Archive for the ‘optimism’ Category


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This picture, more than anything, illustrates the many worlds that converge at Shake-A-Leg Miami.

Not Your Usual Boatyard

Not Your Usual Boatyard

We had just barely finished the second coat of Interlux Royal Blue when the kids arrived, swarming through the hangar in search of rest rooms and soft drinks.

A few were interested in what we were doing, but for many, it was obvious that they were used to seeing constant change in the shop area. We had a momentary panic when some of them starting leaning in toward the gloss, but that soon passed.

Personally, I had not planned to work at Shake yesterday, but then I couldn’t resist seeing that final coat go on, so I braved Miami rush hour traffic, which seemed especially horrendous for some reason, spent a lot of time trying  to find alternate routes (pretty much always a bad idea), and arrived an hour later than I had expected.

Our hard-core team of volunteers was joined by Interlux’s Joe Purtell again, and Shake’s own Ray Rautenberg. The former Newbies are Painters now. I can see it in their swagger, and I know they will never look at a painted surface in the same way again.

Yesterday reminded me of one of the things I do love about a team-painting project: The pleasant pauses while we wait for dry time or the next step to be ready. That’s when we can righteously enjoy the transformation taking place before our eyes. Of course, Shake-A-Leg Miami is all about transformation!

The count down continues. What will our final tally be on Oct 11 when we have our pre-IBEX reception?  Right now we have two Freedoms and two Access dinghy hulls finished.

I’m told that we have several large groups of volunteers joining us in the next three weeks. I’m a little concerned about how to schedule projects for them so they get the most benefit out of the experience – and we get the most work out of them!

If you want to be part of the team, click on the “volunteer” tab above, or just go right to http://shipshape.eventbrite.com.

Meanwhile, you can follow our progress in some of the photos posted here.

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A couple of weeks ago, SALM staff member Colleen had the very fine idea that Ship Shape should include Friday night potluck dinners, and the first one did draw a crowd, including my new friends Ed and his wife Lorraine. Rumor has it that Lorraine had been trying to point Ed in the direction of SALM for a while, but it took that first potluck to deliver him.

He and I had a great conversation about boats, wood v fiberglass, the smell of styrene (I kind of like it, he does not), composite construction, and other esoteric topics. He told me he would see me again at our second painting sessions, but would miss the first one, and wouldn’t be at the Star brite training, so I was very surprised to see him in the crowd.


No only did he stay for the workshop, but he was one of the guys I was able to recruit to clean Kerry Gruson’s blue boat, and then he stuck around for some more conversation afterwards.  Blew BayouDuring that time, SALM co-founder Harry Horgan made a valiant effort to interest Ed in taking on a major project, namely building a deck house to welcome visitors entering through the new metal gates – donated by Ken Batchelor and CMC Construction – and i certainly thought Ed seemed interested.

Then Ed saw the Egret. We walked around the big green boat, a study in neglect, teak trim turned gray and brittle.  “We could build a steam box to bend wood and replace all this,” I said, pulling up some vague memory from WoodenBoat magazine. i know such things are possible, but, kids, don’t try this at home.

I passed my hand through a port hole and could feel debris crumbling in my fingers. I peered in at piles of canvas slumped in the middle of the dark and dank cabin, I shook my head. “This is the kind of project that WoodenBoat staff members like to take to the WoodenBoat school,” I said, “and then then the instructors just make fun of us for not recognizing a lost cause.”

Ed didn’t reply. Didn’t even say much. We went on to talk about other things, such as my need for at least six vibrating—not orbital—sanders before our painting sessions start on Sept. 12.

I went on with my day, trying to learn SALM’s computer system while talking to Colleen about conceptual mapping, concepts, transformation, Phase II (writing out best practices for every, single aspect of the organization), Phase III (executing best practices for every, single aspect of the organization), and the ever-popular “What’s for dinner?”

Neither Colleen nor I had brought anything to add to the Friday night potluck, and somehow, when we made our way downstairs, we weren’t terribly surprised that we were the only ones there. Harry joined us a little while later, and we had some more excellent conversation along the same lines. Then, when Harry was called away for a few minutes, I checked my email on my iPod.

What did I find? A message from Ed, titled SALM’s Tired Old Egret.

