Episode 23: Reaching Reality with Barry Walton

(For the video version, click the main image above. I recommend the “Watch on YouTube” option, so you can comment, “like,” subscribe, and whatnot. For the audio version, click on the player below.) Editing and mixing by Maximiliano Frini.
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Show Notes

Reaching Reality

Okay, as promised, here’s the link to the first video in the Reaching Reality documentary. WARNING: There is a scene in what is Part Four (as I recall) of Reaching Reality on the YouTube series, where several dogs get run over by a truck in the Baja. (Barry is not the perpetrator, merely the documentarian. But if you’re sensitive like me about such things, you may want to have a friend fast forward past that part.) Hit me up in the comments below or on the “Contact” tab if you want me to look up that part so you’ll know what time span to avoid on the video. Also, there is plenty of non-bleeped cursing…which I’m much more used to.

Transcript of Ep. 23, “Reaching Reality with Barry Walton”

HNTS023-Reaching Reality with Barry Walton


VO: For this episode of How Not To Sail, I hung out on the boat with filmmaker and HowNotToSailer Barry Walton, director of the award-winning documentary Reaching Reality, which is about, well, this:

(clip from film)

Barry VO: This is a story about three good friends, Dan, Dennis, and myself, a dream of sailing down the Pacific for three months in a really small boat.

Barry: I like to go outside of the lines. You know, when I was a kid, they give you the coloring book. I'm not the one that's going to stick in the lines, you know?

VO: In many ways, Barry reminded me of me.

Barry: Fortunately, this is a about How Not To Sail. Uh, port? Which? The port? Uh, starboard? Aft? What?

VO: We had a fine time anchored out on the bay.

Barry: The breeze kind of came in and Bradford got a whiff. And so he's now out of camera.

VO: And I learned a lot I hadn't thought about, since I usually sail by myself.

Barry: Yeah. I don't know what can prepare you to be at, live at, sea for two months on a boat with three other men.

VO: What could possibly go wrong?

(theme music)

VO: How Not To Sail, sponsored by our awesome Patreon patrons and Latitudes & Attitudes magazine.

They ruined my life. So why not let them ruin yours today at LatsAtts.com?

Before we get on with it, I should probably mention that Barry's documentary Reaching Reality contains some cursing, which is not bleeped. Potentially more disturbing to some HowNotToSailers, there is a scene in what is Part Four on the YouTube version, where in the Baja peninsula, some dogs get run over by a truck.

Maybe equally disturbing is that Barry thinks that's a metaphor for his relationship at the time, but that's all another matter.

At any rate, if you're a sensitive to things like animals being hurt, you probably don't want to see what was included in that scene. It's not in the podcast here, not to worry. And Barry was not the perpetrator, just the documentarian, but just FYI.

Bradford: Can you give us a clap?

Barry: Oh, here we go. Ready?

Bradford: All right.

Barry: Clapped.

VO: At any rate, Barry drove across the peninsula from the east side of Florida, and we wasted very little time getting out into the bay and getting anchored so we could chat.

Bradford: We're here today with Barry Walton, from Reaching Reality, the award winning documentary series.

And we're out here on Boca Ciega Bay.

VO: I've really got to respect documentary filmmakers and all the work that goes into making these docs. At the beginning of reaching reality, there's a scene where you can see all of the tapes that Barry shot, representing hundreds of hours of footage that he had to sort through to make this thing happen.

It's always interesting to find out what drives people to do that.

Barry: Uh, uh, I always had a fascination with film. And then I have a huge ego. And wanting to be famous as well. And the two combined was me deciding to film myself, and film this trip.

VO: Barry's description of learning how to make a documentary sort of reminds me of a certain HowNotToSailer, learning to sail.

Barry: I didn't know how to set a scene up. I didn't know how to establish a narrative. I didn't know how to, oh, I should get these sound bites to tell what we're doing here? You know? So when it came to telling it, you know, obviously I ended up going with VO to drive the narrative.

But there was so much that I missed. Oh my God. And that's the reason it took 15 years to finish it.

VO: I feel your pain, Barry—as probably do most HowNotToSailers waiting for this episode to come out. If we're lucky, though, we might even have a video version, including footage of our chat.

