Red Jacket swung at anchor in last night’s blow. I knew her young adult crew would end up on the beach. I knew that they had neither the strength or the numbers to pull against that much wind. But clearly they didn’t know that. The young are, indeed, immortal, as we once were. They left the dock very sure of themselves. They hit the beach scared, cold, wet, and humbled. They learned what all of us eventually must know, that the ocean is very big and my boat is very small. They made the right decisions, though. They set a good anchor, secured the boat, waded ashore, and waited for the wind to pass. Jason, the captain, was up with me at sunrise to check the boat was safe. He took full responsibility for what had happened and what he must do to make it right. It was still blowing, no chance of getting her off her anchor and dockside. But we determined that the anchor was holding. The crew made plans for the next day when the wind laid down and the tide was low enough to reach the boat with a minimum of drenching. Like my rowers, I am still learning. I asked Jason the question that only he could answer. “Should I have forbidden you to go out?” There was a long, thoughtful silence before he responded. “I’d have understood if you had. But I’m glad you didn’t. I learned SO MUCH out there.”
This is experiential education. The risk, the mistake, the taking of responsibility, the growth. We can’t wrap the next generation in cotton wool forever. You can’t turn a boy into a man without risk. We need to trust them to take risks, to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes as we once did. So, even though I saw with crystal clarity that Red Jacket would end up on the beach, I blessed this adventure. And I bless it still. It is our job as adults to allow the next generation to stretch their limits and find their strength. If they learn this now while they are young and strong then maybe when they are the grey haired men and women who are running this world and making very long reaching decisions, they will have the strength and courage to act with prudence and responsibility. An unknown fisherman returned Red Jacket as soon as the wind laid down, saving the lads another cold water dunking to retrieve the boat. There is a great deal of support in our community for Station Maine. There isn’t a seaman out there who can’t understand this sort of education. We are very fortunate.