Keeping with a Donald-Fagen-Is-Tired-Of-Your-Coachella-Bullshit style, I thought I’d wrap a few thoughts up with some pretty pictures (or not) and give a downground report on the most recent sailing adventure me and sixteen others did on two sailing catamarans in the British Virgin Islands earlier this month, a trip planned over nearly two years to be a much-needed mental mid-way break doing this crazy Indie (now Indie + day job) thing I knew I was getting into.
And, it turned out to provide some pretty useful lessons on management and leadership.
Dan Cordell, our doughty 2nd captain, has a thorough play-by-play with beautiful pictures on his Wing on Wing blog if you’d like to check it out. For those of you that are still here (I’m imagining Banquet Room 2 at the Greater Charlottesville Best Western Value Xpress), I’m going to jump right in – it’s going to be a multi-parter.
Yes, I know the coffee’s out back there. You don’t have to keep turning your cup upside down and looking at me like I can refill it from here.
They’ll bring some fresh stuff in a few minutes. Probably.
On Divine Intervention
I don’t know if it’s the gravity of traveling with a group of seventeen people or whether it’s Doc Filthy’s Patented Painkillers, but when you get the last mooring ball in the cove more than once, when everything that breaks on your boat ends up in the “we can live without it” column, and when you catch your final flight home by the grace of a minute-and-a-half, you tend to take a second (and a second drink) and wonder if all those songs had it right – maybe somebody up there likes me.
And it’s really us. For the first time, we’ve got two boats. I’ve got to hand it to Captain Dan on this one; he squeaked in that Voyage 500 to the Bitter End Yacht Club just dutch and nobody but nobody does that on Try One. Except Dan. I knew I picked the right guy.
Napoleon said – give me a general who’s lucky. He said that in French. Exercise for the reader. Like I’ve said before, leadership is about a bunch of ridiculous management bullshit but it’s also about attracting luck. In fact, I’d take that over someone who can use MS Project (at some point it starts becoming a detriment, if you’re feelin’ me). And luck starts with the right people.
On Values and Vegetables
I think the first germ of a prank was planted when we opened up the reefer and two fat dewy bags of wilted celery came tumbling out. When your crew can visualize a use for celery on a damn boat you know you’ve got some special folks.
She took one look at the worthless vegetables and said: “I’ll sneak it aboard their boat instead.”
Leadership really is about just getting out of the way sometimes, especially when you hear something like that.
I hear it got discovered by Dan’s crew the next morning or some such story. In retrospect I did wonder why she didn’t put it in their ice maker (an ice maker, Jesus – “why, how do you get your ice for yachting, Chet?”), but it was only recently fixed and I didn’t want to have to have anybody write the words “Reason: Celery” on the maintenance log.
It might have been two days later in a fresh breeze, starboard-beaming up to North Gorda Sound, that we saw a pair of blue tartan trunks – somebody’s underwear – flying proudly from our flag halyard.
On The Equation: Boat + Boat = Boat
Competition did something new here, something I hadn’t seen until this cruise, the first with two boats and two crews. People got spry. That gleam of mischief, showing them good-and-proper, whether it’s racing (we lost, a lot – 5 more feet of boat makes a difference), pranks, competitive dinner fixing, hell, I’m sure if we’d had Super Smash Brothers aboard the boat we’d have done a ladder tournament and blown three days of good wind.
I had fun with it, no mistake – but it’s the crew, the group, that really benefits. When you’re willing to sport, you’re willing to support, and before long we had full-on trade between the two boats; unneeded beers on one boat were traded for rum drinks from the other, remaining staples and veggies were combined for a joint dinner, early arrivers at an anchorage scouted and supported for the other boat until they came in at last.
It’s one of those Theory-Y management moments that reaffirms my faith in people, that reminds me why I took the plunge and did all the spreadsheet accounting bullshit for two years to plan this cruise in the first place; because together we do incredible things.
You’re still thinking about the underwear up the halyard, aren’t you.
Well, we got them back. Eight or nine gallon-jugs filled with seawater dangling into the drink on a mooring line from their foredeck makes for an embarrassing sea anchor, a row of nautical “Just Married” tin-cans for their car minus the jingle.
Ah, don’t worry; we wouldn’t have let them leave port with it. “Reason: Water jugs.”
More lessons later, in Part II. Take a bathroom break.
I’ll see what’s up with the coffee.