I spent last Sunday on the water, where I prefer to spend most of my weekends if I have the choice. Sailing, kayaking, or, in this case, on a junk boat with a group of friends.
Hong Kong junk boats can be chartered by the day, or sometimes corporations own them for employee use (this was a lot more popular before the many financial crisis’!) They are no longer the traditional junk boats with sails that the name suggests, although that’s where the name came from. These days they’re big, heavy motor yachts, with large aft decks, a small cabin/head below, and a large open top deck. Sometimes they come with full galleys. Perfect for friends to jump off of into the sea, dance in the sun (if the boat is not rolling!), drink, flirt and enjoy Hong Kong’s natural beauty.
Just watch this video I made and you’ll know what I mean.
I recently spent a day at the race tracks in Zhuhai, which is just across the border from Hong Kong. I was invited by Torben, a good friend of mine, who has been distracted away from his long-running passion of yacht racing to take up car racing. Here’s the story I wrote about the experience for The Peak magazine. Click on the image to download the pdf of the story.
The New Northwest Passage
Wednesday, April 16, 7pm (Contact the festival for tickets) The Hive 21/F, 23 Luard Rd, Wanchai
It’s a cool new pop-up festival happening in April using some very innovative spaces around Hong Kong, presented by Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation and aimed at nurturing the next generation of independent filmmakers and consumers.
This festival is run entirely by the JUMP CUT youth committee, comprising passionate and determined young film-lovers selected through a recruitment process. With guidance from staff at YAF and experts from the industry, this team is given the thrilling but challenging task of running a festival. From curating the programme and selecting films to inviting guest speakers, writing reviews and organising scriptwriting and storyboarding workshops for other young people, the JUMP CUT youth committee experiences all the magic that happens behind the scenes.
By exposing young people to non-mainstream film culture and creating an intimate community of like-minded people, the youth committee is a place where ideas, experiences and emotions are shared, and where team members inspire one another.
I’m just back from the Helsinki International Boat Show, where I did two screenings of my film The New Northwest Passage. I also spoke at the Marjaniemen Purjehtijat and Helsingfors segelklub, two of the city’s most prominent yacht clubs. I can’t say enough about the hospitality of the Finns. Other highlights were my first Finnish sauna (served with cold beer and breaks in the freezing outdoors) and my second experience of eating raw caribou (well, in Finland they call it reindeer). This time it was served with fine wine and cloudberries…a rather different experience than my first taste!
Left to right, Sailing writer Jimmy Cornell, Samuli Lesti, project leader of X Sail Racing (my hosts) and yours truly.
I was very pleased to meet Jimmy, author of World Cruising Routes (one of those books that all ocean sailors know about), and was pleased to hear he was reading my book in preparation for his own Arctic voyage!
From Finland I flew to Swedish Lapland, well above the Arctic Circle, where I celebrated my birthday (it ends in a 0, that’s all I’ll say) at the ski lodge of an old friend. It was fantastic to be back up north, though the Swedish north (right on the Norwegian border) feels very different than Canada’s north. More roads, development, etc.
The New Northwest Passage is going to Finland! To the Helsinki International Boat Show, Vene 14 Båt, to be more exact.The film will be screening in Hall 7 in Purjehdussatama on both Feb 15th and 16th (Sat/Sun) at around noon and I’ll be there to answer questions and tell a few stories that are not in the film. If you, by chance, are in Finland around that time, please come by and say hello. Other speakers include Young America’s Cup winner Kyle Langford (7–9 February); Volvo Ocean Race 2014 Team SCA leader Richard Brisius (14 February); round-the-world sailor and writer Jimmy Cornell can be seen on the Majakka stage (15 –16 February) and Arturo Rey Da Silva, who is in charge of the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage at UNESCO.
Brazil’s Globosat, a multichannel cable and satellite TV service, has brought the broadcast rights to The New Northwest Passage documentary! I’m not sure which of their 26 channels will be airing it, or when, but the deal has been confirmed.
There’s not much money in it, but it’s significant to me because it means that I actually sold my first film, completing the entire process of going on the trip, making the film, showing it at a festival (and winning it!) and then getting distribution. That follows the international publication of the book and the creating and sale of the iPad app on iTunes. I feel I’ve wrung as much out of that adventure as I could be expected to!
Mance Media are the distributor of the film. We’re still hoping for a sale in North America in the coming months, and we’re also moving ahead with digital distribution, from pay-per-view on Amazon to Blu-Ray discs, etc.
Yes, you’re right, I haven’t updated my blog in a very long time. Mostly because I don’t have a lot of news to share…
I’m back in Hong Kong, working hard to get my book written. It’s been a slow, deeply introspective and difficult process. I thought my second book would be much easier than my first, but I was very wrong. My research into the repetitive history of the Mennonite diaspora has led me far further back into the past than I had planned, and I’m now putting the finishing touches on an expansive opening few chapters that tell the story of my family’s immigration from Russia to Canada. Although I’ve always said this would not be a book about Mennonite history, the story of that journey dovetails too well into the rest of my story not to include it.
I’m also planning a new adventure, this time in China. I have found new partners to help me bring my Red Coast project back to life, and I hope to have some news on this front within the next few weeks.
And lastly, hello to Ray. You may be the only one still checking this blog on a regular basis…
I’ve just come back from England where I sailed in the Fastnet Race (my second time) aboard Azzam, the 70-foot racing yacht of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team. They are in early training and try-outs for the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, which starts in Alicante, Spain in September 2014. The team is led by skipper Ian Walker, a double Olympic medal winner for Britain.
The Fastnet Race is one of the world’s most famous and classic offshore yacht races, organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in the UK. The biennial 608-mile race takes boats from Cowes past Land’s End, across the Irish Sea to the Fastnet Rock, around the rock and home to Plymouth.
Azzam won the race in 2011 and set a new course record, so there was plenty of attention on the boat. However, this year the winds were much lighter, giving the advantage to the bigger boats designed for ocean sprint races such as the Fastnet. Azzam, designed to race around the world in much rougher conditions, still did well, coming across the line in second place, beaten only by a 100-foot boat with electric powered winches.
I was invited to join the race as an onboard reporter, and here’s the film I made.