Dead Heads Happen


1963 Chris Craft Roamer“In a calm sea every man is captain.”  So the saying goes…

What does it mean?

Well, you don’t really discover true leadership until things get rough.  It takes the storms of life to stir up the strength of leaders.  When others withdraw, leaders step up and step in.

We hit a little “storm” recently.

Two buddies and I decided to purchase a boat together.  In Portland, Oregon we found a 1963 36’ Chris Craft Roamer – with a steel hull.  That steel hull is a key component of the story I am about to tell you.

This boat is a gorgeous rebuilt beauty.  Her previous owner lovingly invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into her restoration.  Stunning custom woodwork in the cabin, glorious Honduran mahogany through the bridge and cockpit, new re-manufactured motors, new electrical and wiring – you name it, he did it.

Through a series of unfortunate events the boat ended up in the possession of the bank, from whom we purchased it.  We had it trucked to Blaine, Washington where the plan was to launch the boat and pilot it to the White Rock government dock where we would clear customs, then proceed over 30 nautical miles around Tswwassen and Point Roberts, and up the south arm of the Fraser River to a marina where we would get a little work done, then ship the boat via truck to Kelowna.

The boat arrived safely in Blaine where we were welcomed with 20 knot winds, and 3-4 foot white caps.  What a grand adventure this would be!  We fired up our old/new beauty; she growled wonderfully.  With twin 454 Cu In inboards we powered 20,000 lbs of solid steel through the rough waters with no issues whatsoever.

Customs was clean and quick.

Waves crashing over the bow were no problem.  Our windshield wipers were flawless.

Arriving into the Fraser River we thought the worst was behind us.  Sadly though, the worst was waiting for us.

Even though we were diligent in keeping watch, our best preparations could not spare us from the impending disaster.

At 12 knots per hour, after veering to the starboard to avoid a dead head (floating log), we struck a large unknown object.  Undoubtedly a huge submerged dead head.

I immediately throttled back into neutral, but we couldn’t avoid the calamity that was now upon us.  After smashing into our bow the log spun under the starboard side of the hull and now ran parallel like a battering ram under the hull destroying our starboard prop shaft, strut and propeller before grazing the rudder and spitting out the stern of the boat.

We were sickened and in shock with what had just happened.  What just happened?  Were we dreaming this?

Regrouping I engaged the right side prop and immediately heard crunching and grinding.  I shut the engine down.  Gingerly engaging the port engine we were incredibly relieved to see our port side escaped unscathed.  We proceeded up river at half speed on one engine.

Our steel hull saved us from taking on water and perhaps sinking.

What happened could not be avoided: dead heads happen.

Yes, we were watching – this one was submerged.  Sometimes you just can’t avoid calamity.

Leadership is like that.  We can plan.  We can strategize.  We can create contingencies.  But, sometimes dead heads just happen.  Out of nowhere something occurs that is beyond our control, and we have to deal with it.

Have you hit a dead head?  Has something happened in your life or leadership that was beyond your control?  Maybe you’re still in the shock of it.

Remember, in a calm sea every man is captain – it’s only in rough water, or around dead heads, that your leadership will have the opportunity to shine.

If you’re reeling from an unforeseen dead head, this is your time to shine.  You can’t change what’s happened, but you’re in total control of how you will respond to it.  Assess the damage, determine what resources you still have, come up with a new plan, then keep moving forward to your destination.

Dead heads happen.  Choose wisely how you will respond, work with your team, and you can get through this.

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