John Boyle: The Long Way Home
How many London based professionals trudging to work and back every day dream of giving it all up for a quiet life in the country? After qualifying as a solicitor in nineteen eighty and following two years of commercial law in the city, John Boyle certainly shared that dream. But unlike most, he actually did something about it.
John moved to Cornwall and set up his own law firm, operating as a criminal lawyer. ‘You wouldn’t think there would be much demand for a criminal lawyer in sleepy Cornwall’ says John, ‘but you’d be surprised. Cornwall has its own challenges, including some of the biggest drugs importation cases in the UK’. It wasn’t long before John found himself with a thriving business, helped in no small part by being one of a small handful of lawyers in Cornwall at the time trained and qualified to represent in the Crown Court.
And there you might expect the story to end – escape from the rat race, thriving business, happy ever after. But for John, it was just the beginning of an incredible career transformation.
‘A friend of mine lives in the Cayman Islands and I’d visit him quite regularly. With business going well, I treated myself to an underwater video camera. It was just for a bit of fun really, but there was a firm in Penzance that made surf videos. In their studio we edited “Caymania”, which I thought might sell a few video copies through magazines. But television stations showed an interest – my first sale was to Cyprus TV for $250; and then, to my amazement, National Geographic bought rights to the film! This was back in the days before big budget BBC productions, and with hindsight National Geographic would buy anything back then that featured coral reefs and sharks. But at the time I was blown away’. Not long after that, a documentary John made in Costa Rica sold to Discovery.
Flushed with his success, John started filming and selling more. ‘Between 1990 and 2000 I was running the law firm and making documentaries – mostly underwater’. In 2000 John decided to switch to full time film production and sold the law firm. ‘I earn a tenth of the money but I’m ten times happier’ he jokes.
Based in an attic studio in Porthleven on the south coast of Cornwall, Shark Bay Films, John’s company, has produced over thirty underwater films that have sold to television stations worldwide and won multiple international awards. But like a massively speeded up story of evolution, John has emerged from below the surface to broaden his cinematic reach. ‘We’ve made tourism films, worked on the election campaign for the President of the Seychelles, and we’ve shot two videos for pop icon Katrina And The Waves’. His next project is seeking out remains of WW2 in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.
John has even produced a film about the Somali pirates, and written a fascinating book about the experience, ‘Blood Ransom: Stories From The Front Line In The War Against Somali Pirates’. He’s also filmed in Cuba, creating ‘Castro’s Secret Reef’, a movie about what was once Fidel Castro’s personal diving playground. There’s an aquatic theme to most of John’s work, and it extends even to his leisure time. ‘I’ve had boats ever since moving to Cornwall’ explains John. ‘I started with a small dory, but my first proper boat was a Sealine S28. It was when I upgraded to a Sealine S34 that I started to consider combining my pleasure boating with my film production work’. The result was a hugely popular series in Motor Boats Monthly magazine supported by YouTube videos, detailing a round Britain cruise called ‘The Great Motor Boat Tour’. A year later, buoyed by its success, John did the same again, but this time he headed across the Bay of Biscay to Northern Spain. ‘Our mission was simply to go much further than people normally do with this sort of boat – to have an aim rather than just burning fuel’.
With a burgeoning passion for long distance cruising, John decided to upgrade again, this time to Princess. ‘I saw a V39 in Southampton purely by chance. I fell in love with it on sight, and kept wandering back for another look’. A sea trial with Princess Motor Yacht Sales in Plymouth followed. ‘Richard Clarke looked after us brilliantly, but we couldn’t quite get to the figure I needed on a new boat’. However all was not lost; a little while later John spotted a one year old V39 in Mallorca and a deal was struck. All that remained was to get that boat back to Falmouth, which for most people would be a simple case of shipping it back. But as you’ve probably gathered by now, John is not ‘most people’.
‘There was only one way that boat was coming home – we’d sail it back, and we’d make a film and a magazine feature in the process’. The result was called ‘The Long Way Home’, serialised in Motor Boat & Yachting and again, published on YouTube. And it was no straight delivery run. ‘When we got to Gibraltar I realised that we were less than ten miles from North Africa. It would have been rude not to…’ One of John’s favourite photos is of his V39 moored in Morocco with a camel tethered to it.
The return trip, like most of John’s adventures, was not without excitement. ‘A couple of times we found ourselves in some seriously challenging conditions, but the boat was a revelation, massively impressive. It might have been a little scary at times, but it never felt unsafe’.
Since then John and his Princess have featured in ‘Secret Cornwall’ for Motor Boat & Yachting, complete with some superb aerial footage of both boat and scenery (again, you’ll find it on YouTube). And more recently he’s been on another amazing adventure for MBY, to be published soon. ‘I can’t say too much about this one as it’s not been published yet’ smiles John, ‘suffice to say, I can’t imagine there are that many Princess V39s that have visited both Africa and the Arctic Circle…’
John Boyle has come a long way from that London commute. Literally.
Richard Clarke, who worked closely with John to secure him his now famous V39, can be found at our Turnchapel Sales and Service facility in Plymouth. If you live in the South West, you
can contact Richard on +44 (0)1752 600657.
You can follow John’s adventures in Motor Boat & Yachting and on YouTube. His book, Blood Ransom, is available on Amazon.