A small company in Roanoke chose Let’s Go Sail to work on team-building. They got a full day of activities in half a day on the waters of the York River. Bright blue skies enhanced blustery winds of 10 mph and seas rising and falling two feet. Their assignment was to rescue someone in the water.
While reviewing a marine chart of the river, everyone paid close attention to the drill and understood they would be sailing without much instruction. Sometimes you just have to take action. They understood the problem and the decision-making they would have to execute. They adapted well and showed considerable trust. All of these factors contribute to team-building.
“My step-dad Paul Woods founded Pavement Stencil,” said Calvin Bell by way of explanation. Among other things, he was something of a war hero.” Calvin showed me a picture of Paul’s medals. “I found these after he died, all jumbled up in a drawer. So I put them together in order.”
Beneath the Combat Infantry Badge lay the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Korean theater medal, Vietnam medal, and more. The Silver Star is the third highest award in the military, and all three he mentioned are for heroic bravery. Paul also won the Purple Heart for wounds in combat.
“He joined the Army at 15, lying about his age. Right away, he went on to serve in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan — before we were supposed to be there officially. Paul served as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division as well as in the Special Forces. His book, “The Expendable Soldier,” reviews his service in Vietnam,
To reinforce team-building, we set out on the rescue mission. All we knew was that a man was struggling in the water at the buoy R-22. I showed the team a big chart of the York River and Mobjack Bay, and then switched to a larger scale chart of the York to hone in on the buoy. Two members charted the location by latitude and longitude, and then compared notes for accuracy. We boarded the boat and motored out of Sarah Creek and made our way out the channel to turn 110 degrees east. As a diversionary tactic, I headed slightly south to see a Navy sub docked at Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. Everyone looked through high-powered binoculars. Very impressive.
As we neared a red buoy, I left it to them to see if it was the right one. Beth Bell was up on the bow with Calvin, enjoying the view with arms outstretched. When Beth came back to the cockpit, I called our marina to ask a prearranged question about who we’re looking for.
“Some guy named Dan,” responded Victoria Harrison from the marina ships store. I asked if she had any details. “He works for the Gap, maybe. No, wait. He’s from Gap, Pennsylvania.” Everyone heard that, including Aimee Muse, who by now had changed positions with the Bells and was sitting on the bow. She turned around and shouted, “He’s our best customer! We’ve got to go get him.”
The submarine and the Dan ID were misdirection tactics to confuse the group into thinking that the first red buoy they saw would probably be the right one. As we got closer, Aimee peered out. “That’s R-24,” she said confidently, “not R-22.” The jig was up. Showing real leadership, she went below to check the marine chart for the direction to and distance of 22. Aimee popped up from the cabin. “Let’s keep heading straight east.” Right on.
While proceeding to R-22 a mile east, we executed a hove-to as a way of showing how to stop a sailboat dead in the water. It’s a quick maneuver for man-overboard or a hat that flies off. At R-22 we shouted out for Dan, nowhere to be seen. I discreetly tossed a shopping bag made of plastic and it landed in the water. Man overboard! Man sighted! With a quick hove-to, Calvin took the boat hook and scooped up Dan while Austin Beverge held his waist so he wouldn’t fall in. For someone floating in the water a while, Dan was pretty quiet.
On the way back, we executed another MOB because the exhausted Dan accidentally fell off the boat. Unlike before, he didn’t have a life preserver on. Dan was represented by a brown plastic bag that was harder to see in the water than the earlier white bag. This time we returned properly in a Figure 8 to approach without banging into the person’s head. Calvin made another flawless boat-hook catch. Dan remained speechless.
While the company team was all assembled for the rescue exercise, Calvin and Beth took time out to present Austin with a five-year employment plaque and pin. He was astonished and humbled by the award. “I thought maybe you were going to fire me,” he laughed. Paul broke out a bottle of red wine and cigars for the team as they celebrated Austin’s milestone.
Aimee spoke for the team when she thanked the Bells. “All of us have a genuine love for the company. It’s not that we’re saving lives, but then again the safety messages we provide do save people from accidents.”
Before heading in, Calvin offered a commemorative toast to his step-dad. “First, we pause to remember a highly decorated veteran whose medals didn’t matter as much to him as did his colleagues. He was very matter-of-fact, a sort of black-and-white kind of man. Second, he started our company. He was selling steel coating for paint and thought it was crap. So he started making his own and formed a company that become the leading edge in hydroponics.” That’s the process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil.
“Eventually Paul started the stencil company in Longwood, Florida, and it grew. Beth and I decided to leave the business in Florida and return to Roanoke where we had family. He said fine and kept the Florida accounts. Eventually we took the rest of the country. Today we have around 6,000 clients, all over the world actually.”
Beth ended the story. “Before he died, Paul told Calvin, ‘You’re the son I never had.” We were all silent.
On a lighter note, everyone performed great on the helm, notably Megan Palmer. She multi-tasked by juggling her wine glass and cigar while tacking correctly. “And raising two children!” she laughed.
Dan and Paul would have been proud of the team, for sure.
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