Putting Luck & Fear To Bed

This was written for one of the boating forums. I have posted it here for your enjoyment.

When I write out these stories, they are from the real thing; I am disinclined to use hypothetical ones, where a real story is available. When I made my introduction, some weeks ago, I made it clear, what I do and what my experience was like. So I assume everyone is informed about those assumptions.

No one should assume, that I am as good as I think I am. What I bring to the table is the experience that I have in fact accumulated. In this part of the world, there are a lot of accidents. I have been lucky and wary and methodical, and unlike many of my contemporaries, I have not had a serious accident and I am still alive. One false move and a little less luck, and I would be where they are!

I have no apologies for my tactics. By being open and candid about such things, makes me vulnerable to some criticism. Such tactics as I have come to use are legitimate objects of debate. I take that in stride. Some of my friends had tactics which on the surface were less open to debate and they are not here, to do so. I consider being here, a reasonable trade off. If I blow it good, some night and make the evening news, you will recall that I said that no one is as good as they think they are. I have had crew who have claimed that I am infallible. And I tell them that is their first big mistake, don't make another.

There are no private mistakes aboard ship, for the entire crew will pay for them. I tell them that I make lots of mistakes. The trick isn't in hiding them, but making a plan to prevent them from happening again. The captain's job is to prevent mistakes and to have a plan to extract the ship and crew from any that do happen. This implies everybody watching out for the mistakes of others. Not as a matter of criticism, but just so we won't all expire in a cold sea together.

It is much easier to go to sea, than to put such things into words, so I have made some effort to write them down. Much of it is on my web site, to which I am constantly adding. I could be a lot less outspoken and then many would be deprived of the benefit learning from my wealth of mistakes.

I have 3 sons who I have taught about such things and many other who have crewed. I do have to remind them not to try some of my "stunts", just because they have seen me do something and get away with it. It's perfectly legit to learn from some one else, but don't try to emulate their magic until you know exactly how to do every bit of the magic your self. Ask lots of questions and don't jump to conclusions. The sailors game is a game you can learn, and as you learn each new bit, you get a little more powerful. The trick then is to not reach further than you can grasp, oh maybe just a teeny bit, more. Eventually you will have your own bag of tricks and make magic. Magic is something some one else can do, that you don't know how they do it. But, it's still just magic and if you use your wits instead of your brawn, why you can do anything, anyone else can! The magic is a learned thing.

When I write about something, I try to emphasis things that can be done, because I believe that it's important for others to know what can be done. Often times we learn new things just by watching or knowing someone else figured out how to do it.

And as always, hang on to your caution, and if you aren't sure, then use it, instead of your bravado.
Now, here is something you can sink your teeth into. I carry survival suits for everyone aboard and I don't care about liferafts. Aw, you say, there he goes again with that contrary mind. Everyone knows that liferafts are "de rigour". Ok, I have considered the accidents in this area, especially where I work. And have concluded that a good raft is too big and heavy to carry around and one light enough too, is not good enough. And, any accident I might have would most likely be in an entrance, in a storm, at night. Voila! Survival suits it is. Because a liferaft is useless in the entrances. Watch out, now. I have ammunition to back this up.

Ok, so now you know why the survival suits. BTW, I hear that most delivery captains don't use suits. So let me tell you a little secret. There is a subtle benefit to carrying suits. It has to do with fear. You will hear me mention fear often, because I believe firmly that most decisions made by seaman are based on good old fear. Someone must have told you it was healthy. So here it is.

I have noticed that occasionally when I have to make a decision about going left or right, that fear is driving the decision. What I tell you now is quite hard to put into words. The knowledge that I have the suits makes it easier to make the best decision. It is very difficult to make the meaning I have in my mind, into the words that make the notion visible to others.

The suits lower the fear level. The fear is that you are making a decision that will get everybody else, killed. This fear is not rational, but it is real, but it is not going to happen, so it is -- irrational! The fear can make the best disciplined mind freeze. The suits are the talisman, the rabbit's foot, the lucky charm that makes the fear go away. And if it is so, and you make better decisions, then carrying them is worthwhile; even if it is not true that they will save you!

Stay out of trouble, stay alive.

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