when I first got my GoPro Hero camera – it was actually the GoPro Hero Surf package (they now have an improved version 2 camera, mine is the original version), which included a giant stick-on disc to mount to a surfboard, or in my case I could mount it to the deck of my sailboat. but I wasn’t sure how easily those adhesive disc things would be to remove, or relocate – so I tried to come up with my own solution for mounting the video camera.
I initially took some video with it sitting in various positions on the Sunfish to get an idea of what images it would capture while I was sailing. this is sitting up near the bow handle, looking backwards. as you can see, the majority of the frame would be blocked by the sail for most of the video.
I then tried a position with it mounted right near the splashguard, but with it facing backwards – you wouldn’t see the sail really at all, and just a lot of pictures of me sitting their trying to sail and not tip the boat over. so I finally chose instead to mount the camera to the tiller, back near the rudder, facing forwards. I built a little jig out of scrap wood that fit tightly to the tiller, and then one of the smaller adhesive bases for the GoPro camera could mount to that jig and securely hold the video camera.
I like this mount – it gives a nice overall point of view, and the wide angle lens on the GoPro picks up quite a bit of the sailing action, and is close enough to pick up some bits of noise from me talking with whomever I am sailing with that day. I also liked that the point of view would rotate side to side as the tiller was shifted to change directions in the boat. I was able to get some great video with this mounting position – this one is me sailing with my 2 younger boys on Lake Michigan, and this one is sailing with my wife on Crystal Lake.
here is a picture example from sailing on a calm afternoon with my wife on East Grand Traverse Bay at Traverse City, Michigan.
and another picture – this from the video of sailing with my 2 boys on Lake Michigan.
last year, I found a sweet deal on Craigslist for a much newer Sunfish sailboat – but was frustrated to find that my tiller mount would not work with the new boat. the deck surface had enough curvature and the tiller was positioned much closer to the top of the deck, and prevented me from being able to use the little wooden jig I had created. my solution was to break down and buy one of the custom mounting kits from GoPro – this would allow me to mount the camera to a round pipe such as the Sunfish mast or spars/booms. again, I wanted to test out various camera points of view with this new mount, so I set the Sunfish up in the driveway, and attached the mount in various positions to test out what a video might look like.
this is mounted to the upper boom, way up in the air. a major disadvantage with this mounting position is you would have to leave the camera running the entire time, and it would eventually either fill up your memory card or drain your battery if you are sailing for a while. the point of view might be able to be improved upon if you were to point the camera back towards the boat where you would be sitting, or even straight down – but I wasn’t too impressed by this general point of view, so I’ve never revisited it.
another option now available is to hang the camera upside down from the lower boom, as GoPro now has a “upside down” setting you can turn on prior to taking any video, and it will automatically “flip” the recorded image for you, so viewing the recorded video on your TV or computer will be in normal mode, and you wouldn’t have to edit that in post-production. I like this point of view, but haven’t tried taking a video while sailing with it.
I instead chose to use the GoPro custom mount and install it at the very end of the lower boom. the camera’s lens is such a wide angle that although it is sitting close to the sail, I didn’t think it was too distracting to affect the video quality. here is what the mount then looks like.
here is an example picture from this mount, from a sail with my middle son out on Lake Erie.
I really enjoy this point of view, and how it moves and shifts with the sail as you change course, and tack back and forth while sailing. here an example video from last year sailing on Kent Lake, Michigan.
the major disadvantage with this mount is that you can’t turn the camera on or change any settings after you initially turn it on and climb into the boat. I’m beginning to think the upside down mount, installed not so far out on the lower boom might be a worthwhile position to try mounting the GoPro, as you’d then be able to adjust the camera settings and turn the video on and off in the middle of a sailing trip.
overall, I’ve been extremely happy with the GoPro video camera for sailing – I’ve recorded a lot of hours of video (although finding time to edit it down to something short enough to share online is tough). it’s also great for just playing with in the water when swimming or anything of that nature. I hope the various pictures and videos above will give you an idea of the various points of view available when mounting a GoPro (or similar) camera onto your Sunfish sailboat or similar sailing dinghy.