Ex­pe­ri­enced skip­pers act that way

Boat­ing lessons from his­tory, Hol­ly­wood and her­self

Boating - - CONTENTS - By Kevin Falvey

John Mills was the gun­ner’s mate aboard HMS Bounty, a ship that, af­ter two nov­els, five movies, and not to men­tion the ac­tual his­tor­i­cal ac­count, needs lit­tle if any in­tro­duc­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the ship’s log, Capt. Bligh’s per­sonal jour­nal, and records of the British Navy, Mills was one of the older, more-ex­pe­ri­enced crew aboard Bounty, hav­ing served on Me­di­a­tor un­der Ad­mi­ral Collinwood (him­self a part­ner with Lord Nel­son in many cam­paigns). Mills ap­par­ently lacked a sweet dis­po­si­tion, but as the record shows, he’d spent a life­time at sea un­der the com­mand of great mariners. It’s safe to say he knew what he was talk­ing about.

I present this cur­ricu­lum vi­tae for no triv­ial pur­pose. In the 1962 film ver­sion of Mutiny on the Bounty, the one star­ring Mar­lon Brando, the role of John Mills is played by the en­dur­ing, acer­bic Richard Har­ris. Har­ris, as Mills, ut­ters a line in the film — it’s just an aside re­ally — but one that caught this life­time boater’s at­ten­tion.

The words are ex­pressed as sea and wind rise and in re­sponse to grum­bling crew­men dis­traught at hav­ing to climb into the rig­ging as Bounty slogs through the Tierra del Fuego ar­chi­pel­ago at the south­ern tip of South Amer­ica. “Portsmouth or Cape Horn, it’s all the same to a sea­man.” The un­der­stated bril­liance of the line, of course, was that whether in a calm har­bor or on the wildest ocean imag­in­able, ex­pe­ri­enced mariners act in the ha­bit­ual, busi­nesslike man­ner that en­sures per­sonal safety and the safety of the ves­sel. There is no dis­tinc­tion made for present cir­cum­stance. The best stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure is the best stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure, and the dis­trac­tions of de­bate, dis­cus­sion and de­cid­ing what al­ter­na­tives might ex­ist are best re­served for shore­side di­ver­sion. Mills’ quip re­minded me that aboard boats, good habits de­liver great re­wards, be­cause on the water, we are out of our el­e­ment. Things can hap­pen quickly. And when they do, there’s of­ten trag­i­cally lit­tle time, and over­think­ing may lead to analysis paral­y­sis.

I was re­minded of the line from the film re­cently dur­ing dis­cus­sions re­gard­ing this pub­li­ca­tion’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in boat­ing-safety pro­grams.

“What looks like a per­fect day for boat­ing can quickly be­come haz­ardous if you end up in the water,” said Peg Phillips, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Safe Boat­ing Coun­cil, the lead or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Safe Boat­ing Cam­paign. “Al­ways wear a life jacket — it is the best de­ci­sion you can make for your safety while en­joy­ing a day out on the water.”

And I thought: Portsmouth or Cape Horn, it’s all the same to a sea­man.

Kevin Falvey, Ed­i­tor-in-Chief ed­i­tor@boat­ing­mag.com

What Mills meant, of course, was that whether in a calm har­bor or on the wildest ocean imag­in­able, ex­pe­ri­enced mariners act in the ha­bit­ual, busi­nesslike man­ner that en­sures their safety and the safety of the ves­sel.

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