Southwest Florida Yachts


Boating's Lessons for Successful Living
y Barb Hansen
May  2007

For almost 25 years I’ve been booking students for Florida Sailing & Cruising School. Some time along the way as I watched students work with their instructors something occurred to me. I think it’s important.

Walking along the dock I’d overhear the instructors showing students how to set the anchor properly, how to radio a bridge tender to open the span, how to diagnose an engine problem, or how to back a big wide boat into a tight little slip.

And over and over what I also heard the instructors say were things like “plan ahead,” “accept responsibility,” and “know the rules.”

And what occurred to me was this: They were teaching exactly the same things you would hear if you attended one of those success-in-life seminars. Set goals, they’d say. Prepare, practice, challenge yourself.  Be a team player, accept responsibility, follow the rules. Even, get your sleep. And, importantly, laugh a lot.

So over time I became even more convinced that the big lessons we need to learn to lead a successful life are the very same lessons we need to know to be a successful boater. And vice versa. I’m sure that other recreations require many of the same skills but I can’t think of any except boating that combines all so thoroughly.

My theory got an endorsement of sorts last year when the Harvard family of Roswell, N.M. came to Florida in August to take a six-day live-aboard yacht course and cruise. The students were parents Jeff and Jane and their two adults-in-training, Jeremy, 15, and Julia, 11. Captain Gary Graham, their instructor, said the Harvards were terrific students and applied themselves individually and as team members to make their week aboard successful.

Jeff Harvard said he liked the continuing series of challenges and solving them in a relaxed, non-stressful environment.  Jane told me she liked the adventure of it, the confidence building, and the opportunity for the family to pull together for a common goal.  Of course, this was all music to my ears.

I don’t mean to give all the credit to our boating school.  I believe that boating itself is a good teacher. Capt. Chris Day, another one of our instructors, tells the story of a rich investor in the northeast who lost all his money and took to drinking. His wife made him leave home. A good friend gave him an old sailboat with no sails, just a place to sleep really. Something inspired him to make it move. He went to Wal-Mart and bought some blue tarps with grommets. He put up the mast and his tarps and left Boston, heading south. Along the way he encountered many challenges, all of which he managed to solve. Finally, years later, he arrived in Key West and when he arrived, he was sober. In fact, he had given up drinking entirely.

In the last 23 years we’ve had many students including some tough characters who probably wouldn’t sit still for a life-success seminar but who would bust their fanny to excel at an assigned task from the instructor.

Our liveaboard school is about better sailing and cruising, and not about leading a successful life, but whether students make the connection or not, learning to operate a yacht can be like the honey that helps the medicine go down. 

I like to think that all of our boating school students return to their various worlds better people as well as better boaters.

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Southwest Florida Yachts
3444 Marinatown Lane N.W. • North Fort Myers • Florida 33903
(239) 656-1339 (800) 262-7939 Fax (239) 656-2628

Marinatown Marina 26° 38.5'N 81° 53.0'W
Burnt Store Marina 26° 45.71' N 82° 04.20'W

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