Happy Sir Robin Knox Johnston Earth Day!

image While most people, including the Mello family, are celebrating Earth Day, today also marks the 40th anniversary of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s completion of the first-ever single-handed solo non-stop circumnavigation.

Celebratory in it’s success yet profoundly revelatory in how man impacts our planet, there is no better way to raise awareness of the Earth’s challenges than sailing round it in a small boat. Johnston was the first to do this 30,000 mile trip and 313 days at sea in a 32 ft teak ketch. To put this feat in its proper perspective, solo non stop circumnavigation is often referred to as the Mount Everest of sailing; only thing is over 1,500 people have made it to the top of the world while less than 100 have sailed around it alone without stopping.

This “holiday” came to my attention via Twitter and the concept seems to have been launched by the great Messing About In Sailboats blog which is not to be confused with the equally great Messing About In Ships podcast.

I’m sure there are going to be lots of great posts with videos and old newspaper clippings and amazing sea stories so check back at Messing About In Sailboats to see how they aggregate this stuff. If you’re on Twitter, make sure you follow the hash tag #RKJ today. (Since you’re over there, might as well follow me, too. ;-)

Since I used to be the executive director of the American Sail Training Association, I guess my affinity for Sir Robin probably comes from his incredible support of and influence over the tall ships / sail training industry as chairman of the Sail Training Association (UK). That organization has since split in two becoming Tall Ships Youth Trust and Sail Training International. Although his time at STA preceded mine at ASTA, I had the great fortune of meeting him on several occasions and he is definitely a “larger than life figure.”

Last year, Jenny and I went to the New Bedford Whaling Museum to see a special screening of Deep Water. While the movie may be “about” Donald Crowhurst, it’s really about Sir Robin Knox Johnston and all his fellow competitors. It’s an incredible story of the stresses and strains of the long distance solo sailor and you’ll come away even more impressed by the remarkable men and women who participate in this sport. (Make sure you also read NY Times – Study of Solo Sailor Stress and How Humans Cope) If you read this blog but have not watched Deep Water yet, get right over to Netflix and order it, you won’t be disappointed.

YouTube – Deep Water – New Trailer!

Finally, ScuttButt tweeted some good advice for today everyday:

Scuttlebutt on Twitter re RKJ Day

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The Launch of the Weekly Leader Podcast

Weekly Leader podcast On the very unlikely chance that you are not a subscriber or regular reader of my other Internet baby, Weekly Leader, we launched a podcast yesterday and you should listen to it and give me your feedback.

I’m lucky to have had Pam Fox Rollin as a co-host for this first episode and even luckier to have had the opportunity to interview Peter Aceto who is the CEO of ING Direct Canada.

Please check it out and let me know what you think.

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MarineNews: Assuming a New Leadership Role

MarineNews Feb. 2009Just got my February 2009 issue of MarineNews, the information authority for the workboat, offshore, inland and coastal marine markets. It’s a must read for all mariners, especially my leadership column! ;-)

This month I wrote about Assuming a New Leadership Role and had some help from professional mariner friends Captain Wendy Kitchell, Captain Ken E. Beck and NOAA  Commissioning Chief Engineer and former shipmate Jamie Hutton. Thanks!

You can read the entire magazine online or download a PDF.

Assuming a New Leadership Role (column only PDF)

Let me know what you think about the column and if you are interested in contributing ideas for future columns. Thanks.

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Favorite Sea-Fever Post of 2008

The popular and always entertaining Proper Course blog has challenged sailing bloggers to submit their best 2008 posts. (Simply The Best) Although I am a sailor and do blog, technically Sea-Fever is not a “sailing” blog. But what the heck, maybe he won’t notice.

With 320 posts passing under the keel in 2008, the task of identifying my “best” was a bit daunting. There had to be a few worthwhile in the flotsam and jetsam of words that flow through this blog each week. I was tempted to submit my last post titled Sea(cret) Santa (4 Days Left): Sexy Women of Maritime Calendar because it seemed to be one of the more popular ones, especially among my saltiest readers.

In the end, I decided it was more appropriate to go with my “favorite” post because I felt the only honest judge of what’s “best” would be someone other than me. (Like Sea-Fever readers, perhaps?)

