Experiencing Interruptions?

MANRY AT SEA ~ In the Wake of a Dream

~ Tagline

"There is no dream so large, that it can't fit into a tiny boat..."

~ Logline

A middle-aged happily married newspaper editor secretly sets off across the Atlantic in a tiny sailboat, to pursue his lifelong dream.

~ Short Synopsis

In 1965, newspaper editor Robert Manry was a happily married family man in Cleveland, Ohio. His colleagues at the Plain Dealer were shocked to learn he had set sail on a solo voyage across the Atlantic in his 13½-foot sloop, Tinkerbelle. By the time his 78-day odyssey ended, Manry had become the target of a wild cat and mouse news media chase, was welcomed by a cheering throng of 50,000 Britons and had become a hero to his countrymen ~ and to dreamers everywhere...

Director and sailor Steve Wystrach’s exhaustive research and inventive storytelling complement Manry's intimate documentation of Tinkerbelle’s voyage, in an adventurous search for this unlikely American hero.

~ Story Summary

1965. Suburban everyman ROBERT MANRY, a quiet, happily married father of two young children, abandons the dull routine of a newspaper copy editor at the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER (PD) and sets sail in TINKERBELLE, his self-built 13½-foot sloop with a red mainsail. He departs in secret from Falmouth, Massachusetts bound for Falmouth, England.

RUSS KANE, the PD Promotions Director is assigned to track the story after receiving a letter Manry mailed on the eve of his departure. A brief Page One article is published, which catches the attention of TOM PISKURA, the wunderkind producer at cross-town news rival WEWS-TV.

Manry spends his first days at sea fearful of crossing the shipping lanes, and after several sleepless nights has the first of several hallucinations, this one featuring the HITCHHIKER, who bedevils him, but also helps steer the boat.

After a good night’s sleep, Manry sails on across an ocean of adventure. Awakened one morning by a horrifying horn blast, he finds himself floating alongside a US submarine that has spotted Tinkerbelle while on NATO war game maneuvers.

As his voyage rolls on, he experiences calms, storms, wondrous wildlife, and after 1,000 miles, meets the freighter STEEL VENDOR, which stops and takes his mail. When his letters reach Cleveland, Kane proposes taking Manry’s wife, VIRGINIA, and their children, ROBIN and DOUGLAS, to England for a joyous reunion at journey’s end.

Far more than a tale about a “man in a boat,” the story shifts to the voracious pursuits of the daily news. Piskura receives word of Kane’s plans from his spy at the PD and soon hatches a covert plot to send his ace journalist, BILL JORGENSEN, to England on a secret mission to intercept Manry at sea, before he reaches British waters.

Unaware of the intrigue, Manry finds transcendent peace and wonder, but is also challenged by loneliness, a broken rudder, more hallucinations, and is swept overboard in a storm.

In England, Kane persuades the ROYAL AIR FORCE (RAF) to run search and rescue drills to locate Tinkerbelle. Jorgensen enlists LLOYDS OF LONDON, and also secretly charters a fishing trawler to remain in port, ready for immediate departure 24 hours a day.

Several hundred miles from the English Channel, Tinkerbelle encounters the tanker BELGULF GLORY, whose captain gives Manry a huge roast chicken feast, and afterward radios his position to shore. Word soon reaches Jorgensen, who puts out to sea within the hour.

The RAF locates Tinkerbelle that evening and drops Manry a message that he is, “Big News!” and that, “Gentlemen of the press will arrive tomorrow.”

After 30 seasick hours, Jorgensen hears a shout that the red sail has been spotted. Excited to meet a familiar face from Cleveland, Manry amiably narrates all of the highlights of his voyage as Jorgensen films the interview. The RAF returns with the PD team aboard, and circles overhead while they happily snap photos of their colleague alongside a trawler, unaware they are being scooped by the competition.

Manry sails into heavy overcast and a gale sweeps Tinkerbelle north toward the rocky Irish coast. No one can find him. For a week the press prints breathless stories. Where is the Yank? Sailor’s Daughter Worried! Lost!

The weather clears, Manry corrects his course and at last spots the lighthouse on Land’s End. In the morning, an armada of small boats arrives to escort Tinkerbelle into port. As he enters the harbor, Manry discovers a throng of 20,000 cheering people crowding the docks and headlands. He is hailed a hero and returns to Cleveland in triumph.

A thrilling, emotionally charged, and visually stunning adventure ends with a tragic coda, reaffirming the urgent need to pursue your precious dreams, before your time runs out...

