This past weekend I went to Sarasota to spend Easter with my parents. My aunt and uncle live nearby (in Bradenton) and they invited us to go out on their sailboat. So we went out sailing on Saturday, and I thought, “Hey, I could get some sweet sounds out there”, so I brought some gear with me. And I did get some awesome sounds.
When we met up with Betty and Ed (my aunt and uncle), the boat, The Jlua (pronounced Ja-lou-uh) – a 1982 41′ Morgan, was anchored out in the middle of Bimini Bay (at the north end of Anna Maria Island), tied to a group of their friends’ boats. My aunt picked us up in the dingy and took us over to the boat. Once we boarded the Jlua, we hung around for a good hour chatting with their friends and watching the dogs play (there were four of them between all the boats) before we headed out.
When we finally got ready to make way, the Captain (my aunt, who is actually a licensed captain) fired up the engine. It sounded awesome, and I instantly wished I had recorded it. It took a few minutes for us to get the anchor free, get the dingy out of the water, and untie from the other boats, but we were soon on our way! We motored out of Bimini Bay and into Tampa Bay. My aunt and uncle listened to the weather broadcast and deliberated for a while over where we would be going, and routes and all, and decided not to go out into the Gulf, but rather stay in the Bay for a while.
So, anyways, after we got the engine started and were under way, I went down below and recorded the engine drone. Sailboat motors sound a lot different from power boat engines. A typical sailboat motor is around 10 – 20 hp (a far cry from my Dad’s twin 400hp cruiser), and putts around a bit, and sounds a bit like a diesel engine (I believe it is a diesel motor on their boat).
Here’s the motor while motoring out of the canal.
Once we finally got clear of the canal, we faced the wind and hoisted the sails (all three of them!), then cut the engine and we were sailing! Well, almost… The wind was being blocked by a nearby island, so the breeze was being a bit squirly, and we were only getting about 2-3 knots – if we were lucky. But it was nice and relaxing as we putzed along. Eventually, we cleared the tip of the island and the winds really picked up. Once we got in the groove, we were probably doing around 6 knots over land, which is decent for a 40′ sailboat with a 4.5′ draw on a not-so-windy day… I was down below right when the wind started picking up, and I was able to get a cool recording of the ambience of the inside of the forward berth. The boat has a fiberglass hull, so you can really hear the water hitting it as she cuts through the water:
Around the same time (I don’t remember if it was before or after I recorded the berth), I wrapped my mic in a towel and sat it inside one of the storage cabinets. If you’ve ever been inside a boat, you might notice that most of the big storage cabinets down below don’t really have backs in them, they just are backed by the hull. This means that there’s not much between the water and the inside of the cabinet, so you really hear a lot of water sounds. So, I had my mic in there and shut the cabinet and recorded a bit:
At this point I’m starting to get hot, since none of the hatches were open, so I headed up on deck, and out on to the bow. I sat under the Jib and grabbed the best stereo ambience I could from the front of the boat. I have no wind protection for my Røde NT4, and all I had was a towel with me, so I kind of made a makeshift wind baffle out of the towel, and engaged my High Pass. To my surprise, I actually got a decent minute or two of sound (not straight…), and if I spend enough time with it, crossfading between good sections, I think I can get a solid sound out of it. Also, I think I am going to invest in the Røde blimp, which can hold the NT4, but I’m not sure yet, because I still don’t completely love the NT4. Anyways, I digress…
Here’s the stereo recording from the bow, facing foward:
Here’s a picture I took from the stern looking down the starboard side of the boat. For some reason the only pictures I took were from when it was cloudy that day, which wasn’t for very long. Oh well.