So my favorite post was Richard Branson Answers My Questions About Adventure Sailing and Business Part of the contest is to answer “Why this post is simply the best?” in 30 words so here it is:

This post is simply the best because it brought together all of my passions: sailing, leadership and social media. Sir Richard Branson answered my Twittered questions about sailing and leadership via audio and that was pretty cool!

Since this is my own blog, I can take more than 30 words. This post was really a convergence of my personal and professional interests and passions. It covered Sir Richard Branson failed attempt at setting the Transatlantic single hull sailing crossing record with his daughter and son aboard the yacht Virgin Money.

Richard and Holly Branson on Virgin Money


Richard Branson is definitely one of the more interesting global corporate leaders in the world today. He projects enthusiasm and optimism in nearly anything he undertakes. He embodies Jim Collins Good to Great principle of establishing “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAGs) and often but not always is successful in achieving them. He’s a confident risk taker who demonstrates resiliency when things don’t go as planned. It was a thrill to be able to have a short social media exchange with him.


The Transatlantic crossing sailing record for a mono-hull was held by the schooner Atlantic for over 100 years until it was smashed in October 2003 by Mari-Cha IV with a passage of 6 days 17 hours 52 minutes and 39 seconds. In order, to beat Mari-Cha IV, Virgin Money had to pull out all the stops and sail in challenging conditions at the front end of major weather system. It’s a high stakes battle between engineering technology, human intelligence and mother nature.

Social Media

I am fascinated by how emerging technologies have an impact on the way we communicate and interact today. I’m particularly interested in how leaders use these technologies to distribute messages to advance their vision or cause. Virgin Money was posting video to YouTube in the middle of their challenge of the transatlantic crossing record. In addition, Richard Branson actually began using Twitter from the vessel to update followers on their progress and after turning back he sent out a call for questions about the adventure. I sent him 3 questions which he answered via audio comments posted to his blog dispelling any thought that he might have delegated this to a PR hack or assistant. Listen here.

Pure and simple, this was my favorite post because it brought together leadership, sailing and social media and like I said earlier, that was pretty cool!

Tillerman’s challenge was a great catalyst to review my past year’s blogging efforts, think about what worked, what didn’t and how to chart a Proper Course for 2009. Thanks!

Thanks to all of the loyal Sea-Fever readers for your support in 2008. I wish you and your families a Happy, Healthy, Safe and Successful 2009!

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Psst, here’s a sneak peak at my new leadership column in MarineNews magazine. Don’t tell. ;-)

marinenews-nov-2008-cover Here’s a sneak peak at my inaugural Leadership column for MarineNews magazine.  Please make sure you subscribe and tell them how much these insights have changed your life. (Just in case there is any question, my tongue is in my cheek.) ;-)

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The Coolest “OverSeas” College Study Program on the Planet!

SEA logo If you are a college student, or know one, who wants to make the most out of your college experience, you (they) have to check out SEA, which stands for Sea Education Association. At SEA, not only will you study “overseas” you’ll study in them too!

Located in Woods Hole, MA, USA, SEA offers semester long college accredited programs on 2 tall ships in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that challenge you intellectually and physically by combining a sailing adventure of a lifetime with the study of the deep ocean. I could go on and on about the benefits of this experience but SEA president John Bullard already made a most persuasive case here.


If for some crazy reason John hasn’t convinced you, maybe these short videos shot by program graduates will.

Take your academic career to new heights, literally! Better than looking at a blackboard all day in the middle of January!

YouTube – Sailing the Pacific- 3

Imagine challenging yourself to do something outside your comfort zone and making some amazing friendships in the process.

YouTube – Aloft

How about learning from touching something alive that you actually caught?

YouTube – Squid Jigging on SEA Semester

YouTube – SEA Semester class S213’s Jumbo Squid

And who said school can’t be fun? I guarantee that in the future you will think of the SEA experience more fondly than that Political Science lecture every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.

YouTube – S-199

Now, if you need a reason for why this might be important to you and the rest of the planet, you have to watch this video of Dr. Bob Ballard’s presentation at the February 2008 TED Conference. There is a whole new world for you to explore and there’s no better opportunity to do so than aboard an SEA tall ship.

