opinionated and entertaining guide. He visits impossibly small ports, avoiding marinas where possible and often ties up to abandoned wharves and riverbanks.
His videos are not nail-biting adventure films but are more like the kind of sailing that I do and would like to do more of. The scale of his excursions mirror the journeys I take and he visits places I would like to visit. He now has over 800 videos and blog entries which, as well as documenting his voyage, offer his observations on subjects ranging from cabin heaters using upturned flower pots to shopping in Orkney.
Besides simply wishing to share his adventure Winter has an ulterior motive for posting his blogs and videos and that is to help pay for his travels and filming. For example, it seems the salt water exposure costs him about a video camera each year and these aren’t just the little go-pro type cameras that have cluttered the internet with poorly edited and produced video snippets. Winter has tried a whole host of funding models over the years and his site has followed the changes and improvements in internet video technology.
Originally funded partly through click revenue from Google he ran afoul of enthusiastic supporters who thought they would help by continually clicking on sites until Google cut him off. Then there was subscription model along with mailed-out quality cds with groups of videos edited together. Less than a month ago he moved to a voluntary pay-per-view pay-what-you-like system and from his postings this seems to be meeting with early success. At the same time he also moved the content to the Vimeo platform so that the video quality of the HD footage is superb, especially when watched on a large format screen. I, for one, am quite happy to hit the PayPal button to contribute a few pounds to the travel fund once I have passed a half hour watching the banks of the River Wear slip by accompanied by Dylan’s engaging commentary and chosen music. Highly recommended for armchair and iced-un sailors
Another other site I continue to enjoyed is the Off Centre Harbor series. This is a joint effort among a number of individuals with impeccable boat building and sailing credentials, mostly from New England.
There are a number of parts to this site – all impressive. First there are over 200 high quality videos covering such areas as boat handling, notable boats, machinery and equipment, rigging, maintenance, boat building, places to sail and a host of others. In addition the site owners/authors/experts have contributed notable videos from across the web. There is a section on recommended and favourite reading and another with musing and essays from those in the field.
The emphasis is on traditional and wooden boats but it is not exclusively sail. You won’t find reviews of the latest Tupperware boats or thinly disguised advertisements for chartering catamarans in the Carib like most of the boating magazines on the news-stand. In some respects Off Centre Harbor is more like a cross between Wooden Boat and Small Craft Advisor and in my opinion is the best site of its kind on the web.
The current charge is $39.00 US per year but there is new content of the highest quality every few days. The web page usually has a few free teaser videos to give you some idea of what this is all about. This site is slick (in a good way) and I have already gleaned a number of excellent tips that will be put into play as soon as the spring thaw allows Ebony to be hoisted off the trailer and into the harbour.
A third site that I watch on a regular basis is Small Boats Monthly which is a new e-imprint from Wooden Boat magazine. I have been an avid collector of the annual Small Boats Annual that Wooden Boat has published for about a half-dozen years. With the catch-line “A guide to trailerable small craft you can store and maintain at home” the annuals have introduced me to all sorts of boats. These volumes have resulted in many hours of idle speculation concerning boats I “could” build (if I had the ……… – fill in the blanks). Apparently I was not alone and now the publishers have decided to feed the beast by making content available on an ongoing basis. The cost is $2.99 an issue which is considerably cheaper than print material and there is no advertising.
None of these sites impose on you to “keep up” You can productively go back and forth and sample what you would like without feeling that you have to spend hours on end in front of the computer. However when you do spend time you come away with the sailing itch scratched, if not cured.