Ignorance is bliss has never been so true as it is in Israel Cannan’s documentary Fish out of Water. The documentary centres around two men, Tom Hudson and Pete Fletcher, who make the decision to cross the North Atlantic Ocean in a wooden rowboat, with zero sea faring abilities. Tom and Pete are not athletes, they’re not rowers, and they have no experience. The decision to undertake such a feat with such little experience would mystify many, but they men just wanted to rekindle a bit of fire in their burnt-out lives – no matter what the cost to anyone else. But again, ignorance is bliss.
Fish out of Water details the journey very well. It begins in Australia where the duo talks about their plan, the row boat, and their lives. What the pair lack in experience they surely make up for in enthusiasm but it’s not nearly enough. When they arrive in New York, where the men intend on launching their vessel from, they run into all kinds of issues – some of which could have been avoided with better planning. The pair left a raft of things unorganised until they arrived in New York, and with hastily devised shopping lists to supplier issues, the pair do the best they can to deal with all issues that arise, while still hoping to launch the boat on time. The issues are enough to make you hope they didn’t take any bananas with them (it’s a sailing superstition that bananas are bad luck out at sea).
Pete and Tom’s excitement is quite clear, however it doesn’t take long for their ignorance to make itself known. After four days at sea there are relentless problems, many that were also unforeseeable, and the pair must use their own ingenuity to get through each new issue. This is where the documentary gets its most interesting – we get to see how motivated, how staunch, and how resilient Tom and Pete truly are.
Fish out of Water is quite harrowing at times, at one point the pair must ditch 70 spoiled meals – which becomes a major concern later on, but rough seas are also an issue at times, making some of the vision quite confronting. Though, I couldn’t for the life of me believe that they only took a very minimal amount of fishing gear, and what they do have, they don’t seem to use at all, even as they reach the brink of starvation. My criticism however is not directed towards this film, more so toward the decisions made by Pete and Tom. As someone who loves the outdoors and has done a lot of boating and fishing (I’ve never tried to cross the Northern Atlantic Ocean though), I couldn’t help but think that their trip could have been much easier with a bit more forethought.
The documentary itself was quite interesting and very engaging. It also wasn’t very long, just over an hour in fact, which I really loved, I didn’t get bored once. We get to see enough of Pete and Tom’s lives to care about their wellbeing, their journey and if they survive it, and we also get to see enough of their time on the water to see how hard they had it but also how buoyant they are.
Overall, Fish out of Water provides a great insight into the feat’s humans can achieve when they truly want to. Pete and Tom, despite being somewhat crazy considering their minimal experience, are the pinnacle of determination and resilience, which in itself is an inspiration.
Director: Israel Cannan