On a mission to inspire military veterans

Published on November 16th, 2021

Navy veteran Taylor Grieger set sail from Pensacola, Fla., for Cape Horn in September 2017 on a 36-foot sloop he bought for $20,000 and fixed up by following video tutorials on YouTube.

The captain and his first mate, Stephen J. O’Shea, a far more accomplished writer than sailor, were prepared to document their journey of 10,000 nautical miles with digital cameras, drones, and an Instagram account cheekily named @skeletoncrewsailing. They intended to inspire veterans struggling with PTSD, help prevent suicides among them, and increase awareness of these issues.

But Grieger and O’Shea weren’t prepared for the capricious weather, mechanical breakdowns, emotional storms — including a drunken fistfight — or money woes that together came close to scuttling both their sloop, named “The Ole Lady,” and their mission.

And neither of the young Texans could have foreseen how a team of Philadelphia film professionals would help them complete the journey and showcase their story in a stirring new documentary, Hell or High Seas.

“My biggest thing for this film … and Stephen and I talked about it a lot … was being real,” said Grieger, 29, whose description of his attempt at death by suicide is one of the film’s most powerful moments. “If we were going to make something to reach veterans, it would have to be no-holds-barred. That was the goal.”

Running a brisk 90 minutes, Hell or High Seas follows The Ole Lady through the Gulf of Mexico, the Panama Canal, and along South America’s Pacific coast. It offers a visceral sense of what it’s like to inhabit and navigate a tiny, fragile craft for weeks on end through a world of water that can be beautiful but can turn beastly with little warning.

The film’s scenic stretches and occasional edge-of-your-seat sequences are punctuated by a number of strikingly personal conversations about the challenges of the endeavor, and about veterans who have suffered unseen and unheard.. – Full report

Here’s a trailer for the movie:

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