I read it out loud to Colleen, and she recognized it immediately as poetry. “This is great,” she said. “Now you don’t need to worry about writing your next batch of postcard poems.” (During the month of August, I have committed to write and mail one “postcard poem” a day, and I must say I’ve gotten a little bit behind, but that’s another story.) “You can just call Ed’s email ‘found poetry’ and use it”!

I may or may not do that, but Colleen was right. There is definitely poetry in Ed’s contemplation of the sad old Egret, his wondering if maybe our Egret might not be the very one he helped build as a student, his understanding of the designer and the design, and his vision of the future of this boat.

So now we have a story within the story, and as usual I can’t wait to see  what will happen next. He’s going to need help, people. Let me know if you want to be part of this project. We need you!

The evening ended well, with Colleen & I continuing our potluck dinner tradition, after a quick trip to the market, and it seemed just right. If you’d like to find out more about Shake-A-Leg Miami and Ship Shape, I recommend you that drop by some Friday night at 6:00. Bring a dish to share, and enjoy the conversation. (Maybe let Colleen know you’ll be coming? Drop a line to colleen@shakealegmiami.org)

I’ll miss the next one, since I’ll be on vacation in New England enjoying an annual adventure with my sister, including an afternoon at Fenway Park, a visit with my granddaughter Mazie and her parents, a trip out to the Isles of Shoals, a roller coaster ride, who who knows what else.

I’ll be checking the progress of Ship Shape from a far, though, so don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to be involved, or have an idea to share.

Our next big event is the weekend of Sept. 12 – 13. You can click on the VOLUNTEER tab above to sign up, if you haven’t done so already. Thanks!

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On the Radio

On Tuesday Aug 25, 2009, I put on my “radio host” hat as my boss Carl Cramer and welcomed Shake-A-Leg Miami’s Co-Founder Harry Horgan to ProBoat Radio. What a treat!

I especially love doing these shows when I know what the guest is going to discuss, but I never have any sense of what’s going on while we are doing them. So, almost as soon as we were done recording, I hit the replay button, and was delighted to listen to this story.

If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to it now by clicking here.

Our first workshop is Friday, and I hope to have some pictures to share with you then. I can’t wait to see how Doug Kraft and his crew have progressed with the boat shop renovation.

By the way, we are now to up 25 “Official” volunteers, and the word is spreading. The trick will be to convert that first core group from workshop audience to Ship Shape community. I understand that has a lot to do with how we arrange the chairs.

Meanwhile, we are getting new offers to help from groups such as REACH (Ransome Everglades Athletes Can Help), our own Nature Links kids, and others. Just click on the VOLUNTEER tab above to add your own name to the list.

As for me, I’m starting to see the line where Phase One (the nuts-and-bolts segment) wraps up, and Phase Two (where we need to work hard on procedures and policies) begins. Phase Three will be when we are able to move the whole program up a notch or two or three to truly demonstrate best practices throughout the organization and facility. I know we’ll get there.

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I’m starting to think we are going the wrong-way-round to recruit volunteers by telling them what we need, rather than than telling them what they will receive. If I were to re-cast this whole promotion as a late-night infomercial, I wonder what I’d come up with for my viewing audience?

Maybe something like this: “You, too, can learn to prep and paint any size dinghy or sailboat or motor yacht with just a few easy lessons from Shake-A-Leg Miami’s Project Ship Shape. Yes, we will show you the right products to use and the latest low-tech paint application techniques. Kids, don’t try this at home. Come to Shake-A-Leg Miami and put your skills right to work where they can help the maximum number of people.

“And that’s not all. These lessons are ABSOLUTELY FREE and they will LAST FOR A LIFETIME! Operators are standing by.”

What do you think? Our next press releases may well follow that line of hucksterism as we learn to break away from volunteer-recruiting stereotypes.

Meanwhile, I am proud to announce that we already have 20  volunteers for our Ship Shape Teams (SST), including one brave soul who has agreed to be our very first Team Mother. I’m excited, and I feel a little sad for the teams who are still motherless, but that will change soon.

We’ve got a good variety of folks in our core group with a nice mix of skills and a high level of enthusiasm. Hooray!

Last night, at our first “Friday Night Potluck,” some of us talked a little about what we can do to move teams into competition with each other: Best team name, team colors, logos, songs, dances. I keep telling people: This Will Be Fun.

Meanwhile, please keep spreading the word, and the word is “free”.

