Mark Sikorski

Captain’s log: 1200 hours, underway in the South Atlantic Ocean in position 23 degrees 14 minutes South latitude and 040 degrees 32 minutes West longitude (approximately 1,400 miles south of the equator). Although a bit more breezy and choppy from a freshening northeasterly wind, the temperature is warming quite nicely to the mid-70s. Forward is gently pitching and rolling with the seas broad on our starboard bow and Brazil broad on our port bow. All small arms, ammunition, and pyrotechnics have been inspected. The traditional eight bells have been struck–in the days of sail, noon marked the end of the navigational day, when the miles made good were logged from the past 24 hours. The ship’s speed was determined by “heaving the log” over the side during every watch; the number of knots in the line that rang out over the rail during a set period of time (as measured by a sand glass) indicated the ship’s speed in “knots.” All of these readings were recorded on the quarterdeck in chalk on the log-board. At noon, this data was recorded permanently into the ship’s log-book, and the log-board was erased to start the next navigational day.

1300 hours: Held quarters for all hands on the flight deck: another naval tradition that we use to acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of the crew in front of their peers. Today I recognized our Sailor of the Quarter. In addition to official recognition, I also use quarters to interact with my crew–I normally start with the greeting “Good afternoon, shipmates,” and they respond in strong unison with “Good afternoon, Captain”; this is a very spirited crew! When I speak to the crew, my goal is to weave together practical, everyday examples of the good things people do as a means to inspire ourselves to higher levels of performance. Many times, I only have a general idea of what I will say; I let my heart take over from there. To me, practical, heartfelt, on-the-spot recognition of the tangible things around us is much more powerful than following some convoluted book on how to motivate people. Good or bad, there are many examples in our daily lives that we can draw lessons from. This crew is target-rich with good things to talk about!

As I walked around the ship today I had an opportunity to ask a few shipmates what they thought of this deployment. While they all are looking forward to getting home, most were very appreciative of the opportunity to experience a different part of the world. Some went skiing in the Andes mountains of Chile; many liked the numerous statues and monuments that dotted many of the cities we visited; some relaxed for hours in a square or cafe; and of course, the restaurants and food were always special. As I listened to some of the stories describing their liberty, it occurred to me that many of the South Americans we interacted with proved to be some of the most unselfish people imaginable. And in turn, their unselfishness had a positive impact upon all of us. A cab driver that chauffeured part of the crew in Guayaquil, Ecuador, drove several hours to meet us in our next port of Salinas, Ecuador, so that he could drive the crew around free. We’ve been given barbecues, luncheons, and dinners, and in many respects treated like royalty. In Montevideo, some of the crew ate at a restaurant where they were charged only for the dinner and none of their drinks. You would be proud of how this crew has responded in kind. Three shipmates stopped to assist two people and an infant when their car had rolled over on a highway in Valparaiso, Chile. They removed the people, rendered first aid and directed traffic around the accident. Several more intervened when some drunken citizens were harassing two kids in Ecuador. Much of our spare change was given away to many of the needy kids on the street. Interactions of this nature can happen only if there is a sense of camaraderie and cohesion between peoples; grounded in the things we value most–our freedom and love of the sea. I believe we bonded so well with the people of South America because we believe in our organization’s founding principles of humanitarian service to our country and to all of those who go out to sea in ships.