11 Oct A conversation with Billy Campbell
As Billy Campbell departs from Luneburg this week, we know one thing for sure; he will be back. Luneburg was a home away from home for Billy before filming The Disappeared and a place where his connections run deep. He was an integral part of two world voyages on the Picton Castle, a three-masted tall ship whose home port is Luneburg. A 48-foot schooner, one of two being built at The Dory Shop by Dave Westergard, is his; already named the Martha Seabury, after his grandmother. He jumped at the chance be in The Disappeared. He knew from the start, upon talking about the film with casting director Shelia Lane (a sailor herself) and then later with writer/director Shandi Mitchell, that he wanted to be a part of this project.
We caught up with Billy to talk about his experiences on The Picton Castle. All one has to do is ask him one question about his experience on the ocean and the excitement pours off of him. His infatuation comes through immediately, and he wants to share his stories, as if he knows we all could use a little ocean in our hectic lives.
On his first world voyage aboard The Picton Castle, Billy was a rigger and deckhand and on his second circumnavigation of the globe, he was onboard as a videographer. What do you do at sea for 14 months at a time? We asked Billy to describe a typical day in the life.
“Life aboard is very regular, and it’s comforting in that respect. We are on a three-watch system, so everyone is on duty twice a day, 4 hours each time. Off-watch is free-time, with the understanding that ‘All Hands’ may be called out onto deck in special circumstances, ie: weather brewing; landfall; or workshops etc.
Watch-duties include (but are not limited to) steering, keeping look-out, hourly ship-checks, and ship’s work (rust-busting, painting, sail-making, rigging, assisting the cook, carpentry,
house-keeping or what we call ‘domestics’, etc.)
Off-watch hours are typically spent sleeping, reading, studying navigation or other aspects of seamanship, workshops (conducted by the Captain, Mates or other qualified personnel), doing laundry (yes, in a bucket), keeping journals, writing letters, playing boardgames, sewing sea-bags and ditty-bags, and really anything you can think of that can safely be done aboard a ship.”
He tells us that the two years spent on The Picton Castle were so far some of the happiest of his life. “It’s one of the best things I’ve done in my life and, in fact, changed my life.” That being said, he is quick to point out that the ocean is not something to be overly romanticized. The ocean is not aware of you, as you are of it, and as he says, “It doesn’t know you’re there, and will kill you in an instant.”
With no scary moments in his sailing history, Billy has learned to understand and pay attention to the waves from experts. “Cap always says ‘Good seamanship is two things: Attention to details; Reduction of variables.’” Billy has been sailing for about 10 years, and agrees that you only have to sail one day to learn that lesson.
So as The Disappeared enters post-production we can rest assured that we will see Billy – or Ollie, as he is favourably called in Lunenburg – again soon. There are ships to be sailed, schooners to take home, people to have a beer with. As he says of Lunenburg, “What’s not to like about this town, this province? Friendly folk, living on the water. It’s heaven to me.” You couldn`t keep him away (not that we’d want to!).