Just go to HowNotToSail.com/23 to check on that, and so many other things.

But I digress.


VO: Like one of my other favorite podcasts, Barry Walton and his friends went from surfers to sailors. Three friends with common interests, but very different personalities.

Barry: And Dan is Napoleon. Dennis is the Buddha. And I am, uh, the electric charge with a bipolar disorder.

VO: They had so much fun on their land-based walkabout down the Pacific coast of Mexico and South America, they decided to take a little sailing trip.

Barry: Uh, 1,200 miles, seven islands, and a 23-foot sailboat with three friends, all packed in there pretty nicely.

VO: That's a little more togetherness than I'm used to, but at least they were able to be very frugal with their boat purchase.

As Dan explains,

(clip from film)

Dan (clip): The finances of the trip we put off by Cruising standards are miraculous. We bought a boat for $2,200. We didn't know how to sail. We learned to sail, we fixed it up. We put probably $5,000 total over a year and a half into the boat.

VO: I asked Barry about the boat.

Barry: We called it Rhino and I, and I'm the one who painted the name on the side of it.

And Rhino was named Rhino because it had a massive fortress anchor off the front. And it looked like a little rhino. And I was an Islander Bahama 23. Anyone who knows how to sail, knows that How Not To Sail in the Pacific is a, in a 23-foot boat because of scale.

VO: After a lot of hard work, they were ready to go.

And their mission statement, as captain Dan sums it up, kind of reminds me of How Not To Sail.

Dan (clip): We know it's the wrong time of year. We know it's the wrong boat. We know we're not skilled sailors...

Barry: That's right, Daniel.

Dan (clip): So when we go down, I don't want people saying these guys are idiots. We know we're idiots. So therefore, we're not idiots. That's my rationale–

Barry: That's our–

Dan (clip): It's what we've got to work with. And the whole idea of this trip is to inspire other people to suicidal actions as well.

VO: Now look, don't at me and say "Your show's, convincing people to go sailing and take risks." Of course it is. But I don't mean big, stupid risks. Life is full of risks. You pick the ones that you want to. If you're scared of scratching up your boat, stay at the dock. Of course it might get scratched up anyway.

[Also at this point, my attorney expressly advises me to tell you that I am not advising you to go sailing at any time in any way, shape or form. Just take up crocheting.]

In the case of the three friends in Reaching Reality, though, one of them does have some sailing experience. That'd be Dan.

Dan (clip): Got to add 15 degrees to that. So what we're really heading right now is 1 0 5.

VO: Barry, however, does manage to have some adventures throughout the film. And I know you'll be shocked to hear that one of those adventures involves the dinghy.

Barry: I was so happy to have made it back. I was like, that was the dumbest f------ thing I just did. And I could be dead man out in the Pacific.

VO: You'll also be shocked to know that this involves beer.

Barry (clip): Putting a shout out to you yachties over there. Wondering how you guys are doing tonight.

Barry: One night I got off the boat on the dinghy and rowed over to a boat.

Barry (clip): We'd like to be joining you on that nice ship over there, having a couple of drinks.

Barry: I had a bet with Dennis. We didn't have any beer on the boat...

But those oars were like, would break apart while you're rowing, right? And they would come out of the hooks while you're rowing. So it was like a joke to get anywhere.

But I get over to the boat and the guy's chatty and I'm hitting him up for the beers. And the bet was I got to come back with the beers. So I'm not going to bum off beers and just leave.

And the sun's going down, it's getting dark and the wind starts to pick up, and I'm starting to get blown out to sea. And the wind is pushing me the opposite direction of where I'm rowing. And all I could see was the kerosene lantern coming out of one of the windows.

Because it took me 45 minutes, uh, to row back. I had to row a quarter mile. And the guys were worried about me because, one, I was there for a long time. But two, now it was dark and I'm not back.

VO: But all's well, that ends, well...

Barry: But fortunately we had a couple of beers, you know, too, which made it all worthwhile. Anything for a beer.

Bradford: All's well that ends beverage..

Barry: Yeah.


VO: Despite Barry's semi-preppy attire today, I get the sense he could be a wild card at times.

Barry: I like to go outside of the lines. You know, when I was a kid, they give you the coloring book. I'm not the one that's going to stick in the lines, you know? I just didn't.

