Surviving storms at sea

Published on Mar 23, 2023 by Matt Bud, The FENG
Life Lessons

For my birthday one year, my daughter bought me a book: “A Voyage for Madmen” by Peter Nichols. The book is about the first Golden Globe race from Falmouth, England which began on April 22, 1969. Nine men set off on a race around the world. Ten months later, only one of them made it back. Keep in mind, this was before GPS. (And, the Internet.) And if all this wasn’t bad enough, they weren’t even in fiberglass boats. They were wood.

The most interesting (and appropriate) sections of the book for tonight were the storms these brave (or stupid) men encountered in the southern ocean. If you take a look at a globe you will see that in the southern ocean there are no land masses to absorb the energy of waves and storms. The wind and waves are enormous and relentless.

What I found most interesting about the descriptions of the waves during storms was that sailors believed the waves they were encountering were much larger than they really were. Actually by a factor of 3. Even if they weren’t as high as sailors think, they can still be deadly.

Preparing for and dealing with storms or high winds is a frenetic activity. There is much to do. From shortening sail, to checking for chaff in your running and standing rigging. You need to be on your game, day and night to remain safe. (Standing rigging holds up the mast. Running rigging controls sails.)

After you have done all you can do to prepare your vessel, such as stowing all the gear down below, preparing food and getting out your foul weather gear and harness, you next have to put your mental house in order.

The basic approach is to shorten your timelines. You may not see how you are going to get through several days of 40 knot winds, with higher gusts and enormous waves, but you may be able to wrap your mind around getting through the next 5 minutes. If you are lucky or skillful enough to get through that 5 minute period, perhaps you will get through the next 5 minutes. Golly, you’ve now gotten through 10 whole minutes! And, on and on. Before you know it, you have gotten through whole days and amazingly you’re still alive. (And, the storm has passed and the sun has come out.)

I can’t tell you how we are all going to get through all of the things that are going on in the world at the moment, but we actually have no choice but to do it. Do what you as financial people do best: PLAN AHEAD.

All storms end. This one will too. But until it does, keep your head about you. You’re going to need it.

Regards, Matt