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Ocean cruising can be one of the most miserable and enjoyable sports in the world. We cuss ourselves for deliberately sailing off and becoming sick during bad weather. Once back in port, we will do it again. Why? First there is a satisfaction of achievement. Doing what others can't do seems to give us an inter strength that makes us walk taller with "I can do it" feeling. Second, it develops our self-confidence. The more confident we become the more we can do. The walls of resistance that are built around us, start to crumble.
One summer I help take 14 teenagers from Panama to New York on a 55 foot Gaff Rig Schooner, Chief Aptakisic. At the end of the three month voyage those teenagers became highly self-confident and ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. Among the crew, one girl was extremely shy and would not talk to anyone. Her parents sent her to a sea going high school for one year. The summer she joined us she had a totally different personality. Very social and was able to lead in any conversation. The sea creates opportunity where people can discover themselves.
Ocean cruising people have learned how to manage their lives, including relationships and money. Requirements are: A boat that is paid for, extra money, and no obligations back home. To fulfill theses requirements we have to develop healthy work habits. These habits can not start and stop if we like the job/boss or not, they must become a part of us. We put out our maximum no mater what our feeling are toward the job or people we work with. Developing sound work habits will put us on the road to achieving our goals. This is attitude management and this is where winners start.
Learning to manage our personal affairs may take time because bad habits need to be broken. This is not always easy to do. Seeking opportunity is slow at first, but persistent will speed things up. Start with your cash flow, give yourself a 10% raise by destroying credit cards and pay cash for everything. Opportunities come faster to people who are not in debt and have some cash in the bank. This would be your first goal, get out of debt.
Become a winner and people want to know you. Winners have choices of jobs, people they want to work with and have greater opportunity, including ocean cruising. Your self-esteem is riding high which brings on greater opportunity. Money is no longer a hindrance to winners, because they learned how to manage what they have. Freedom to make choices allows us to feel good about our achievements.
Sailing families have often been asked to justify the logic of "taking their kids ocean cruising when they really ought to be in a land base school." Some educators consider taking kids to sea as irresponsibility. It’s easy to understand the concern. The general public, even casual recreational boaters, tend to view boating as a recreational activity. Ocean sailing is more than recreation, it is a learning platform, observation post, a transportation systems for awareness, and as delivery systems for understanding. All crew members, young and old alike, learn to take responsibility for the ship, for learning how to work it, for shipmates, and ultimately for themselves. They learn to trust themselves as well as others.
Ocean sailing is an educational opportunity that has rich potential for the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are difficult to teach in the confines of the classroom. The sailing vessel is opportunity first followed by training. It is notably effective for people who cannot cope well with the demands of society and are at risk of abandoning the search for a successful and productive life. Such people often see themselves as being rejected from the mainstream of society. Ocean sailing reverse these tendencies. The sailing experience challenges the conventional school curriculum. In this real-world classroom, science, mathematics, physics, biology, geography, history, literature, and even poetry suddenly have purpose and meaning.
The sailing vessel also provide a forum in which crew members learn many disciplines not easily conveyed in the classroom. One example is problem solving. Even the most successful teachers will tell you that while it is relatively simple to teach about problem solving skills, it is very difficult to teach skillful problem solving, even to bright, eager, enthusiastic students in well equipped classrooms. And yet acquiring these skills is commonplace, if not inevitable, on board a sailing vessel. Ocean sailing presents real problems, that require real solutions, that can’t be ignored. At sea, the results of the crews decisions are experienced immediately.
Sailing is an environment that must be operated with both mind and muscle. Some of the tasks, such as raising sails, require a coordinated team effort, physically pulling together, whereas other tasks, such as steering the vessel, may only be done by one person at a time, acting alone yet in concert with the whole ship. The rules under which these systems function are both simple and demanding. They are not the rules of the teacher or the school board or the government, but rather, rules of nature. Nature’s laws demands respect, honesty, and right decisions. Learning to handle a ship at sea replaces ignorance, ineptitude, and fear.
When under way, there is the never-ending task of learning how the interaction of the vessel reacts with fluid dynamics, the atmosphere, and the ocean. The crew becomes comfortable with cause and effect, as well as sequencing, persistence, endurance, patience, and courage; all of which are very difficult traits to teach in a classroom.
Much is said about the importance of self-esteem. Without a doubt, strong positive self-esteem is essential for personal maturity. Many remedies for low self-esteem have been offered. Most of these, if properly applied, do have some positive effect. However, the bottom line seems to be that positive self-esteem comes from knowing that we can do something that not everyone else can do and that we can do it well. It’s not just learning to sail, it’s what we learn from sailing.
A ship is a microcosm of the world ashore, a classroom, and a disciplinary learning machine. For many people, learning and applying the maritime "rules of the road" is their first exposure to a system of regulations that are necessary, logical, beneficial, fair, and uniformly applied to everyone. Learning navigation and piloting is not only important for math and map reading skills, but when did you learn to weigh the options, select a destination, figure out how to get there safely and efficiently, and then do it? Nature will punish the ship and its crew for bad decisions. Also, there is no way to cheat, lie, or take short-cuts, nature does not allow its laws to be broken without a penalty.
"Knowing that we can do something that not everyone else can do" requires risk. Our society has the opinion that no one should be put at risk. That tasks or products should be 100% safe and free of responsibility. The fact is, loss of responsibility robs us of our self-esteem, then we seek more protection from government and society. At sea there is no help from the outside world when problems arise. Blaming problems on nature or other people solves nothing. Problem solving and survival is totally depended on the crew’s ability to work with nature. Assuming responsibility and winning over great odds builds self-esteem and the feeling "we can do it."
Now just where does all of this fit in with self-education? Is it math or geography, commerce, science, economics, history or all of these disciplines? The answer of course is that it is education in the round, not just schooling. The sailing vessel is an ideal platform for the study of our planet and the human interaction with and within it.
While sailing, it is common to see gulls, terns, pelicans, cormorants, grebes and other sea birds feeding. Offshore we encounter more species of birds, porpoise, sharks, pilot whales, and jelly fish. The list is endless and different everyday.
To be surrounded by such wildlife, while in close proximity to human enterprises such as commercial fishing, sport fishing, manufacturing, cargo handling, bunkering, research vessels, pleasure boating, and people playing on the beach, is an education in environmental awareness. We soon realize that quality decision making skills are based on the laws of nature. This is a major step in the development of self-educational skills.
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