Some lessons are learned so painfully but it doesn’t have to be that way. Take the skipper our family knows as the “Mad Finn.”
I took it for granted that being tough and crazy as his name suggests was due partly due to his innate character and partly from being raised in a remote Finnish village off B.C.’s rugged coast during the Depression. But his crazy had a deep wound, too.
The Mad Finn was a super skipper and fished in the heyday where millionaires were made in a season. He teased everyone mercilessly, especially if he liked you. But the Finn had such an influence, that after having worked with him all the deckhands in his circle transformed into Finn-rugged and mischievous men. And many of them could fish like crazy, too and became notorious for better or worse.
Years after they had quit working on some boats, shell casings could be found in nooks and crannies everywhere on board and when boats they once worked alongside near Portland Canal (a watery division between Canada and the U.S.) the Yankee boat crews kept their vessels far away for fear the Finn was on board and might fire off shots warning them not to come near fishing spots.
But there was also a kind side to the man and he always told a story to his new deckhands that I’m sure kept each of them safer.
The sobering tale is of one of his young deckhands taking a watch at the wheel while the old man napped one night, as is the custom. He remembered to each new crew member how he woke up to find the kid gone and the pail missing.
It didn’t take him long to realize the young man had tried to get some salt chuck with the pail to relieve himself in, and a wave had grabbed the pail and pulled him overboard.
He made a mayday call for help and a u-turn in the boat and tried to find him to no avail. He was beside himself to return to the village and explain to the parents of the young deckhand their son was lost at sea.
We may not realize when we are working or playing alongside young people, we have an obligation to warn them of dangers hidden to someone new to a situation. Even if the greenhorn is an adult, you don’t want anyone getting hurt on your watch.
And remember little pitchers have big ears: an old saying that means, kids don’t always see the lesson unless you underline it. Like the time you drove 14 hours to camp and didn’t pull over to sleep until your eyes were hockey pucks and you nearly drove into the Skeena. It’s always good to throw in, “What an idiot I was, and I hope you don’t do something that stupid, kid.”