Hold Fast

This is a personal review of the video zine Hold Fast. These are stories of maniac sailors, anarchist castaways, and the voyage of the S/V Pestilence.

Fun fact: I keep a copy of Hold Fast on my person at all times.

An image depicting a closeup of a person sailing in rough seas

Hold Fast

O Listen to the sounding sea
That beats on the remorseless shore,
O listen! for that sound will be
When our wild hearts shall beat no more.

— George William Curtis
O Listen to the Sounding Sea

Without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite independently made films video zines of all time is Hold Fast.

It’s an exciting, endearing, and nicely made record of sailing and love of the sea that has a genuinely intimate feel like a well-captured home movie. You can download the video from the Anarchist Yacht Clubb or watch it on Vimeo, and feel like you’re invited to tag along for this totally punk rock seafaring adventure.

The film opens with a sensory storm of creaking, clanking, and thrashing sounds and sights of the sea serving as backdrop over which Moxie Marlinspike recites verse from O Listen to the Sounding Sea by George William Curtis.

Swiftly then, Marlinspike proceeds into an introduction to contemporary fiberglass yachts introduced to the middle class in the 1960s, with an emphasis on their affordable plenitude. The Anarchist Yacht Clubb gets an introduction - along with the notion of obtaining one’s own plastic boat.

Be ye of much inspiration

After the introduction to yachting possibilities made possible by the ubiquitous nature of fiberglass boats, we’re treated to some inspirational stories of long voyages, record setters, and truly amazing sailors.

A brief introduction to the concept of citizen of the sea is most interesting; there are abundant deep contemplative connections to the ocean to consider here as the zen of this video zine thickens - in no time, we’re prepared for the journeys ahead.

The S/V Pestilence

Marlinspike meets with friends in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he’s found a suitable vessel for their sailing adventures ahead. The vessel is a Pearson 30, purchased for one thousand dollars.

Now that the complete crew has converged to begin working on the boat, we meet Lisa, Allie, Kirsten, and Moxie (the zine’s narrator protagonist).

An image depicting the aft part of the sailboat S/V Pestilence

The S/V Pestilence

Many fun anecdotes and interesting hijinks are recalled about the time spent working on the boat, named Pestilence. When it’s ready, the crew sail all summer in the Florida Keys, leaving Pestilence on Grand Bahama at the conclusion of their summer’s sailing.

Next year

The next year, the crew once again rendezvous and aim to take to the seas aboard Pestilence. Before sailing again, the boat needs much refurbishing and mold eradication. In little time the work is done, and the gang are off again to fair winds and following seas.

This time around there is much more adventure, as the gang tour the Caribbean, and we’re educated with all kinds of sailing knowledge, from that of the most dubious sounding “direct deposit”, to rowing out anchors, and sailing without the aid of an iron sail (engine/prop).

An image depicting the killing of a caught Mahi Mahi fish

Mahi Mahi for dinner

Fine dining as a citizen of the sea

In one raw and startling scene, sure to upset any with weak stomachs or an aversion to natural (if not primitive) food harvesting methods, Moxie catches a Mahi Mahi while under sail, and the crew land, kill, and decapitate it in a bloody mess aboard the Pestilence.

There’s grabbing narrative by Moxie accompanying this moment, about the difficulties in quickly killing fish, and how the Mahi Mahi (dolphin-fish) color fades out almost immediately upon dying. This particular Mahi Mahi feeds the gang for three days.

A nautical chart

Nautical chart

Finding the way

From food gathering to dead reckoning, the information and anecdotes about navigation presented in Hold Fast is simultaneously fascinating and useful.

During this time, the crew is actually sailing off course due to some errors in their dead reckoning navigation. They were on the verge of hitting all kinds of hazards and terrors without having any idea about it. This was enforcement of the reality that it is actually somewhat difficult to fully run aground or otherwise commit to an accidental nautical nightmare.

There is then an interesting interlude into foul weather sailing, with some convincing examples. Things get rough, and of course, massively wet, as the little Pestilence chops through the rough seas during waterspouts.

You can scream, you can beg for mercy - you can stamp your feet or
even appeal to the sensibilities of the great Neptune himself, but in
the end, there’s nothing to do, but hold fast.

—Moxie Marlinspike

A photograph showing the sun rising on the horizon off the bow of the S/V Pestilence

Hold Fast sun on horizon

Finally, the storms are over - the crew makes landfall at the Turks and Caicos, before heading on to the Dominican Republic.

The end of the zine is imminent as Moxie tours around Haiti and the Dominican Republic, before heading back to San Francisco. We’re told that the Pestilence is standing by in the Dominican Republic, while Kirsten is building a house, Allie is living in the woods, and Lisa is harvesting syrup.

Until next time…

UPDATE: I wrote this based on repeated viewings of the original video zine - there’s since been an updated version released that is much more polished, but still the same awesome video zine! Great work!

This zine represents the finest in inspirational carefree jaunts over the seas, and is a complete joy to watch. If you’re seeking the most amazing sailing video zine (of all time), you should check out Hold Fast.