Patience is a lot of things. When teaching someone to handle a boat, especially a large one, I always cite it as the most important part of your skill set. Years ago you didn’t really have a choice other than to be patient while maneuvering larger vessels. The time it took to shift from ahead to neutral, and then neutral to astern would more or less necessitate that you do things slowly and with purpose. Even today with many larger tug boats you still cannot simply jam the throttles astern if you need to stop. That’s how you blow up a transmission and clutch, or smoke the shaft brakes. You also have to plan ahead with your rudders, as they are directly linked to that little job lever and won’t whip from one side to the other. The same can be said for any of the azimuthing drives you see in use on many vessels, even including smaller yachts.
Now all of those control delays certainly call for forethought, and maybe you are wondering where exactly the patience fits in. For me, it is resisting the temptation to just bump the throttle ahead, give her that one extra kick, get there just a little faster. All too often though you will find yourself thinking, as soon as that engine clutches ahead in gear, “shit too fast now”. Then it begins again while you move to counteract what you just did. A captain once told me “when you get the boat going towards the dock or barge at a comfortable speed, and she is moving the way you want, put your hands in your pockets until you bump”. Essentially, resist the temptation and be patient. People will talk about how long it took you to get on a tricky dock for a couple hours, they’ll never stop talking about the time you took out the docks fendering and rung the ships bell. This goes along with the saying “Never approach a dock, pier, boat or barge any faster than you are willing to hit it.”
Patience isn’t just something you need to handle a boat like a professional. It is something you need in abundance to handle yourself like a professional in this industry. Whether the client has turned you around in the channel three times in half an hour, or a deckhand twice your age is giving you a hard time just because, you have to be patient enough to keep your cool and deal with it. Hell you need patience just to get home without drinking a bottle of rum! Our 0600 crew change was late this morning and in order to catch my flight I got a cab straight from the boat to the airport to avoid stopping at the office. My flight then sat on the ramp for an hour and it is looking like I will miss my connecting flight to Boston. The good news; I will be getting home tonight. The bad; my new connecting flight doesn’t leave Milwaukee until two hours after my original flight was going to land in Boston. That means no dinner with the therapist, no rubbing the black lab behind the ears, no pretending to be a normal couple if just for a few hours today.
Patience; because it is what it is.