The Sundowner tells the story of an engineer’s transformation from a sedentary “land-lubberly” manager to an independent man of the sea. Jon Bendz’s story shows that a “mid-life crisis” doesn’t have to mean eschewing work for play, as he combined the two by steadfastly achieving his life-long dream of building a boat himself. It took six years of self-discipline, but Jon turned his ambition into a reality – the fifty-three foot handcrafted sailboat he named “The Sundowner.”
The ocean had been calling his name, and Jon answered the call by spending nine years on board “The Sundowner,” sporadically accompanied by his wife, Patty, his two sons, Jason and Joaquin, and his long-time best friends, Tim Tomchak and Tom Benson. In the film, Tim reveals how intoxicating the call of ocean life can be by recalling his days spent as Jon’s deckhand. These personal moments are revealed in segments of thought-to-be-lost VHS footage, providing a rare glimpse into what life was like on Jon's boat.
The planning and engineering of “The Sundowner,” all credited to Jon, proved a steady match for heavy waters, and all of its crew members considered it a beautiful, unstoppable achievement. The ship regularly withstood some of the roughest waves the ocean could throw at it, creating pride and even arrogance in its crew, especially its builder. Already living out an ambitious and fulfilling life, Jon decided to sail almost 8,000 miles through the Pacific Ocean with his son, Joaquin, to attend the 2000 Olympic Games.
In September of 1998, the two men brashly set sail from Port Townsend, Washington, with the eventual destination of Sydney, Australia. Confident in “The Sundowner,” as well as themselves as sailors, Jon and Joaquin brushed off rough weather warnings from the Coast Guard and headed into the dangerous waters of the angry North Pacific. The results of this voyage were life-changing.
Now, almost ten years later, Jon speaks modestly and humbly about the fifteen year period of his life involving “The Sundowner,” and the ways in which it made him into a new man. The Sundowner is not only a story for Jon, his family and friends, but also for anyone who has ever thought of tossing everything aside and setting off into the wild blue yonder.
The film is dedicated to the memory of Joaquin Bendz, who passed away during its production.