For more than 30 years I have been booking students – singles, couples and entire families, for sail and power boating classes at our School. As I watched students work with their instructors something occurred to me about the life lessons that boating can teach us.
As I overheard the instructors talking to their students about docking, chart reading, anchoring or the proper use of the marine radio I often heard them say things like, “plan ahead,” “communicate,” “be responsible,” “show respect” and “be prepared.”
Now, as a former Human Resource Manager with experience with various corporate management training programs I am familiar with those “How to Succeed in Life” seminars. The programs always went something like this: set goals, prepare and practice your skills, challenge yourself, be a team player, have a positive attitude and enjoy what you do.
As I thought about it, I became even more convinced that the lessons we need to learn in order to lead a successful like are the same lessons that we teach our boating school students to prepare them to be competent and considerate skippers. And vice versa. There may be other recreations that teach some of the same skills. Flying is one that comes to mind. However, I can’t think of too many that combine all of the skills so thoroughly.
I have actually seen the “life skills” theory work with real students of ours. One family came for a six-day trawler training class with their two teenage children. The instructor praised them for their dedication to learning the skills required to handle the boat as well as how well they worked together as a team. For their part, the students enjoyed working toward a common goal. They were planning to purchase a boat in a year or two so they wanted to be sure that everyone would work well together on board. The parents were especially proud of how well their teens listened to the instructor, completed the tasks and showed responsibility during the experience. Plus, everyone had a great time, too!
Another family chose to learn to sail in a five day live-on-board training program. The two young adult children, who admitted that they weren’t great students when they were in school took to sailing like the proverbial fish to water. While they would hardly sit still for one of those “lead a successful life” seminars, they showed patience and determination as they mastered sail trim and docking skills according to the Captain.
According to Mom, before signing up for the class they weren’t sure if they could all get along in a small space like a sailboat. Much to her surprise, not only did they survive, but they had a great time, learned a lot and passed with flying colors. Not only that, but she also observed her sons taking responsibility, meeting challenges, being successful and having fun. Sounds like a they passed the class in “life skills” as well as sailing!
No matter how long you have been a boater, what kind of vessel you have or where you have cruised, as you have gained more experience on board you have hopefully become a better person. That is a “life-success seminar” that is worth any price.
Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters, and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, 6095 Silver King Blvd, Cape Coral, FL 33914. Barb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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