YouTube – Robert Ballard: Exploring the ocean’s hidden worlds

Finally, some sound advice from Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Launch your SEA adventure here!

photo credit: Meriah Berman via waynepbj on Flickr.com

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Rocking the Boat’s WhiteHall Award

Rocking the Boat White Hall Awards 2008

Most Sea-Fever readers will know that I’m a big fan of the NYC based nonprofit Rocking the Boat. Here’s a link to some previous posts.

This Thursday they’ll be hosting their Annual Whitehall Award event which

recognize(s) leaders in the fields of experiential education, environmental activism, and youth development. The honor is named for the distinctively elegant and practical wooden boat design that forms the majority of Rocking the Boat’s hand-built fleet. The Whitehall represents a “golden period” of maritime design and craftsmanship, its reliable and beautiful form remaining largely consistent since 1690.

This year they’ll be honoring The Public Service Project at Stroock & Stroock  & Lavan LLP and here’s the good work that they do:

The Public Service Project is the cornerstone of Stroock’s longtime commitment to serving the public interest. Created in March 2001 after a century of pro bono service, the Public Service Project provides a broad array of legal assistance, with a special focus on underserved and under-resourced communities in New York City.

A principal goal of the Public Service Project has been to engage in more transactional pro bono work, advising non-profits engaged in serving and rebuilding communities in need.

Stroock’s representation of Rocking the Boat goes back to 2001, when RTB was first getting its oars in the water. Since that time, over two dozen different Stroock attorneys have worked on RTB’s behalf, contributing well over 400 hours of pro bono legal advice, valued at almost a quarter of a million dollars. Stroock has truly become full service general counsel to RTB, calling on lawyers from no fewer than ten departments, including: intellectual property, entertainment, insurance, non-profit, employment and tax. These lawyers have helped RTB with everything from commercial lease issues and environmental law to employment policies and general corporate law advice.

The event is being hosted at the beautiful New York Yacht Club thanks to the generous sponsorship of Stroock, Toyota, LexisNexis and Sims Metal Management. You can still purchase tickets to the event here.

Why am I such a fan of this organization? Read Steve Rappaport’s grat article Rocking the Boat – Old ways teach kids new life lessons in the current issue (Sept./Oct. 2008) of WoodenBoat magazine and you’ll see why.  (download via RTB website.)

If you really need more reason to get excited by this organization, then you better watch this. On second, thought, watch it anyway, you won’t be disappointed!

Building Kids: A short documentary about Rocking the Boat

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The Sad Story of the Bishop Museum and the Falls of Clyde

Falls of Clyde by Christopher Pala for The NY Times The Sunday New York Times published a sad story written by Christopher Pala about the uncertain future of the Hawaiian Tall Ship, The Falls of Clyde, a National Historic Landmark since 1989. (Historic Ship Stays Afloat. for Now – October 19, 2008) 

What is particularly troubling about this story is the mismanagement and lack of leadership exercised by the Bishop Museum’s board in their stewardship of this historically significant asset and for which they collected considerable public funding and private donations over the years.  The ship has recently been “sold” for a symbolic $1 to a group of well meaning but grossly underfunded supporters. After years of neglect by the Bishop Museum, The Falls of Clyde now requires millions of dollars for rehabilitation and restoration work, a daunting task for a new nonprofit.

The Falls of Clyde story is not a simple one. Her history as represented in the Statement of significance in the National Historic Landmark Study on the National Park Services’ website:

The 1878 ship Falls of Clyde is the world’s only surviving four-masted full-rigged ship. Built in Great Britain in the last quarter of the 19th  century during a shipbuilding boom inspired in part by increased trade with the United States, Falls of Clyde made several voyages to American ports, notably San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, while under the British flag.

Sold to American owners in 1898, Falls of Clyde gained American registry by a special act of Congress in 1900. Henceforth she was involved in the nationally important Hawaiian transpacific sugar trade for Capt. William Matson’s Matson Navigation Co., a shipping firm of international scope and significance that continues in business. Falls of Clyde, ninth vessel acquired by Matson, is the oldest surviving member of the Matson fleet.