While I was out on the bow, I switched from the NT4 to the MKH60 (which I actually had a rycote softie for…yay for real wind protection!). I wrapped the cable around my wrist for safety, and held the mic over the edge of the bow (with a pistol grip), close to the water, and got some cool sounds of the boat cutting through the water. I love this sound so much The sound of a sailboat crashing through the waves under full sail is one of my favorite sounds ever! Next time I hope to get a good balance between the sound of the wind rushing through the boat (which I couldn’t get this time – not enough wind protection) and the sound of the boat cutting through the water, all in a single recording.
Anyways, here’s the recording of the water:
So, while I’m getting all of these sounds, I hear my Aunt joking about blowing the horn to scare me (which I’m extremely glad my dad talked her out of doing, since I had a mic in my hand attached to headphones on my ears, which were turned up fairly loud to hear the details of what I was recording…) So anyways, I decided I wanted to try a few recordings of the horn. So I turned my preamp and headphones way down, and asked her to blow the horn. Complete distortion. I turned the pre down more and asked her to blow it again. Still hit 0, but I didn’t notice clipping. Third time was the charm. Great levels. In post later on, I found that even though I hit 0 on the second one, it still sounded fine and was usable, so I ended up with 2 good takes! You may notice that there is absolutely no reverb. This is because we were in the middle of Tampa Bay with nothing for the sound to bounce back off of!
So, here’s the horn: (Warning!!! Very LOUD!!!!)
So I’ve saved my favorite recording for near the end. Somewhere around half of the way through our sail, we were going down wind and the Aunt Betty decided to Jibe (a Jibe is basically the same thing as a tack – you’re taking the wind from one side of the boat to the other, so the sails switch sides – but it’s used when going downwind instead of upwind or crosswind. It can actually be more dangerous that a tack because it’s less controlled and the sails and booms can swing across the boat very fast – remember to duck!) Anyways, I happened to be down below at the time fiddling with my gear (which unfortunately wasn’t in a state capable of recording at that moment). They performed the jibe, and I heard some of the coolest sounds ever. Now, this is a sound I’ve heard probably hundreds of times, but I’ve never been recording, so I never really noticed exactly how cool it was. When you jibe or tack in a sailboat, a ton of things happen at once. You have sails luffing, lines running, pulleys spinning, chains clinking, ratchets, etc, and I think you even hear the bell in this one (which for some reason I didn’t record by itself). Plus, when you’re down below, you hear everything in the cabin shift, and the whole boat starts to creak and crack. Really amazing sound. Luckily, I was able to get them to tack twice more during the trip, and I was able to successfully record one of them.
So here’s the sound of a tack from down below, in the galley, facing towards the forward berth:
At the end of our sail, we were about to enter the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). The winds were dying down, and navigating the channel can be tricky sometimes, so the the captain decided to pull down the sails and motor the rest of the way in. I remembered the awesome sound the engine made when it started before. I was ready (almost) for it this time, and caught the engine firing up from down below (barely! I spaced out for a second and I’d have missed it if it wasn’t for my pre-record!)
Here’s my “lucky” recording of the motor starting up:
All in all it was a very enjoyable trip. Very relaxing, great weather, nice time with family. I spent most of my time hanging out talking and playing with the dogs. It’s always a great time sailing with Betty and Ed. Betty is a licensed sailboat captain, and Ed was a Navy Seaman (he used to pilot an aircraft carrier!), so we always get to listen to tons of crazy stories about boating and all. Always a good time with lots of laughts.
I only ended up actually recording for about 30 minutes total. I’ll being going on a few more sailing trips before the fall, so next time I’ll be bringing a bunch of wind protection and all with me, and I’ve already made a list of other things I want to try. Included are trying to get some better outside ambiences, getting a tack from outside, including all the calls any everything, playing with my contact mic (maybe attaching it to the sail, the hull, the engine room, mast, etc…) and maybe even playing with a hydrophone (dragging it behind the boat in the water or something). Also, I’ll be bringing a binaural rig next time!
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this post. Its a little departure from the normal post, but I thought I’d share as much background as possible to add some context to the recordings. Thanks for stopping by!