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Compass Rose

The Horizon

Years ago, I was giving a talk at business meeting in London and I began by talking about the choices we make in our lives.  One of my choices was to live my life here in Mallorca.  I mentioned that I had a boat here and whenever I took her out, I always pointed her toward the same direction.  I then took a flip chart and drew a rough map of the island and parts of the Mediterranean.  I said that from where my boat was moored in Port Andratx, if I sailed pretty much due west, I could go to Valencia.  I went on for a minute about how lovely Valencia was, of course.  I then said that if I sailed north, I could tie up in one of the marinas of Barcelona.  Yes, I did go on about Barcelona as well.  Next, I talked about sailing north-east, and stopping in Monaco or possibly the sleepy little harbour at Villefranch-sur-Mer.  If I would go east, I would, be able to go to Ostia, on the edge of Rome (after slipping between Corsica and Sardinia of course).  Yes, I most certainly rabbited on about Italian food and cafés.  I then carried on talking about sailing southeast and be able to pop over to Monastir in Tunisia; or going pretty much due south to Algeria; and even going southwest, where Gibraltar was the gateway to the Atlantic and the rest of the world.  For each one of these destinations, I go on about all the wonderful things to do or see there. I also said that to me, it was pretty great to be able to have all these destinations near Mallorca, and yet, after being here for many years, I realised that each time that I sailed out of Port Andratx, I always pointed my sailboat in the same direction.

Just to clarify, I do know how to navigate with a compass, or with some hi-tech GPS system.  Hell, years ago, I even learnt how to use a sextant, so I don’t have some navigation deficiency.  My sailboat wasn’t anything magically special either. It didn’t have a switch on it that would enable me to visit all these pretty special places but stay on the same heading all the time.  And to top it off, I was not born with an ability to gesture hypnotically and cause places around the Mediterranean to come together in one spot as if drawn there by a massively powerful magnet.  One might think that always sailing toward the same direction and yet being able to stop in places on just about every compass point is a real conundrum, but the answer is really easy.  The reason that I was able to always sail in the same direction was that I always headed toward the horizon.

Being crew on a yacht, or super-yacht, or even mega-yacht, is kind of like this.  You aren’t always sitting in some port waiting for a break in the weather; or for some random mechanical part to arrive; or for the owner to finally arrive.  But the reality is that more likely than not, you spend more time in a port than you do anchoring out in some mind-boggling-beautiful lagoon in front of a seductively magical island that few ever get to see.  And yet, when you are away from a port, you do get to go to some pretty cool places probably, and you get to see some very special things.

The challenge…your challenge…is to distinguish between a mind-set of thinking that being someplace is better or worse than going someplace.  You can try to convince yourself that one is better than the other, but truth-be-told, it really won’t change anything.  You are crew, and it really isn’t your decision when or where to go.  What is your decision is how to deal with the decisions of others make about when you go someplace and where you might be going.  Your choices are: A) accept the decision of the Captain or owner but silently wish it were a different decision; B) really dislike the decision, and rue the day you took the job on the boat; or C) make the conscious choice to be happy with the knowledge that you have a position on a boat and a life that many only can dream about.  Like I said in my London talk years ago, life is full of choices.  The choices we make will determine how we deal with that life.

By Dr James B Rieley



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