VO: I'm sure Barry is neither the first nor the last HowNotToSailer we've met that feels that way.

Barry: Sailing is a life of living outside of the lines, right? There's no lines out here, you know? You pick a line and then if you just, if the wind changes, you'd better change with it, you know?

VO: Barry says he tried to color inside the lines for a while, but it just wasn't working.

Barry: My five years in the corporate space, it was like, I'm going to this meeting for what, you know? And this means that I'm going to stay an extra hour because I'm going to sit in this meeting, and I should be working.

VO: A 1200-mile, two months' cruise down the Pacific coast with his two friends, chasing prime surfing spots in a small sailboat, seemed like it might be the perfect antidote.

Barry: ...in Dan's kitchen, pulls open a sailing book and he's like, there's a surfing spot here. We can combo two things that we love, sailing and surfing.

It was not the, maybe the right boat for the Pacific, but we weren't complete idiots. And by that, I mean, for the most part, we stayed within sight of land.

Dan bought the boat online. And, um, when he bought it, uh, had the wrong motor and the motor was in, was hanging on a transom. Is that, is that, is that the transom on the hang out the back, and they go up and down? You're not going to sail the Pacific with the motor hanging out the transom.

(frumpy music)

VO: Now, I know a lot of you salty types are probably thinking Barry didn't sound like he had a lot of experience sailing prior to this trip.

Barry: I mean, I'd, I'd owned a boat and never got it prepped to take it out to sea. I lived on it for 18 months and it never left the marina. So I would consider that a failed sailor and that's How Not To Sail. I never left the marina.

Bradford: Perfect.

VO: Not that Barry's time in the marina was boring.

Barry: And another guy who had this like 52-foot beautiful boat, teak deck. When he took me out on it, he started telling me that he would go out with, like, a guy that would film porns on it.

I always feel like that story is more interesting than maybe it is. It would have been interesting if he said, "We're going to film a porn on it." He told me in detail... uh, well, I'll just, I'll just sidetrack that.

VO: There's a lot to be said for marina life, including a handy supply of folks who can tell you what's wrong with your boat.

Barry: Joe would come rising out of that boat, he was like a fictional character, and come walking down the dock. And he would, and he would just talk in mumbles, you know? And he'd be like, oh, those, you know, those, those windows. Day sailing windows, they're just getting knocked in if you get pooped. So we drilled through holes, bolted plywood over the windows, you know, so we had the windows closed, when we went around Point Conceptions [sic], when we went around Big Sur. We had the windows covered with plywood.

VO: That's one hazard prevented. But as any HowNotToSailer knows, there will be more.

Barry: So we put scuppers in, but the irony was the water... There's—your scuppers are there? The water was coming in the scuppers while we were sailing, because we would fill it with so much food.

Especially when we left LA and we hit Baja, because when we hit the Baja—and we didn't know what we were running into, so we leave LA, we're down in the Baja and we got all of our food and supplies in the back of the boat. Right? And on a decent swell, you got water coming in the scuppers.

VO: And it didn't take long before they started to learn How Not To Sail South In The Pacific.

Barry: We probably should have charged south faster to warmer weather. But in the north we just got the shit kicked out of us, you know.

(dramatic music)

Barry: But the one thing that I am proud of is going around Big Sur and Point Conception.

And we did that in the winter. And both of those were overnight sails. Big Sur was legit. You know, you got those, those cliff faces like there's nowhere to go. And then it's got, maybe it's got peaks and valleys underneath, that shift your swell.

All of a sudden we're like, Jesus, we're going super fast. And we were surfing down the face of the waves. You can feel it's kind of ssshhhh and the water's kicking up and like, oh, that's kinda cool. And I'm like, no, that's not a good thing, because you get halfway down and the boat turns, you know? And you're like, oh, you know?

You know. Sailors know. That was the treacherous section.

You know, that was where it was sketchy. That's, you know, that's where the swell gets big, you know? Like it's February, it's the biggest time of year.

We had surfboards and we had a ditch bag, I figured we would survive.

If it happened during the daytime, I don't know how quick that boat would have went down. It may have gone down quickly, but we reinforced it. We put scuppers...

