“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” John Wooden
Working on a yacht can be lonely. Special occasions — anniversaries, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Boxing Day and Baba Marta — might be spent with other crewmembers or working. Family traditions and friends are traded for the opportunity to travel while serving others. For this privilege, we men and women of the sea receive a paycheck and the adventure of the journey. We enjoy and live vicariously through the many cultures of the exotic places that we visit. Consider making these special occasions “giving days.” The yachts on which we live and work afford us the ideal situation for giving to others in areas where, many times, people are less fortunate than ourselves.
Everyone has trouble choosing gifts that are appropriate. Queen Victoria was obviously desperate for the perfect gift when she gave Mount Kilimanjaro to Kaiser Wilhelm for his birthday. While most of us can’t give a mountain, there are many other gifts that can be just as endearing. Cleopatra offered herself to Caesar wrapped in a rug, proving that a gift that is always appreciated is the gift of one’s self. As a side note, her gift to Caesar produced a son named Caesarian!
Corporations and foundations are generally credited with being the largest resources for philanthropy. But reality reflects that four out of five, or 80 percent, of philanthropic dollars were contributed by individuals in 2010. Figures expressed by the American Association of the Fund Raising Counsel attribute the giving of $211.77 billion by individuals. This figure includes money, food, clothing, electronics, household items, vehicles, services and airline tickets with an extended category for “other.” Individual giving exceeds the $41 billion by foundations, $22.83 billion by bequests and $15.29 billion by corporations by $132.65 billion dollars.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, believes in the power of one person and his or her ability to change the world. The total number of humans on Earth as of July 1, 2011, is estimated to be approximately 6.96 billion. The yachting industry makes up a very small portion of the people on this planet, but we can be powerful in our charitable deeds.
The most comprehensive study to date regarding gifting, the William B. Hanrahan CCS Fellowship Report, revealed that donors of “self-made” wealth gave the most. The call of the sea is the epitome of wealth…a wealth of knowledge, wonder, and experiences just waiting for the self-made man or woman to partake and share. Consider becoming a Friend of the International SeaKeepers Society, a philanthropy that gives back to the waters that have given so much to enrich our lives. The SeaKeepers promote the restoration and the protection of the world’s oceans. They’re also committed to gathering and disseminating information about the waters that we treasure.
As a general rule, we all dispose of mountains of trash (not to be confused with Queen Victoria’s gift to Kaiser Wilhelm). Much of this product can be reused or recycled for the benefit of others:
- Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toilet items that are castaways from crew and charter guests can be used by the homeless and underprivileged.
- Cleaning products that either didn’t meet expectations or were put away and forgotten can be handed out in communities that are not fortunate enough to have 30 boxes of detergent stowed away for a filthy emergency.
- Movies, magazines and books that are often discarded for convenience sake can be offered to libraries and shelters.
- Clothing that can’t be stowed in a tiny crew closet or that didn’t make the cut through a vessel’s name change can be recycled through community projects that are set up for the purpose of helping others.
- Computers, iPads or iPods that lie dormant on board may create access to a new world of information or music for someone not fortunate enough to have previously had modern electronics at their fingertips.
- Medical supplies that are amply stocked on a yacht can be shared with third world clinics.
- Standards of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping (STCW) education, Merchant Mariner’s Documents (MMD), Transportation Workers Identification Credentials (TWIC) and building a resume may be costly for someone just getting into “the business.” Be generous with your time, information and networking skills in helping them attain their goal of working on a yacht. Two brothers and men of the sea from Indianapolis, Indiana, were instrumental in funding a scholarship in their hometown school district to pay for recipients’ STCW training and pertinent mariner’s credentials.
Playing Santa Claus at Christmas, having birthday parties in orphanages, buying groceries or lunch for the person in line ahead of you, paying for a tank of gas for someone who can only afford $5 at the pump can create special moments that are reflected in the smiles on the faces of people that believe in a better life. Thoughtful moments for the giver are found in the appreciative faces of others when strangers perpetuate the miracle of giving. Consider being that stranger.
Kindness and respect toward other crewmembers and the people of the world is the gift of self. Discipline yourself to be kind in every act, word and deed. Consider generously sharing your knowledge of the sea and of being a seaman by becoming an ambassador of goodwill for the yachting profession.
Don’t let that awesome impression of the vessel stop when the yacht is at anchor or at the dock. Take the opportunity to touch and improve lives in many countries. By remembering that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, we all have the chance to live the perfect day experiencing the joy of giving and…. Fair winds and calm seas.
Captain Ted Sputh holds USCG and MCA 3000 Ton Upon All Oceans with Sail licenses and has been a professional mariner for 33 years. He is currently doing relief and delivery work. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.