I have been helping for the second time this year aboard the YWAM vessel Next Wave due to their shortage of qualified crew in Sicily. As an ‘extra’ I switch from one role to another. There are many good points about Next Wave but also some shortfalls in leadership and team building. These have become more apparent as I compare her with other vessels I have been on. There is an atmosphere that change and renewal is necessary for the future. I and others hope to be involved in formulating this.
I have been asked to return to Soteria by a good friend who is to manage Soteria on behalf of the owner with a marina owner and the owner of a water-sports centre. The owner will leave the boat permanently. We have a meeting next month in Ireland to discuss the future program and comprehensive renovation.
Since leaving YWAM Soteria recently I am resting and recuperating before seeking a new position next year. I certainly overdid it (again) and need to learn to regulate my work commitments! [Just like Brian Sloan needs to!]. I only realised it after stopping work because only then did it hit me (hard!) with exhaustion.
It is possible I may return to Soteria if she sells but she is not for sale at the moment. One prospective buyer who sailed on her with me says he has the finances to renovate her properly before taking guests. I also have friends who have bought classic vessels recently so may join them. It is possible I may return to Greece possibly connected with Hellenic Ministries whom I met again on Next Wave in Piraeus earlier in the year.
I have tended to concentrate on vessels fully supported by the guest crew who come on board (usually for a holiday) with or without bursary funding. However I might consider funding by trusts or with corporate support providing we had the fund raisers to keep this going. One thing highlighted by Soteria is the severe strain of ‘going it alone’ without any qualified support – no good at all without a team!
It all depends on who is available and their experience and contacts.
Everyone acknowledges that although one can select the most suitably qualified and experienced staff when they are being paid, with full time volunteers one has to accept those few who offer.
The challenge is then to integrate them into the most appropriate sphere of work for them with sufficient supervision and a load that helps the mission without over-stressing them. I try to obtain a balance of serving the crew as individuals and serving the mission so that it does not fail. Flexibility is key dealing with those from very differing backgrounds.
With people who have never worked in their lives before, obviously this can be a challenge. It is natural for people to selfishly seek what they can get out of it rather than concentrate on how they can help the mission which exists to help others. Those who come with totally unrealistic expectations can have their hopes dashed! Those who believe that being aboard a yacht means a life of sipping Martinis on the aft deck may be disappointed!
It is common for those coming on board for the first time to be surprised at just how much physical work is entailed in raising and setting sail on a traditionally rigged vessel. Then when I explain that one normally spends far more time on any boat maintaining and repairing than sailing, it can be a shock.
Sometimes when struggling one may wonder if one is really on the right path. However when the benefits to those in need are seen, it makes it all worthwhile. When one sees miracles happen, the efforts are justified! In the midst of strife can be the assurance that it is dramatically changing people lives!
Upon my return to Soteria at the end of March it was such a mess with almost total lack of progress I had to plan very carefully to see what could be done. My initial reaction was to give up and just walk away.
However by working such long hours that I did not even have enough time to sleep I just managed to make the vessel shipshape. Each day was a struggle not knowing if I would get enough help for those items that could not be done on my own. By a series of miracles materials were obtained at incredibly low prices and the most essential work completed. Many volunteers helped at just the right moment. The main mast was removed for survey and some new rigging installed. 2 feet longer and Soteria would not have been able to enter the lifting dock!
There was an extreme lack of funding, people to help and time. The biggest crisis since I have been on Soteria.
Thereafter we sailed to the Irish Maritime Festival Tours via Walney Island where we saw a seal colony. Each city requested the option of the pirate pageant to entertain the public crowds complete with working cannons. – See photos on our website or Facebook page! www.schoonersote.org.uk The Festival income enabled loans to be repaid.
Then 2 new crew arrived: Paula and Derek, a Christian couple with a long term vision to help afloat. Qualified too! This has been such a blessing to have permanent crew. Our biggest shortfall has always been in permanent core staff. Now we just need to find those crucial staff needed to work ashore.
After the Festivals we dried out in Carlingford harbour where miraculously Peter came with his pressure washer to clean Soteria’s bottom. What a help he was just when needed!
Then we sailed up the canal to Newry. What helpful and friendly people we found there right from the start! Actually the Mayor (even with no experience) helmed most of the way up the canal with ease.
Then we started sailing to The Canaries. Unfortunately during a squall in St Georges Channel one night the Main boom and Fore gaff broke. We replaced these in Fowey with much stronger versions in knot-free seasoned Douglas Fir.
We have frequently been assisted during critical crew shortages by an Irish gentleman named Damien. He helped us sail back to Newry where we will only resume our passage to The Canaries after obtaining more bookings – essential to cover our costs!
On the surface people might think that as a captain I navigate a sailing ship from A to B having prepared the vessel with fuel, food, water, maintenance and repairs; that I teach trainees everything to do with being a full crew member on an ocean going voyage or coastal sail.
But underneath what I am really doing is team building to create relationships where trust is built to work closely together and so that people may trust to share their darkest secrets from the depths of their soul. In short I am changing lives for the better sometimes very dramatically. When people are free of constraining baggage built up from their past, they can share openly and readily face a new future.
In more recent years my role has become more of a consultant advising ship owners and managers how to set up new sail-training missions, help them decide on their target clients or how to find funding or to expand existing missions and solve problems including avoiding dangers or risking possible disasters.
It is important that managers feel free to choose their options even if this is against my advice provided they take responsibility for the outcome. There is nothing worse than someone else’s decision causing trouble which I must resolve. However I would still support them as best I can (but may reserve the right to say ‘I told you so‘ when it all goes wrong!).
One seemingly common problem today is that when a person makes a mistake the resulting disapproval is interpreted as ‘offensive’ or even ‘hate’. They have great difficulty separating what they do from who they are. This creates all sorts of problems and antagonism including attacks on Freedom of Speech.
One helpful analogy is when a father advises or disciplines his son. The father’s motivation is because he loves his son and does not want him to do something stupid, dangerous or risking a disaster. This is not ‘hate’ but love.