Sunday, February 8, 2009

Strange Last Voyage

I was going to write about ice dams today but as timely as this subject is around New England, I thought it might be a bit boring for people outside of New England. The truth is, I am so anxious to get out on the local ponds to start largemouth fishing again. I have had several invitations to go ice-fishing now that we have 8 inches of ice to stand on. After hearing of the Lake Erie ice tragedy yesterday I am not too sure I will be ice-fishing any time soon. The fishing part sounds fun but the thought of not being able to feel my extremeties has little appeal to me and the only thing I am likely to catch is a cold.

I have never owned my own boat (except a 13 foot canoe) so I cannot truly appreciate what goes into owning a boat, caring for it, the navigation tricks and the cost of ownership. This has not kept me from reading some good books related to boats and sailing. Wooden Boats by Michael Ruhlman was a gem and The Last Navigator by Steve Thomas (yes the same person who hosted This Old House for years) had me fascinated with how ancient sailors could navigate at night with nothing more than the stars and wind and no compasses or charts. My senior production manager at Meadowview Construction has always had a fascination with wooden boats and when I first hired Dan he was in the middle of hand-building a cedar/mahogany sea kayak which is a work of art. His love of wooden boats progressed to a larger wooden boat built in the 1960's complete with original trailer, outboard and fish finder. Some day I would like to build my own wooden boat and now that we have the shop space I have no excuses.

Last week I just finished a good read titled The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst at the suggestion of one of my favorite clients and it certainly got me thinking. In 1968, Donald Crowhurst set out from England in his untested trimaran, a competitor in the first singlehanded nonstop around-the-world sailboat race. Eight months later, the boat was found in mid-Atlantic with no one on board. Crowhurst's logs and diaries revealed that, although he had radioed messages from his supposed round-the-world course, he had in fact never left the Atlantic. What he did was hide in the South Atlantic to avoid the main shipping lanes in order to keep from being exposed. The voyage started out with the best of intentions and confidence as Crowhurst thought he prepared to handle what was ahead of him only to find out that he grossly miscalculated. I see many parallels with Crowhurst's story and today's business economic climate. It seems that there are many businesses today sailing in circles out in the South Atlantic trying to weather the storm until it is safe to head back to the home port. Survival is on every business owners' minds today. I wonder if some of us would be better off radioing in for help every now and then instead of circling around with our ragged sails trying to JUST survive. I am most certain that Crowhurst had wished he'd turned back when he discovered that he made a mistake. Instead he continued forward, his lies getting bigger and bigger, and struggled with his dishonesty the remainder of the voyage. Ultimately he and his family both paid the price as he deprived his family the chance to share the rest of their life with him. Don't be afraid to ask for help with your strange voyage.

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