After 1907, Falls of Clyde entered another nationally significant maritime trade, transporting petroleum as a sailing oil tanker. Specifically modified for the petroleum trade as a bulk cargo carrier, Falls of Clyde retains integrity of design, materials, and workmanship, and is of exceptional national significance as the oldest surviving American tanker and as the only surviving sailing oil tanker left afloat not only in the United States but also in the world.

Pala writes in the NY Times article:

In 1963, as she was about to be sunk to serve as a breakwater, another group of enthusiasts in Hawaii had her towed back to Honolulu and, over the next two decades, almost fully restored.

In 1984, a new maritime museum, the Hawaii Maritime center, acquired the Falls, which was docked next door, but the center foundered financially. In 1994, the Bishop Museum reluctantly took over the center and the ship. One of the Falls’s chief supporters, Robert Pfeiffer, then the chief executive of the company that owns today’s Matson Navigation Company, set up a half-million-dollar endowment for the care of the Falls.

But over the next 14 years, the Bishop Museum spent little more than the endowment’s annual income of about $50,000 on the ship, according to a former museum official who would not be identified because he did not want to appear critical of the Bishop’s present management.

Though it is customary to place a ship in dry dock every five years to inspect and repair the hull, the museum did not do so with the Falls of Clyde, which was last in dry dock in 1987. Nor did it install zinc anodes, at a cost of a few thousand dollars a year, which would have prevented the hull from decaying.

In 2001, Senator Daniel Inouye, a Democrat, announced a Congressional earmark of $300,000 to preserve the Falls, and Mr. Pfeiffer, who died in 2003, contributed a personal matching grant of $300,000.

Nonprofit cultural institutions, like the Bishop Museum, have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to their communities and supporters to act competently as stewards of the treasures in their care.  While there have been a number of cases over the years where museums have been criticized for selling or deaccessioning works in their collections for various reasons, it’s difficult to recall many that show the alleged incompetence at this scale in preserving a nationally significant treasure.

Cross-posted at Weekly Leader.

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The Launch of Weekly Leader


For the past few months I’ve been making a few subtle changes to the Sea-Fever blog that you probably haven’t even noticed. First of all I changed the tag line by eliminating the word “leadership” and focusing things on maritime culture. I’ve also changed the sidebar slightly and edited the links. Nothing major.

At the same time these changes happened here, I’ve been working quietly and diligently on another web project. It’s called Weekly Leader, an online magazine focused on Leadership that launched in beta today. I am very excited about it and hope you will take a look and give me your feedback. Like nearly everything on the web, it’s still a work in progress.

In September Sea-Fever experienced its biggest month ever and I thank all of your incredible interest and support. I am more committed than ever in trying bring you fresh and interesting content on maritime culture. Over the next few months I will probably be moving Sea-Fever from WordPress.com to a self hosted WordPress site to give me a little more flexibility. I am hoping to accomplish this with as little disruption as possible.

So I’d really appreciate it if you would head over to Weekly Leader, take a look around and share your thoughts with me.

Again thanks for all of the tremendous support here!

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"America, we can not turn aft. We cannot keelhaul alone."

Equal Time PSA (Pirate Service Announcement) – Pirate Obama’s 2008 Acceptance Speech fer th’ Democratic Party Nomination fer President o’ th’ United States


To Chairman Dean an’ me great matey Dick Durbin; an’ t’ all me swabbie citizens o’ this great nation;

Wi’ profound gratitude an’ great humility, I accept yer nomination fer th’ presidency o’ th’ United States.

Pirate clinton Let me express me thanks t’ th’ historic slate o’ scallywags who accompanied me on this journey, an’ especially th’ one who traveled th’ farthest – a champion fer workin’ Americans an’ an inspiration t’ me lasss an’ t’ yours — Pirate Queen Hillary Rodham Clinton. T’ Super Pirate Clinton, who last night made th’ case fer change as only he can make ‘t; t’ Brother Kennedy, who embodies th’ spirit o’ pirate life; an’ t’ th’ next Vice Pirate o’ th’ United States, Joe Biden, I thank ye. I be grateful t’ finish this journey wi’ one o’ th’ finest swordsman o’ our time, a man at ease wi’ sea dogs an’ land lubbers from world leaders t’ th’ bosuns on th’ Amtrak train he still takes homeport ever’ night.

Continue reading "America, we can not turn aft. We cannot keelhaul alone."