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Oceano - Log Day 11 - Oh captain, my captain

Oh captain, my captain

When me and my husband, Mateusz Kubik ( Oceano’s skipper ) met he was going through a series of exams that would enable him to become an RYA Yachtmaster Ocean. I knew I was in for a sailing life - what I didn’t know at the time was how would it start. Before I met Matt my only sailing experience was a reluctant presence on the board of my dad’s old little boat which he would take on the weekends for nearby lakes. I was a bored teenager, who wanted to listen to Nirvana in the dark of my room. Dad wanted to show me joy that comes from being outside in nature, working, talking. I wanted to hide in the club lights with my eyes shut.

When my fiancee invited me to cross the Atlantic with him and some friends I said „yes” very quickly, so I could not change my mind without feeling guilt. I wanted to start anew with this whole sailing experience. And I think that it was thanks to the decision to stay ignorant I managed not to get nervous. I was crossing the Atlantic, and so what? Why were people so anxious about it? I didn’t know a thing so I just went with it. And I couldn’t have been more hooked.

Of course, when we finally arrived to Le Marin in Martinique, I knew that I had a lot, really - a lot to learn - but I’ve already had the secret ingredient. I’ve seen how it can feel when you’re at ease with ocean sailing, when you know exactly what to do and when. When you are a captain.

But up from this very first voyage I’ve also had a lot of questions about attitude towards the crew they captains are in charge of. Matt, this gentle guy I knew transformed into a yelling dictator who didn’t care about our feelings at all. It was a Dr.Jackyll/ Mr.Hyde situation.
Of course, I was a nightmare - being a beginner, my reflex wasn’t perfect, sometimes I froze like a rabbit in the headlights, sometimes I panicked. I needed patience and education. My fiancee and captain had none of both. When he yelled at me, I took it personally. He on the other hand explained that is how things roll here, there is no time for explaining, no democracy, only hierarchal order and well-oiled actions.

Years has passed and now I see that he was wrong and right at the same time. He was right because there are times that you just really have to deliver without any question. But usually it is better that you deliver because you understand and don’t have to be yelled at in a way that makes you think about mobbing. I think that my husband has also understood that his social skills need to be better. Besides just handling the boat, people want a story, they want to share the experience, they want to know the vessel, they want to get better, do better, feel seen and needed. Yelling is not helping. So is not just leaving them alone and calling only when there’s and emergency, because that is a sure way to have them scared and making mistakes.

Captain shouldn’t be a separate entity on the boat. Of course, he is responsible for the safety and so - way more than anyone else enveloped in analyzing data, the boat performance etc. But captain whose the boat’s captain and not the people’s captain in not someone you respect or can learn from. He can deliver a yacht or a few clients from one place to another, yes. But will he be remembered? Will he be recommended? I don’t think so.

Of course, thank heavens, captain’s have chiefs, and I’ve had my share being one and I have seen a lot of them. For Matt, this is the first and usually the only person he consults decisions with and he can crack jokes with. As I mentioned, he grew more democratic, but only in a sense he lets everyone speak their mind and then he’s making his own decision. The only one who can really influence is the chief, though he is often told off and sent to do most of the job while captain is observing the result. As we’re often ( as we are now too ) sailing with friends, so the chief and the captain are usually close and that creates a great soap opera for the crew to watch. Oh, the discussions they have! Better than Netflix. And if captain is not ready to explain - in my opinion the chief usually is.

Everyone’s probably seen this scene in „Dead Poets Society” when all students are standing on their desks to show respect to their beloved teacher that showed them not only how to love the English language, but also how to live their lives to the fullest. They called him „o Captain, my captain”, a line taken out of classical American poem, showing the professor that he’s the one they pledge allegiance to.

I don’t expect a yacht captain, a skipper, to show me how to live, but I do expect them to love sailing and show it to me, show me how it is making them understand life, live more fully. Like the teacher from this cult coming-of-age movie presented the joy of being alive through literature, a captain should show it with the way he sails. So I would want more. And more. And carpe every diem.


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