Spoilers ho! Lots and lots of spoilers so read at your peril if you plan to watch this film.
Wow, the writers really screwed up this film which should have been a lay-up. Did they even bother to talk with a single person who has spent more than an hour on a sailboat or did they just wing it from their experience on some Catalina Island booze cruise? The first problem he faced was an act of god, as they say, and not his fault but just about every problem after that was the result of his own stupidity and very poor seamanship. The movie is like what not to do if you have an emergency in a small boat at sea. I was screaming at the screen at times—that’s what U.S. Air Force Survival School and a couple seasons of racing yachts do to a boy.
So he hits a container putting a nice hole in his starboard side about 2 feet X 2 feet. No biggie. He has resin to patch it up which he does incompetently; he acts like he's repairing a broken kite. For some reason he loses all electrical power. Why his engine doesn’t work isn’t explained (and no back-up outboard motor for a yacht this size?). Why he would be on a single-handed ocean voyage with no knowledge of how to repair these damages is beyond my comprehension. Most of the sailors I've met who felt compelled to go on solo voyages were all geeks who could repair anything aboard a small craft. That's just the way these people are wired so when Redford flips a switch and nothing happens his first reaction shouldn't be to give up. Fucking fix it, man.
His sailing skill during the storm was basically non-existent. You don’t wait until the excrement hits the fan to put up your storm jib and reef the living daylights out of your mainsail. Once again, what about his engine? To broach and capsize a boat that big you really have to mess up royally, like letting yourself get hit right on the beam with a huge swell. Why would you go below during a storm in the first damn place? Ever heard the expression “All Hands on Deck?” I think that applies here in spades; you can sleep and shave after the squall. In the end the fact that his vessel goes down had little or nothing to do with the hole from the container—he simply screwed up during the storm.
The most important rule in most survival situations is WATER! It’s the most important thing to consider when you finally abandon ship unless you can swim to shore. These days with all of the survival foods available you could last for months in a life raft and some people do provided you have water. Read Adrift where the dude survived for 67 days and crosses the Atlantic after sinking almost immediately after hitting a container in the dead of night. I would imagine that most life rafts come with a solar still water purifier which is little more than a blow-up beach ball (some rafts are solar stills). Just why he didn’t prep his life boat after he hit the container was something I was wondering about way before his ship sunk. He had plenty of fresh water onboard so why can’t he carry 20 gallons on to the raft? They probably felt the dire water situation added drama but it made him look like a clumsy child. His crappy solar still wouldn’t produce enough to keep him alive for more than a couple days if that, not in the heat of the Indian Ocean.
I doubt that anyone has ever learned celestial navigation on their own in a life raft at sea. I don’t think it works that way. And why even bother trying to find your position when you have no means of propulsion in the water. He had way bigger problems to worry about, like water.
In this day and age I find it very hard to believe that he would have no sort of communication. How about a two-way radio? Jesus, they go for about $20 these days and are a lot better for signaling a passing ship than a flare. Most ships these days won’t even have anyone looking out at the sea. Why would they?Maybe this was a period piece set back in 1963 which would explain his lack of life-saving technology.
And then he sets his own craft on fire which might happen if you start a fire in a plastic container in the middle of a fucking rubber raft. He doesn’t deserve to survive instead he deserves a Darwin Award. What a complete waste of what could have been a great movie. A great movie would have been the survival tale of a really experienced and highly resourceful seaman, not like this bungling fool.