Sea Stories – Changing Lives, Saving Lives

Over the past few years there have been several great stories of young people participating in sail training programs and ending up in a real adventures saving lives at sea. A few come to mind:

Sea Scout vessel Argus rescuing a scuba diver left behind

St. George’s School’s Geronimo rescuing a Polish sailor that had fallen off an ocean bound freighter

Sea Education Association’s rescue of some Haitian refugees.

Last week, a group of students from the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy were participating in a educational sailing adventure aboard the three master schooner Denis Sullivan when one of them spotted a flare on the horizon. It turned out to be  from three fisherman in dire need of help.  Riviera students on educational voyage help rescue imperiled boaters (Check out all of the comments) and Youth, school reap rewards for rescue.

In the January issue of Soundings Trade Only, Beth Rosenberg wrote a great article about the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy. At this charter school, nuts plus bolts equals jobs. This is a great program that demonstrates a valuable partnership between the maritime industry and traditional high school education. It helps fill a niche that benefits employers and the youth involved.

For young people, going to sea under sail is truly a life changing experience. The risk of the adventure can be directly correlated to the impact that it will have on the participant’s lives long into the future. Saving human lives in peril is a time honored responsibility and obligation of going to sea and the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy students will never forget their brief experience aboard the Denis Sullivan.

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NY Times – Study of Solo Sailor Stress and How Humans Cope

Today’s NY Times published an interesting article by Chris Museler entitled A Very Lonely Journey Across the Globe – Researchers Study Solo Sailing to Find How Humans Cope with Stress.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth (UK) department of sports and exercise science are studying the effects of stress on the five single handed sailors still in the Velux 5 Oceans Race. The conditions under which they sail and the duration of the experience creates a unique opportunity to study how human’s cope with stress. The organizer of the study, Michael Tipton, states:

“We’re trying to identify some of the common characteristics of people who consistently think clearly and perform under extreme conditions. We simulate helicopter escapes in pools but we don’t know how much longer they’d hold their breath if the real consequence would be drowning. With these sailors, that’s a real consequence every minute.”

In case there is any question about the constant danger and incredible stress under which these sailors work, watch the following 3 videos. The first is raw footage of the final hours and minutes that racer Alex Thomson has aboard the Hugo Boss vessel before abandoning it to join Mike Golding on the Ecovervessel. In it he explains what happended and the potential consequences if he doesn’t get off in time.

The second video is Thomson detailing how the rescue will be undertaken and it captures him jumping into the life raft leaving the camera rolling on his vessel.

The third video is a slicker production with music that uses some of the same footage but presents a wider perspective.

In an unfair twist of fate, hours after Thomson joins Golding on the Ecover boat, she dismasts and both sailor end up out of the race.

“Above all, these sailors are rational, calculating individuals,” Tipton said. “Their inventiveness and tough mindedness is what gets them through safely.”

Deep water sailing, solo or as a member of a crew, can be exhilarating, challenging and character building. What was written in the Times article and represented in the above 3 videos is the extreme. However, the power of the going to sea under sail in developing leaders is that there is real risk and self-challenge integral to the experience.

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Experience is Everything

In case you missed it, this is a new Old Spice ad. It’s not a surprise that I liked it because the tag line declares “experience is everything” which pretty much captures the theme of several of my earlier posts. Also, in the background is a painting of the longest tall ship I’ve ever seen and, like my dad, I use Old Spice too. (Well, I actually use Old Spice Red Zone deodorant, not the aftershave). Finally,  there is the sad but funny coincidence that my sidebar photo is remarkably similar to what we see in the video.

In any case, I find this to be a funny ad and pretty clever. Listen and watch closely as Bruce Campbell, a cult B movie actor, talks about “it.”

If you have a little time to waste and you want to have some fun,check out www.experienceoldspice.com.

AdWeek: Barbara Lippert’s Critique: Old Spice Still Gets It

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Book Review – The Go Point by Michael Useem

Over the past week we have been on a family vacation in Grand Cayman staying in beautiful condo in the Rum Point section of the island and minutes walk away from the beach. This is our first trip here and I can’t recommend it enough. (Blog and photos.)

The Go PointIt’s also a great place to read and I finally had the chance to sit down with Michael Useem’s newest book, The Go Point. I am really interested in his work and enjoyed several of his earlier books including Upward Bound: Nine Original Accounts of How Business Leaders Reached Their Summits (with Paul Asel), Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win and The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for All of Us.

