Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Toast To My Captain

Picture of Fred
Here’s to you, Fred. Your wisdom has been passed to thousands of students. A few of them might match your intellect, but I doubt any of us could measure up. You taught chemistry, biology, sailing, woodworking, engineering, metallurgy, machine shop, engine repair, boat building, epoxy impregnated fiberglass construction, celestial navigation… the list goes on. And all of that was just to me! How long a list would we create if all your students were polled? You taught me subjects which I was explaining to you. Your probing questions and insightful mind made me think deeply about my own field. Your curiosity was infectious. We are all better for having been your students.

What patience you had! To teach teenagers navigation on long sails. To insist we could not leave the dock until everyone could tie a bowline behind their back. To clean up the mess and fix the mistakes as we learned. I am still amazed that you would allow us to take the helm while you slept. Your trust and acceptance of our failures is the example I hold myself to as I teach others what I know. Oh, not that your growl was never heard! You were quick to correct. The snarl of the Captain kept us striving for perfection. But, after the growl came the gruff order to “try again, Laddie”. Your satisfaction when we got it right was the best reward.

You taught me to be prepared. You always had the spare part or the material to make it. The clutter in your shop and garage was the result. In that clutter, you could find the exact piece you remembered saving five years ago. How did you do that? I believe there are enough spare parts on Hekla to rebuild her should she ever break on some remote shore. The boat yard may not understand, but all of us who saw you pull the proper fitting from the bilge learned a lesson.

From you I learned not to fight the storm. The storm will always win. Secure your lines, shorten your sails and wait. The storm will pass and the world will settle down. There is no reason to batter yourself and your boat trying to maintain speed. Have patience, Boyo. Just slow down. You taught it is not failure to heave to for awhile, it is wisdom. I still fight the impulse to push too hard, but when I do, I hear your voice.

Thank you, Fred. I can never repay all you gave me. I can only try to pass to others the lessons you taught. Your storms are behind you. I wish you clear skies, fair winds and deep water. I learn from you still.

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