Hey there CGA blog readers. As promised, I said I would write a blog about my coastal sail experience. Coastal Sail is a program with two objectives in my mind. First, we have to learn how to sail a 44-foot sail boat on our own. Second, we have to learn the most difficult type of leadership: leading peers.
The Coastal Sail program is two weeks long. The first few days are spent learning how to set sails, what lines control what, how to moor up to and depart from a dock, and recover a man overboard. Also, we load on all of the food we will need for the voyage. After that, we set sail. The voyage is from the Academy to Block Island, Block Island to Falmouth, Massachusetts, Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket, Nantucket to Hyannis, Hyannis to Woods Hole, Woods Hole to Newport, Newport to Stonington, and Stonington to the Academy. As you can see, we sailed a lot. We pulled into a different port every day, so we never had to sail at night, and we got to see some of every port.
I can’t say I had a favorite port. Every one of them was unique and cool. I’ve been to some of those places before, but seeing the marina side was totally different. I loved walking around the piers, seeing the different types of boats and people. I spent every port call with my buddy doing pretty much the same routine. We go for a run first to get a sense of the scene. Then we would walk around looking for ice cream spots and people watching. After we got ice cream, we would check out the boats, talk about the ones we would want, and imagine a life with enough money to afford some of the gigantic yachts we would see. I had a ton of fun in port, and my “routine” is a little bit of an oversimplification, but it makes the point.
My true passion during the trip was sailing. I had never sailed before Coastal Sail but I developed a passion for it. I didn’t learn everything there was to know about sailing a boat by the end, but I learned a ton. My passion underway was below decks doing navigation. I liked trying to figure out the optimal course to make us go faster, while trying to keep us in the relative direction we wanted to be going. My most memorable experience underway was sailing from Hyannis to Woods Hole. We were in 20 knots of wind and high seas. Everyone that went below decks was getting sea sick from the rolls, and we were heeled over almost thirty degrees. I spent about three to four hours below deck making sure we weren’t going to run aground, because we were transiting through a lot of shallow water, and with the wind and rolls it was hard to stay on course. It was a rough day. I have no idea how I didn’t get sea sick. But, we ended up making it safely to Woods Hole, so I felt like my efforts were worth it.
My leadership developed even more during coastal sail. I had two main lesson learned. First, leadership can be simplified down to accomplishing the mission and motivating people. Most people can tell someone else to do something that needs to be done, but that is only half of leadership. The other half is people. You have to be able to motivate people to want to do their job, and you have to take care of your people. If you can accomplish the mission and if you can figure out how to motivate your people, you will be a great leader. The second lesson I learned was more about what attributes people use to lead. For instance, one of my friends on my boat came into the program knowing how to sail. He had what is called expert power. His knowledge of sailing helped him to lead the rest of us because we didn’t know what we were doing for the first few days. Even after that, we still looked to him for his advice on specific sailing maneuvers. There are many other types of leadership. I’ve seen good leaders and I’ve seen bad leaders. As a result, I’ve tried to make myself the best leader I can be by reading books and reflecting on my experiences.
In the end, I loved Coastal Sail. I had a ton of fun, and I learned a lot. I would go again in a second. Looking back over the whole summer, I grew tremendously. That is a testament to the Academy as a 200-week leadership development program – it really works.
More about Hunter.