In the 90s, I wrote an article for the Nightstalker's in-house newsletter (IP Inbound) entitled "Demo Fever." and after it was published a fellow 3rd Herder said to me "I can't believe you wrote that about yourself!"
I told on myself because I realized that if I was thinking and doing these things others might be as well, and perhaps my shared experience might help someone avoid making my mistake. The theme of that article, discussing what happens to your heart, head, and hands when you are doing a flight demonstration, came up again when I revised Demo Fever for Vertical 911 Magazine. That was a story about one of my first flights as a Chinook Pilot-in-Command at Fort Bragg. I almost made history.
All of us understand that we need to learn how to operate a machine, but more of us should understand that we need to learn how to operate people too--most especially ourselves.
The need for honest self-assessment and personal performance-review never leaves us. I am a boat captain now, and the same hard truths that thumped me over the head as a pilot continue to thump me over the head today. Just yesterday I was doing a mid-winter run on my 6-pack boat to charge batteries, circulate fluids, and wash off the bottom. It was windy and cold and I went about a mile from our dock and said to myself, "screw this." I turned around. I was idling under the Highway 80 bridge when the boat thumped under my feet. It sounded like I was running aground over hard stuff.
My brain said to me, "you are in deep water, you can't be running aground!" WTH and WTF?
Being startled, I failed to perform a basic common-sense immediate-action step. PUT ENGINE(S) IN NEUTRAL and PRESS THE UP-TRIM SWITCH! The thumping feeling and sound moved toward the stern and then the idling engine jerked and jumped. A 6 foot-long 2 by 6-inch board rolled out from under the motor and rolled over in my wake. The nails that had once fastened it to someone's dock were sticking out of the ends. My next thought was, "thank God I didn't hit that at speed!"
I stopped the engine and trimmed it all the way up out of the water to check the prop for damage. All good.
So, after-action-review. Yesterday was the aftermath of a very high tide with high winds. Those conditions put more debris in the water, and the "wrack," (floating piles of marsh-grass debris) was everywhere. A tide that flushes out the wrack will flush out other debris too, so take care and expect this. Note to self: If your boat is hitting something underwater as you make way through it, take immediate action to try and prevent damage to the lower unit and propeller.
To train for this: Next time you are standing at your helm at the dock, pretend that you are driving the boat and say to yourself, "we are hitting something!" Practice putting your hand on the throttle and your thumb on the trim switch. Do this a few times to develop muscle memory and set the pattern in your brain.
|There are lots of things hanging out just beneath the surface, |
The opposite of being startled is anticipation. I vote that we anticipate trouble and hope that it never finds us.