Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

* Ray Phillips – The hermit of Manana

The Hermit of Manana, a film by Elizabeth Harris. Released May 2006.

“The Hermit Of Manana” is the true story of Ray Eugene Phillips (1892 – 1975). He was born in 1892, attended the University of Maine, fought in World War I, held down a job in New York City in the bustling 1920s, and then, seemingly on a whim, happily decided to leave it all behind for a life of solitude on the tiny, isolated island of Manana, Maine. He spent the rest of his life there, with a herd of sheep and a gander, a small wooden rowboat, in a shack made out of materials that washed up onto the shore.

His story became one that traveled quickly and altered radically. Myths, legends, and folklore surrounded the story of Ray, then and now, and he became known up and down the east coast, as “The Hermit of Manana.” Newspapers sought him out, photographers hounded him, a children’s author wrote a story about him, and rumors spread wildly. “The Hermit of Manana,” the documentary, seeks to sift through the stories and reach towards Ray as a person and what made him gladly choose this lifestyle.

Today Manana Island stands uninhabited. Ray Phillips was the longest resident of the island, from 1930-1975. For a time, the coast guard had a manned station there, but that was eventually automated. One family lived there for a couple of years but moved on. The grass has grown up high and Ray’s paths are long gone, but you can not look out on Manana without thinking of him.

From the director: For me, the choice between city and country life is one very close to home. The seductions of the city have drawn me in but I feel strongly that I deny myself something by living away from the country. Career ambitions often demand city life, while personal happiness takes a back seat when country people are trapped in the city. My film addresses this conflict in everybody, and focuses on one man who faced this conflict and chose unlike anyone else. This project is meant to stir a discussion about our priorities, and the value in simplicity, existence and basic survival.

Ray’s decision to fend for himself and avoid social interaction attracted attention, making headlines of newspapers and magazines all over the northeast. Withdrawing from the norm made him stand out much more than if he had remained one of millions in New York City. What elements in his upbringing and psyche allowed him to happily opt out of society? What can we learn from his decision and how could it impact our lives? My personal journey to uncover more about Ray Phillips leads me to numerous characters who knew Ray, and to question my own lifestyle along the way.

A DVD of the film is available at: TheHermitOfManana@gmail.com.

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This entry was posted on December 27, 2009 by in Hermits, Hermits & Solitude, Videos and tagged , , .
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