Watch: The Sailor – Paul Johnson (Doc)

It looks like the hurricane season might be off to an early start. Nothing new, but Johnson’s engine is not really working very well. And he is 80 years old.

02 June 2024 | James Porteous | Clipper Media

What is the price of freedom? Paul Johnson sailed the world all his life. He loved, drank, and lived foolish, never truly living on land. Now he is turning eighty. What is at the end of such a journey? Is there loneliness?

Paul Johnson sailed the world all his life. He loved, drank and lived foolish, never truly living on land. Now he is turning 80. He drinks a liter of vodka a day and contemplates his life, his death. What is at the end of such a journey?

The Sailor | Biographical Documentary | Paul Johnson

Synopsis IMDb

I am a sailor. I have sailed the Atlantic Ocean. When I arrived at the island of Martinique after 35 days on sea, I knew right there and then. I am ready to sail again. I want to spend my whole life at sea. Sailors talk about the sea as if it were a person, a woman actually, a very wise one, who is trying to teach us, to communicate with us.

In time, I met people who talk as well as live with her, people calling themselves “Sea gypsies”. Their boats don’t have a flag of their home country, because the sea represents their nationality, their religion, their home. They have been sailing for decades and when they talk, one can hear the rhythm of the waves in their voice.

Their common feature is humility. Then I met Johnson. I met him at the door of a small supermarket in Harvey Vale Bay on Carriacou Island. We looked at each other and we knew that we are of the same kind. Paul Erling Johnson is now eighty years old. He says he used to be famous.

He was born on a Colin Archer boat designed by a Norwegian who was known for building safe and durable ships. He was born on the river Hamble near Portsmouth, UK, on a boat called Escape. His parents sailed on various expeditions to the North Pole, one of which was attended by Aldous Huxley. Johnson’s twin sister died during the bombing of their home port in World War II. Johnson says from this moment on he always felt alone.

After his short career in the Navy during the war, in the Shetland Islands, he bought an 18-foot dinghy built in 1895 and sailed the Atlantic Ocean alone. At that time, in 1956, it was the smallest and oldest vessel to cross the ocean. He made it just to the Caribbean for Christmas, on the invitation of Bernard Moitessier.

Then he started building boats. Colin Archer was a world-famous designer, but Johnson knew all too well the flaws of Archer’s boats and thought he could do better. He wanted to create a perfect boat for riding storms, to ride the howling gale. Johnson did become a famous boat builder. He sailed the world with various women.

He has three kids that he knows of. When he ran out of money, he settled on land for a few years, generally somewhere between St. Barths and the Bermuda Islands. There he built a dozen boats and left galloping around the world again. He sunk three ships. He loved and drank and lived foolishly his whole life, never truly living on land. He had tried once, he bought land on the island of Flores in the Azures Islands, but he had to give up after two months because apparently “That life wasn’t for me,” he says.

And now he is alone, turning eighty. He never thought he would live this long. His boat is a mess, he is a mess, both are unfit to sail. He drinks a liter of vodka a day, since rum is too expensive these days, sitting on his boat and relying heavily on friends. Here he contemplates his life and his death…

Was it worth it? Is this the price for freedom? Was he selfish? Where are the boundaries between selfishness and freedom? Does fulfilling a dream always have a bitter end? Is it loneliness?

These questions are as much mine as they are his. I am on the beginning of my journey, he is at the end of his.

The Sailor – A film you won’t want to miss!

Daria Blackwell 25 Sep 2022

The Sailor is a documentary about an 80-year-old who valued his freedom so much that he has never truly lived on land. This English sailor sacrificed everything so that he could live only at sea.

Paul Erling Johnson was born on the Hamble on a boat. After a short stint in the English Navy during the Falklands War, he bought a boat and sailed solo across the Atlantic Ocean. He has never stopped and never truly lived on land since.

This acclaimed film tells the extraordinary story of a man who loved, drank lots of vodka, and lived foolishly, terrifying himself on many occasions. He sailed his entire life and has now washed ashore on the island of Carriacou in the Caribbean. As he approaches his 80th birthday, he and his boat are no longer fit to sail.

What was the price of his freedom? Was he lonely? How would this journey end? How does any such extraordinary journey end?

As he contemplates his life and his death, he plans for the final journey to eternity, though he never thought he would live this long.

The Sailor, directed by Slovakian Filmmaker Lucia Kašová, was seen by American audiences at the 39th annual Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival and featured at festivals around the world. The Sailor received The International Critics Prize from The International Federation of Film Critics at the Ismailia International Film Festival in Egypt among other accolades. It is wonderful!

The Sailor is available for streaming online via Vimeo, Amazon Prime, and WaterBear (free).

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.


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