why the third mast

third mast: the backstory I worked as an Outward Bound instructor, sailing instructor and captain, for a number of years. At the time, all Outward Bound bases used Pulling Boats: old school, sparely rigged sailboats rigged with two masts.

Returning from expedition on a windless night, my boat was backlit by Boston, which is across the harbor from the island that served as my home base. As my students rowed, I was standing on the back deck, keeping watch for approaching boats and other obstacles. When added to the silhouette of the two-masted pulling boat with furled sails, my 6’1” profile made it appear as though the boat had three masts.

On the island, this boat that looked like an Outward Bound boat yet had three masts was causing confusion and debate amongst the Outward Bound instructors gathered ashore. When my boat got close enough for the group to realize that I was the third mast, there was a lot of laughter. The next morning when I stepped ashore, I was let in on the joke and dubbed Third Mast.

why I chose the name for my company

The metaphor. On traditional, big sailing vessels, the third mast is the mast that’s the furthest aft. It’s the shortest mast and the sail that it holds is the smallest and so generates the least power, least forward momentum, of the three. Yet, because of its position, it enables a vessel hold course when sailing close to the wind; it’s effectively a rudder sail. When it’s effectively employed, the boat reaches its destination more efficiently and feels more balanced. This is especially important when a boat is zigzagging to reach a destination upwind. To serve as a third mast describes the way I seek to coach, teach and lead - helping to keep course when it’s tough to keep, and ensuring that those I support, as well as those watching from afar, recognize that credit for the hard work and accomplishment does not rest with me.

It cracks me up. How many people get mistaken for a very tall, wooden pole that holds a sail? I’ve been given a few nicknames over time, and as a traveler, constantly meeting new people, the ones that make people smile, or better—laugh—that can disarm a stranger and help turn them into a friend? Those nicknames are gifts. Laugh with me.

why I write. I love stories: sea stories, travel stories; funny, tough, even sad stories; those memorable teaching stories, carefully retold by folks wise enough to risk being vulnerable so that others can make different, better, mistakes. Third Mast's blog is a place to record my stories and the lessons that I'm learning so that I remember them. Hopefully, through remembering, I'll avoid making some of the same errors (again).