Old Hand

Age can bring wisdom, but it just as often brings a fixity of opinion. And a fixation is a block to creative thinking and change.
The man who taught me to sail, the Cap’n, grew up with manila lines and Egyptian cotton sails. He shared an affection for the old materials that did not interfere with his adoption of newer and superior materials- sentimental affection was one thing, and obstinate stupidity was another. But, being a very pragmatic Yankee sailor, he had no space for that on board his ketch, Psyche.

Despite modern, for that era, electronic navigational aides, he insisted on traditional methods. So I learned to adjust a compass using fixed navigational objects, just like in the old days. I also learned to use sight reduction tables and a sextant. The Cap’ns fixity of opinion on this was based on experience. Nothing was going to help you out if the modern stuff failed. You would have to fall back on the traditional meaasures. So here was where a career at sea came in handy; if it can happen, it will, was the maxim. Knowing multiple ways of doing things was a buffer between you and disaster.

Being all “prim, practical, and old school” was very good when it made sense. But not if it was just “because it’s always been this way” or ” this is how we did it when I was young.”

The Cap’n always maintained the young sailors got to be old hands by staying one jump ahead. Now that I’m getting on to being an old hand, I tend to agree.