Whale Whacking

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I know. I know.

Most of you are probably thinking I meant to say “Whale Watching.”

This is the correct title. Let me explain.

My sailboat, Kayleigh, is in a charter fleet at my sailing club. The club charters Kayleigh to club members when I’m not there. Chartering offsets my cost, and the club maintains my boat and keeps it secure when I’m away.

A few weeks back, Kayleigh was chartered and sailing by the Coronado Bay Bridge. Suddenly, a whale surfaced in front of the boat. The skipper had no time to react, and the boat collided with the whale.

See… whale whacking.

The skipper immediately reported the incident to the Coast Guard. They dispatched a diving team from Sea World to check on the whale, who also had a calf with it. Fortunately, the whale and calf were both fine. Kayleigh was also fine, with the exception of a bit of bottom paint scraped off the leading edge of her keel.

The skipper, in this case, was faced with a completely unexpected obstacle.

All leaders face unexpected obstacles. What happens when they present themselves? How do we handle them?

Here are a few thoughts.

Stay Calm and Assess – Take a deep breath and maintain your composure. Evaluate the obstacle objectively to understand its impact. In this case, the skipper remained calm and immediately reported the incident.

Gather Information – Next, the skipper gathered all available information. They couldn’t help the whale, but after reporting it they attended to the condition of the boat, at least above the surface.

Engage Your Crew – Share the situation with your team and encourage open communication. When something like this happens on the water, your crew needs to be informed and to be on the lookout jointly for damage. The immediate risk, of course, is taking on water or losing your ability to navigate the boat safely.

Adapt and Pivot – Unexpected obstacles are – well, just that – unexpected. Be prepared to change course and adjust your plans. In this case, safety was the immediate concern and all hands responded accordingly. It certainly wasn’t what the crew had planned for a nice day on the water, but they adjusted and did what was needed.

Prioritize and Focus – Identify the critical elements and prioritize them based on their importance and urgency. Focus your attention and resources on addressing the most crucial aspects first. In this case, the safety of both crew and boat became the immediate focus. After that, safely returning to port was the next item on the agenda.

Seek Expert Advice – Fortunately, in this case, everything was fine. If it wasn’t, however, the skipper would have reached out to experts standing by to help. The Coast Guard and others all have specialized training and knowledge to assist with these kinds of situations. Don’t be shy about reaching out to others in your own situation when necessary.

Communicate Consistently – On the water, your crew is your lifeline. Keep them fully informed and immediately up to date on changing situations. The same rule applies when you are on land and handling whatever crisis it is that may pop up. Your team often plays a vital role in resolving the crisis.

Be Prepared – As the saying goes, “luck is the result of meticulous preparation.” Do your best to plan for contingencies. This gives you a solid foundation and more margin for handling the unexpected when it inevitably pops up. On the boat, we practice safety and other drills.

Leaning in to the unexpected will resolve it most quickly.

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