Recently, I wrote about deliveries of yachts and it brought back lots of memories. I also started thinking about enthusiasm and attitude, which led me to thinking about someone I haven’t seen or heard from in more than 25 years.
Early in my captain career, I was fortunate enough to get hooked up with the north/south delivery seasons along the U.S. East Coast. Owners in the northeast wanted their boats south in the fall and brought back up north in spring. I would get the jobs and then have to find some help to move the boats.
I was delivering mostly sailing yachts in those days so I always tried to find someone with a little experience. I had found that first timers offshore don’t always work out. The level of skill and experience varied among my delivery crew, as did the personalities. There were definitely some characters drawn to this kind of adventure. One was to become a main character for a year or two; I called him New York Don.
New York Don grew up just outside the city and had that strong New York accent going on. (I also had a sailor friend named Don so to keep them clear when talking to others, “New York Don” stuck.)
When I first met him, he had come down the dock to an old hulk of a schooner I was running day sails with out of Greenport, Long Island. He looked a little rough with a cigarette hanging from his mouth and a beer can in hand.
He hopped on for the two-hour sail and immediately engaged with me. He was a talker. He picked my brain about boats and sailing. He told me he had spent a couple of years in the Navy and just loved being out on the open ocean. As his was our last trip of the day, he hung around drinking beers, smoking cigarettes and telling stories as the crew and I put the boat to bed. I would definitely put him in the “piece of work” category.
We talked a little more about sailing and when I mentioned deliveries his eyes lit up. He wanted to know all about it and gave me his number to call him if I ever needed crew.
After that first meeting, I honestly didn’t think he would be at the top of my list. He kind of had three strikes against him for delivery work: he smoked too much, he drank too much, and he talked too much.
But I must admit, there was something about his enthusiasm.
Well, a delivery came my way and after a couple people fell through, with some reservation, I called New York Don. He was ecstatic. I recall being a bit uneasy. We talked about the details and I set some ground rules about the smoking and drinking. I felt I was just going to have to deal with the talking. It was just going to be the two of us on a 40-foot sloop from New York to Ft. Lauderdale, so I coached him on procedures and the next day, we were off.
I admit, the first couple of days I found him a bit annoying at times but he was a quick learner and the trip was completed without incident. I discovered he could hold a course, was always ready for his watch and actually got less annoying and more entertaining as I got to know him better.
We ended up doing two other deliveries the following year. We sailed in some tough conditions and he always held his own. I remember telling a friend about something he did that irritated me and the friend asked, “Why do you take this guy on these deliveries?”
Without hesitating I replied, “Because he loves it.”
In reflection, I think his enthusiasm reminded me to love it as well. Enthusiasm and a good attitude can be contagious, and it’s not a bad thing to catch, whereas negativity and a bad attitude are like a disease. They can spread and infect a crew like a bad flu.
The root of this word enthusiasm is quite interesting. It comes from the Greek en theos meaning inspired by the gods.
In other words, when you display great enthusiasm for something, you are putting out an energy that seems to come from a greater force or possibly just that powerful force deep within us all. Harness this, use this. It can be one of the greatest tools in the human tool kit.
Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach (www.yachtcrewcoach.com). Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.