Michael Useem is the Wiliam and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, as well as the director of its Center for Leadership and Change Management.

In October 2005, I had the good fortune to participate in Wharton’s Executive Education Program The Leadership Journey which is lead by Professors Useem and Greg Shea. As its name implies, its is a weeklong intensive experience uniquely exploring leadership from academic and personal perspectives. This was clearly one of the most significant adult learning experiences that I have ever had and I was looking forward to reading The Go Point. Continue reading Book Review – The Go Point by Michael Useem

Wall Street journal – CEO’s Draw from youth Experience

Following on my recent posts on youth experience, today’s Wall Street Journal’s In the Lead column written by Carol Hymowitz  is entitled “Early Start in Business Teaches CEO’s Lessons They Use to This Day.” (Unfortunately, subscription required to read the on-line edition).

It’s a great article about the experiences some of today’s most prominent business leaders had in their youth.  Ms. Hymowitz writes that “Warren Buffett, ceo of Berkshire Hathaway made his first profit reselling bottles of cola when he was only six and earned about $5,000 delivering newspapers in high school – most of which he promptly invested.” 

Bill McDermott, ceo of SAP tells stories about a number of jobs that he had as a teen that helped form how he leads his company today. “Whether it’s a deli or SAP, it’s always about differentiating and serving the customer so they keep coming back to you.”

I got my first real job at 14 years old when I was hired as a deckhand on a ferry boat. I got the job through one of my dad’s  connections. I remember my first day when the cranky captain complained about the prior mate and how they should never hire anyone under 18. This certainly focused me on proving myself. At 19, I got my captains license and became the captain of the ferry. Needless to say, this was a job with a lot of responsibility and the lessons I learned from it were valuable and long-lasting. 

This again proves that we are all an accumulation of our experiences and that it is so important that young people have rich and diverse ones through education, travel and even work.

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Uncle Pete

This morning my mother called with some sad news; her brother, Pete passed away last night. Uncle Pete had been very sick for quite a while so this was not a big surprise. However, the loss of a family member is never easy.

Uncle Pete had a very special place in my life when I was a young boy. He was my godfather and the uncle that gave me the chance to do things that I would never be able to do at home. Uncle Pete taught me how to handle a gun and he took me hunting. He taught me how to ride a minibike which ultimately forced my parents to give in and let me buy my own. Going to his house was always a blast!

This brings me back to my earlier post about how experiences form and inform us as we travel through life and that their impact can grow strong as we get older. Uncle Pete represented adventure, excitement and fun. However, in all the things that we kids did with him, safety was priority #1.  At a very early age I learned about responsibility, accountability and respect from Uncle Pete. These were important lessons that have stayed with me throughout my life.

When I got a little older and had more distractions as a teen, Uncle Pete played less of a role in my life and we pretty much went separate ways. However, the experiences that we have and the lessons that we learn when we are children are hugely important in who we ultimately become. I thank Uncle Pete for exposing me to things I would never otherwise have experienced and, consciously or unconsciously, teaching me some pretty important things (values).

Life’s lessons learned under sail

Picton CastleToday I came across a great blog called  MHC at Sea 2007: Mount Holyoke students take to the high seas during January term. It’s a group blog that captures the adventures of a crew of Mount Holyoke College students during a sail training experience onboard the Bark Picton Castle. From their blog:

Thirteen students and Professor Chris Pyle of the Politics Department will book passage on the 300 ton steel barque Picton Castle for a 14-day voyage from Grenada to Martinique, with stops at Cariacou and Bequia. Students will be integrated with the ship’s crew of 16 (on a three-watch system) as sail trainees, and will learn the arts of piloting, seamanship, and tall ship handling, much as sailors did in the late nineteenth century.

This will be a working voyage, not a Caribbean cruise. Trainees will be expected to participate fully in the ship’s operation, working aloft, walking on ropes 80 feet in the sky to set and furl sails, hauling lines on deck, manning the helm, navigating, standing watch, helping in the galley, and doing basic maintenance. Students will also write a running weblog, transmitted daily via satellite phone. Sleeping accommodations are in tiers of narrow bunks; there is no hot water for washing or bathing.

What I find particularly remarkable is that this group of students joined the Picton Castle shortly after Laura Gainey, a member of the vessel’s professional crew, was lost overboard during the transit from their homeport of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to the Caribbean. If you only have time for a few posts, I encourage you to read Laura and Laura in my heart which deal with the loss of a crew member at sea. Continue reading Life’s lessons learned under sail