  • Steve Wystrach
    Career film editor and archivist
  • Steve Wystrach
    Career film editor and archivist
  • Steve Armstrong
    Career film editor
  • Steve Wystrach
    Career film editor and archivist
  • Steve Armstrong
    Career film editor
  • Robert Manry
    Key Cast
    Cleveland Plain Dealer copy editor
  • Bill Jorgensen
    Key Cast
    Maverick Cleveland TV anchorman
  • Steven Callahan
    Key Cast
    Author of Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Adventure, Biography, True Stories, Sailing, Inspiring
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 33 minutes 24 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 20, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    267,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Multiple film, video, digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • American Documentary Film Festival
    Palm Springs, California
    United States
    April 11, 2018
    West Coast Premiere
    WINNER: Best Documentary
  • Australian Wooden Boat Film Festival
    Hobart, Tasmania
    Special Invitation – Opening Night Film
  • BALINALE (Bali International Film Festival)
    Denpasar, Bali
    Special Invitation - Official Selection
  • Big Water Film Festival
    Ashland WI
    United States
    WINNER: Best Feature Film
  • Buffalo International Film Festival
    Buffalo NY
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Chagrin Documentary Film Festival
    Chagrin Falls OH
    United States
    WINNER: Best Documentary
  • Charlotte International Film Festival
    Charlotte NC
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Cleveland International Film Festival
    Cleveland, Ohio
    United States
    April 5, 2018
    World Premiere
    WINNER: Best Documentary
  • DOC LA (Los Angeles Documentary Film Festival)
    Los Angeles
    United States
    Los Angeles
    WINNER: Best Screenwriting
  • Hamptons Doc Fest
    Sag Harbor NY
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Heartland Film Festival
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    United States
    Official Selection
  • International Ocean Film Festival
    San Francisco CA
    United States
    San Francisco
    WINNER: Best Adventure Film
  • JachtFILM Festival
    Special Invitation – Opening Night Film
  • Kansas City Film Festival
    Kansas City MO
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Madrid International Film Festival
    FINALIST: Best Documentary; FINALIST: Best Documentary Editing
  • Mountain Film Festival
    Mammoth CA
    United States
    WINNER: Seven Summits Award - Documentary
  • Ocean Film Festival World Tour
    Special Invitation – Feature Documentary
  • Prague Film Awards
    Czech Republic
    FINALIST: Best Documentary
  • SAIL IN Festival
    Special Invitation – Closing Night Film
  • Spotlight Documentary Film Festival
    Los Angeles CA
    United States
    WINNER: Silver Award - Best Documentary
  • Woods Hole Film Festival
    Woods Hole MA
    United States
    WINNER: First Runner-up, Best Feature Documentary
Director Biography - Steve Wystrach

Steve Wystrach is a film editor and restoration archivist who lives and works in Los Angeles.

Since bitten by the filmmaking bug in high school, Steve has practiced the art and science of motion picture post-production for over four decades. After graduating from Northwestern University film school, he began work in the commercial editing business in Chicago.

Later moving to Los Angeles, Steve began work as a freelance editor before opening his own post-production studio, Anchor Editorial, where his work garnered international awards, from Clios to Cannes.

Steve helped pioneer some key innovations in editing, post-production and archival method. In the early years of videotape post-production, he wrote one of the earliest computer programs to translate film footage to video timecode. Years later, he was selected as an alpha and beta tester for Avid's first Media Composer.

He has had a long involvement with archival practice and has personally rescued many millions of feet of priceless archival film from destruction, and developed a novel date code chart for accurately dating film.

He continues working as a consultant to large film archives and is the managing archivist of the US Borax Film Archives, which holds over 13,000 objects related to the vintage Death Valley Days television program (1952-1970). As part of that role, he was the executive producer supervising the digital restoration of the entire 452-episode series on behalf of the Library of Congress.

MANRY AT SEA is his first feature-length documentary film.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I began work on the project over two decades ago, after making a simple observation in one of the most loved books about sailing. Like many sailors, I have often read “Tinkerbelle” by Robert Manry. It’s both a great adventure yarn and an inspiring roadmap about how to keep a dream alive and find a way to fulfill it.

I noted in his equipment list that Manry carried a 16mm movie camera on his voyage. As an avid offshore sailor, film editor, and archivist, I wondered, “Where is the film?”

That began a fascinating archival journey. Although Manry died in 1971, I eventually unearthed all of his surviving films, outtakes, home movies, Kodachrome slides, and correspondence, as well as news footage, audio recordings, and thousands of newspaper clippings. Much of it was in a garage in Calgary, Canada and was destined to be pitched during the next Spring cleaning. I met and interviewed all the surviving members of Robert's family and the key participants in the story.

The year was 1965 - Twilight of the analog age; color television had just arrived; slide rules still ruled math; copper-tethered telephones had dials, and sailors found their way by compass, charts, and sun.

The film weaves several themes into a vibrant and inspiring story expressed as a song of the sea. Manry’s voyage is both adventure and metaphor. The film presents a portrait of a complex man, masked by his offhandedness, modesty, and sense of humor. It is a love story, a lesson in forethought, craftsmanship, and hard work. It is also a tale of intrigue and tragedy, a call to freedom and a provocative plea to take action.

Steve Wystrach
Los Angeles, March 2018