Every day at lunch time, Charles Tobias, a multimillionaire Santa Monica, Calif., businessman, would visit his stunning 60-foot ketch that he had bought from author Ernst K. Gann. Tobias would drive down to a nearby marina in his white Rolls coupe - he liked the Rolls coupe best for lunch hours, leaving his white Rolls convertible, four Ferraris, Cadillac, and Buick all parked back at his 37-room mansion overlooking the Pacific - and he'd sit in the Rolls eating a fast-food hamburger, trying to make a decision.
To quit or not to quit.
This went on for two years. He says he hated his "miserable life on a treadmill," all the pressures of business, that what he really wanted was to get on the boat and spend years at sea.
But he liked the money; he was making about $200,000 a year and says at one point he was worth about $10 million. He owned an electronics company and parts of numerous other businesses, including computers, insurance, and swimming pools.
One day, from his car telephone while mired (where else?) in a freeway traffic jam, he phoned his office, ordered his secretary to cancel all meetings - that day and forever - and announced that he was setting sail. He also said "sell, and made $3.5 million from his stocks because of the depressed 1970 market. After paying off his loans he was left with $400,000 - and the boat.
He went to sea for five years. But Tobias, at sea, did more than sun himself. He made a film of the trip from California to Greece, and it is no home movie, "The Way of the Wind" - Tobias is the cameraman, producer, director, writer, narrator, and, when he hands over his camera to one of the three crewmen, the star - cost him almost his last $400,000.
He arrived in Washington this week poorer but happier, having sailed his Mar - once Gann's Black Watch - along the East and West coasts this year, distributing the film himself to theaters. He says it's been in more than 70, most recently in Annapolis, and has earned him, along with some unrelated sales of leftover footage, close to $100,000. He hopes eventually to sell it for television, then make another long trip and film, this one in the Pacific.
While pursuing his dream and making "The Way of the Wind," Tobias, now 43, met a Paristenne, Nanoue Sigogne, on the Greek Island of Mikonos. "I went in for a day to get food and water," he said yesterday aboard the ketch moored at the Capital Yacht Club, "and I stayed for a month.That's the kind of schedule I was on." He didn't speak French and she didn't speak English but they made their own dictionary in a notebook. They were married, and she appears late in the movie.
It's a film that should please anyone with an interest in travel and the sea, and children, too, because the uninhabited Kapi Cove in the Aegean, two places he had wanted to see since his youth. Born and raised in Toronto, Tobias, as a 7-year-old, met an old Greek man, a friend of Tobias' uncle, who would tell him stories of Greeks defending the little island by throwing hot oil on invaders. Tobias never forgot that. He began studying ancient history and Greek mythology. One day his uncle took him to Lake Ontario, where he saw an English yacht he never forgot.
But he got sidetracked by success. He attended the University of Southern California on a track scholarship, but disliked running and finished on an academic scholarship. He began a business career that took him to Tobias takes along Tommy, a chimpanzee, and Fifi, a cheetah. It's a film that might make envious anyone whoever wanted to quit and go off someplace, but didn't. It contains first-rate reporting - the best is a segment on old-fashioned whale hunting in the Azores - and excellent underwater sequences, including the exploration of an underwater cave off Malta.
An accomplished diver before he left. Tobias had never used a movie camera. His two favorite books as he went to sea were "Ocean Passages for the World" and "The Five C's of Cinematography." He came back with 150,000 feet, or 50 viewing hours, which was edited into a 106-minute film.
The film has G-rating, and some of Tobia's adventures aren't in it. One night outside the Colombian port brandishing knives came abroad, one rushing at him in his bed. Tobias shot the man dead with the Browning automatic he kept under his pillow, and wounded the second. 'There was an inquiry,' he says, "but both of them were escaped murderers. The authorities advised us to leave because of possible revenge," Weather conditions were unfavorable, but they left anyway - literally in a storm.
Tobias' 30,000-mile journey took him to tiny Cleopatra's Island at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and to the unihabited Kapi Cove in the Aegea and raised in Toronto. Tobias, as a 7-year-old, met an old Greek man, a friend of Tobias' uncle, who would tell wing hot oil on invaders. Tobias never forgot that. He day his uncle took him to Lake Ontario, where he saw an English yacht he never forgot.
But he got sidetracked by success. He attended the Unversity of Southern California on a track scholarship, but disliked running and finished on an academic scholarship. He began a business career that took him tobegan studying ancient history and Greek mythology. One him stories of Greeks defending the little island by thron, two places he had wanted to see since his youth. Born breathtaking heights - the Pacific Palisades mansion, with its tennis courts cantilevered over the sea, that was once owned by actor Joseph Cotton.
"It was the servants, my wife, and me," Tobias said. "I had a rack with 150 suits. I used to swing it around. I had all my grays together. Different seasons, all in order. Sweaters on shelves under glass.
"Then one day Tommy Smothers came over. This was the turning point.We're in the drinking room. He looks around the he says. 'What do you need all this stuff for? It's not necessary.' I was always talking about the Greeks, the way they lived. He says, "They didn't live this way." Life began to change for Tobias.
He recalled the words of the Greek poet Simonides that he had learned as a youth and which he still quotes with uugency: "The life of man is even as that of a green leaf; fools are they who know not how short the days of our youth and out life . . ."
He began by buying nautical charts began thinking more and more of quitting his work. He says he was divorced by his first wife. He moved onto the boat. Soon he was gone.
He has no home other than the boat. He keeps a small office in Santa Monica: he says it's about half the size of the Mar's cabin. A friend drops by there periosically to pick up his mail and sent it to him.
He's never in.