(music winds down)

Barry: Um, but I'm off track. The conversation was about, I forget the question.

Bradford: Off track's fine.

Barry: Oh, okay.

VO: Obviously, since Barry's here talking with me, he did not drown. And he and the gang had a variety of adventures, both fortunate and unfortunate—which I think is what cruising's about.

Barry: I was alone at the tiller and we were kind of near Mag Bay, I think. It's called Magdalena Bay area. And I kind of look over and I see this green thing and I hear, like, you know, the dolphin, the classic dolphin pffffff!, you know?

When you first see it, you're like, I just saw like something green and glowing go past me. Then a whole pod came and it was like a light show.

What it was, it was like the reverse of what you normally see. So you could see them under the water because they were glowing, and you could see their profile. But when they jumped out of the water, you'd lose 'em. And then when they hit the water, the water would glow and they would reappear. It was like the reverse of what you normally are used to. It was crazy.

And I woke up, I screamed, "Dan! Dan and Dennis, get up here! And they're downtairs. And then they came up.

And I'm lucky, 'cause I think when you think about all the experiences that any given human might want to have in their life, like, that's one that you can't go and pay in Disneyland to go.

You know, you're just like, well, I have that, and it's so unique and rare and I just get the pocket it. Cause it's like, I don't—that's another, like, out of this world type of experience.


VO: Eventually though, like all things, the journey of Barry, Dan and Dennis had to come to an end.

Barry: I don't know if that answers the question, but I, I, I think, you know, the recap for me was I was glad it was over.

VO: But then it was time to create something out of those countless hours of footage.

Barry: I needed to finish it. I need to wrap it up.

When you say you're going to do something, I think you have to do it, or, or it trickles over into other s---. You know what I mean? "I never finished that, well, and then I never finished this," and it keeps going, but if you start knocking things off, you're like, "Okay, well I finish things," you know?

And I think about the hours that I spent doing this and the return for that time. And I'm just like, what's wrong with me? What is wrong with my brain? But I don't know how to stop.

I'm addicted to telling stories. I just love telling stories.

If I ever did a big sail again, I'd want a legit boat. Um, but I don't know that that day will ever come. I'm a day sailer. I'm a warm—fair weather sailor. And that's not a real sailor, I guess.

I love selling films and, uh, and I was glad it was over. And then I'm kind of glad that this is over because it feels like, if something you don't finish, 15 years and, uh...

I needed to finish.

VO: I think we can all relate to that.

(theme music)

VO: Stay tuned next time when we talk about something nautical. Or maybe something about boats. Wait, what?

Don't forget to go to HowNotToSail.com/23 for show notes to this episode, the video version, and the link to Barry's documentary, Reaching Reality. Plus all kinds of other cool stuff. HowNotToSail.Com is, and continues to be, the central hub for all things How Not To Sail.

(retro music)

VO: If you made it this far, I want to thank you for sticking with me. And I hope your year is, as uncomplicated as possible. Big Thanks to Alex Monroe or MUHN-roe, as we say in the South—hopefully one of those versions I didn't butcher—who asked when this episode would be out, and mentioned, he'd listened to every episode more than once.

I always appreciate a good kick in the stern, and I especially appreciate knowing you're listening. And don't worry, it's going to take more than a couple of wrinkles to keep me from annoying you with more How Not To Sail.

Thanks as always to our awesome Patreon crew and happy upcoming birthday to Cap'n Mark.

Thanks to Latitudes & Attitudes for ruining my life, and I hope you let them ruin yours too today at LatsAtts.com. Speaking of birthdays, Happy 92nd to my Dad. I love you, Pops.

I sure do wish this red tide thing would go away. But irregardless, is my friend Bill says, I'll see you next time on...

How Not To Sail.

Screwing up is part of Cruising. Let me show you how!

(clip from film)

Barry (clip): I'll be coming back without a job, without a lot of money, without a place to stay, for the most part.

Dan (clip): And no woman.

(clip from film)

Barry (clip): I have been on the SS...whatsit? Rhino. For about just under two weeks,

The first six days were awesome.

And now I am...struggling.

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Bradford Rogers
Producer. Performer. Sailor. Multimedia Ninja. Author of How Not To Sail, host of the How Not To Sail podcast and YouTube channel.


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