Sunday 26 January 2014

Competent day skipper? A shift in thinking

This last week was a case of living a Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

Nothing much out of the ordinary. Some things go wrong on the boat, then the wind dies for the rest of the week.

And I am instructing people on the vagaries of being a day skipper on a sailing yacht.

Not easy when there is no wind.  Or hardly any. But the story goes beyond this bland excuse.

Boats break from time to time. And the wind dies or goes into overdrive, so to speak. The Cape of Storms, no less.  So we have much wind or hardly any. And mostly we pray for mild winds.

This last week I prayed for clemency from the Gods that may be for allowing me just to complete the course in a sensible fashion. And it did happen. The wind went away and the boat chose to stop working at the most inopportune times. But sensibility prevailed and we managed to get all the exercises in, despite the setbacks.

The vagaries of sailing, indeed.

In retrospect, this last week taught me quite a few lessons in addition to those lessons the students had from me. It taught me patience. And it taught me not to behave in an uncouth manner when things go wrong, as is wont to happen.

I think those are the right words. English is not my first language.

The syllabus calls for an introduction to certain aspects of sailing a boat, with special reference to safety aspects, some navigation and more important, the ability to think independently as a skipper. After all, you have life and limb in your hands as the skipper. Of other people, I'll have you know. Even though it does not come out as urgent as one would like it to be.

These students, however, got a proper dose of experience.

I made lots of plans this past week, quite taxing on the mind, given that I have to instruct at the same time. After all the trials and tribulations I can clearly say that this has been a revelation to me as much as to the students, about the vagaries of running a sailing boat.

And the lesson was in keeping going, and not to yield to the temptation of giving in.

In today's life I get the idea that lots of people just give up a dream, a job, a difficult task. Give in to the temptation of taking it easy. Not swimming against the tide once in a while.

Of course, swimming against the tide all the time is frowned upon all over the world. Rather like being a full time professional rebel. Not a good idea.

We had a burglary on board, the miscreants stealing my purse with all my ID documents, cash, driver's licence and all my skipper's tickets. This cost us half a day for me to conclude the admin at the police station. But the police were on the ball and had retrieved my cellphone before I even knew it was stolen.

Chalk one up for serendipity and being wide awake!

And the boat broke, as sail boats do from time to time. In this case, the starter motor/ Bendix assembly broke. Which meant that we could not start the engine.


And we were out at sea. How do you get back into a harbour with no engine and with two bridges that have to open to get you into the marina?

But the real lesson came to my students, when they had to sail the boat on their own while I was ducking into the bilges and engine compartment to help them sort out the stuff that went wrong. Even though they may not realise this even today, they had a mind shift to independent thinking. Taking charge for real. Brought on by the mishaps on board.

A lesson that I cannot possibly organise on my own.

And somehow I think the lesson also pertains to me as well. Experience is always a good thing. Especially when you feel it on your own backside, so to speak. You are never to old to learn, says the adage.

And we had some romantic times, the students and I. Romantic as in the Romanesque way. Or as the Romans would have done it. On a real schooner, sailing into the sunset, then helping with the stowing of the sails and general ship's husbandry. Something else, out of the ordinary.

And in style. Grand style if you wish.

And a positive mindset, hopefully for all, at the end of the week.

May we live in interesting times forever!

Authored by Johan Zietsman.

Images by Samsung S4. My camera was also stolen.

Last updated on 2014-01-26

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