How ‘SLOCUM at sea with himself’ came About

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I was a self-taught sailor of marginal skills when I did something I had never attempted before: I was solo sailing our 30 foot Islander into her home port and had noticed that there was no one in sight. I therefore decided to sail her directly into her slip without engine or crew. I turned her about to head directly into the on-shore breeze, locked the wheel, dropped both sails as she lost speed on due course, and casually, letting her first just kiss the slip, I stepped off her deck to cleat her home … done.

But darn, if there was nobody there to have seen it!

This video shows how 100 years earlier, Cpt. Joshua Slocum pulled a similar turnabout in his freshly restored oyster sloop Spray, but in plain view of every old salt dawdling about Gloucester.

Sandra and I are solitary animators. We work from our suburban home where one prodigious year we had 25 commissioned shorts in the works, all at the same time. This is one of our early TV ads we made for US HEALTHCARE, America’s first HMO.

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Back then, Sandra’s work primarily involved the printing & coloring of my pencil drawings onto acetate sheets and painting large watercolor backgrounds on paper stretched across large drawing boards. All this voluminous work required a fair amount of space and bulky equipment …

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… but I could pack a pencil and ream of paper, drive down to the Chesapeake Bay, drop the anchor a mile below the marina and draw picture after picture after picture; those counted for some of my finest sailing days.


Around that time we carried aboard ship Joshua Slocum’s renowned book, Sailing Alone around the World. His story of solo circumnavigation never left our sight because I too was convinced that one day, given the opportunity, just the two of us could animate and paint his heroic voyage all by ourselves.

That vision made a great leap closer to realization when digital technology suddenly happened to the world. While still in its 8-bit developmental stage (and not quite ready for primetime TV) we found a few workarounds to nudge hand drawn animation ahead of the professional timetable.

As an early test, we created this little homage to our summer days cruising the backwaters and tributaries of the Chesapeake region while closely observing the comings and goings of the bay’s indigenous watermen.

In the above short clip, selected from a 30 minute PBS special called Still Life with Animated Dogs, I narrated what sailing meant to us. With this film we snagged our first Peabody Award for The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

By now drawing with an electronic stylus on a Wacom tablet and in tandem with the migration of the TVPaint software from Amiga to PC architecture, both of us could forever abandon the analog world while preserving the venerable straightforwardness of hand drawn animation – better known in the new vernacular as 2D animation.

This autobiographical story written and read by film director Milos Forman is from another PBS special of ours called, “A Room Nearby” for which we caught our second Peabody Award for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The celebratory event gave us hope that perhaps we could now get the non-commercial TV network interested in our Sailing Alone proposal. Their rejection hadn’t quite sunk in before Sandra and I were invited by Norman Twain Productions of New York City to create a feature film about anything we wished, as long as it would be based on a famous book … Slocum at last?


But the Twain producers didn’t think much of a 19th century book written by a quirky yachtsman, probably because in their view it held no promise for broad audience appeal. They went for My Dog Tulip instead, based on the 1950’s controversial book of the same name by the distinguished British author, J.R. Ackerley. Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave, Isabella Rossellini and other notable Broadway actors were engaged for the voiceover readings.

The reviews that came out in all major New York City print media were overwhelmingly favorable. Roger Ebert even selected Tulip for a screening at his illustrious private film festival in Champagne, Illinois, calling it the best animated feature film of 2010 – yet the movie made no profits at the box office even though it was screened in art theaters all over the globe. The lucrative arena of the movie theater has been so completely monopolized by the Hollywood juggernaut of the so called blockbuster genre that this venue has become hopelessly unavailable for any independent production aspirants. For our next film we opted for online self-distribution.

This time using our own resources, Sandra and I finally began the entirely independent production of SLOCUM at sea. With composer Shay Lynch joining in, it took us little over five years to draw, paint, and score the music to adapt Joshua Slocum’s landmark book, Sailing Alone around the World into four half hour video chapters, exclusively designed for the online audience-of-one. The last chapter describes the little known account of what happened to the venerable voyager after he had returned from his harrowing adventure.

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This film is now available for instant download and will play on almost any of the popular video devices. If interested, please go to our PURCHASE tab to select which service best answers your viewing partialities.