Our first training session will be Friday morning, Sept. 28, at 9:30 a.m. in the Shake-A-Leg Miami Hangar. Hope to see you there! Wear comfy clothes. We’ll be learning all about boat-maintenance products from Bill Lindsey at Star brite.

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Already, a number of good things are taking place, bracketed nicely by the usual number of glitches.

I once read a description of flying an airplane as “nothing but hours and hours of boredom, punctuated with moments of start terror.” That’s pretty much been my week so far. I glide ahead buoyed by the optimism of everyone at Shake-A-Leg Miami (SALM), and then I realize how much we are planning to accomplish in such an incredibly short time and just the tiniest wave of panic washes over me.

I wish some reality-TV show would pick up this story, because I know they always go for the happy ending. Meanwhile, I do have some blessings to report.

One of the SALM staff members, Colleen Reed, is setting up a Friday night potluck, having observed that neither our marine-surveyor Pat Kearns (Naples, FL) nor I am in any great rush to head out into Miami traffic a the end of our day onsite. Hooray! Maybe there will be pie. But even better than that, there will be a chance for us involved in the challenge to meet–and brainstorm–in a relaxed informal setting. If you’d like to join us, leave a comment here or drop me a line.

Also, today I had a great conversation with Norm Katz of Katzcan (Fort Lauderdale, FL) about what we can do with the “BackTrack” software from Teklynx. I was initially hoping Norm could help us just with a simple project of barcoding our boat-shop inventory, but now we’re starting to percolate a few more ideas about how we can better manage all sorts of “assets” ranging from tools, to boats and equipment, to volunteers and staff. Geek that I am, this is all music to my ears.

Earlier this week, I wrote up a press release about the project, which will soon be hitting the SoFLA media outlets thanks to Kreps DeMarina Public Relations & Marketing. Another cheer there. I also sent it to Soundings Trade Only for distribution to the marine industry — making contact by Twitter no less — so my appreciation for social media just took another boost.

SALM does have a Facebook Fan Page, by the way, and staff A-V guy Steve Vasquez will be activating that soon. If you aren’t a fan, why not join now? Side note: If you’ve gotten bored with the same old Facebook, I recommend you go to “settings” and change your language options to “English (pirate)” and see what happens. That reminds me: International Talk Like A Pirate Day is only a month off. Maybe we can do something special for the Ship Shape challenge? Let me know what you think.

Also, we received our new copy of the ABBRA (American Boat Builders & Repairers Association) hot-0ff-the-press Boatyard Resource Guide, full of excellent check lists and tips for best practices. We had a show of support from ABYC (American Boat & Yacht Council) Directory Ship Burdon, who is letting that group’s Florida member know we are trolling for volunteers, and we found out how to post information on the MIASF (Marine Industry Association of South Florida) website.

So! We are underway, and I am doing fine as long as I don’t look too close at the calendar or the still far-too-skinny volunteer list. I’m hoping that the sailing-program instructors will embrace the idea of stewardship and join us in the big boat-repair project. (Or at least, recruit friends and family to do the same.)

I can hardly wait until Friday to see what kind of progess Doug and his crew have made on the boatshop re-stocking project, and to find out what new ideas he is hatching.

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Eight Weeks To Go

Eight weeks. That’s 56 days, and I am getting a real-world lesson in time management. Our fantasy goal, of course, is to work with Shake-A-Leg Miami’s entire fleet, but even I will admit that is unrealistic, given the time constraint and lack of trained volunteers. Lack of trained trainers, for that matter.

That’s all right! We’ve already been working behind the scenes and on the scene for a month.

Super-Volunteer (SV) Doug Kraft has moved everything out of the existing boat shop, and I mean everything. With help from Ken Batchelor and CMC construction, we have new shelves and new lighting. Other volunteers & staff have been completely involved in painting the area and organizing the supplies and products that will need to be re-installed.

I’ve given Doug a copy of the system that I devised at Professional BoatBuilder for classifying materials, and made contact with Norm Katz at Katzscan to start setting up an inventory control and process control system. Geeky stuff, that I can see now will come back to me for execution.

That’s fine. I enjoy looking at the facility through Doug’s eyes and seeing his vision for what it should like like, right down to his ideas for an aquatic center on the lawn that borders Bayshore Drive.

I have now made three site visits to Shake-A-Leg Miami, each one providing me with another set of parameters for what founder Harry Horgan defines as “Best Practices.” As much as I want to stay focused on the boat-repair part of the project, I am drawn in by each department’s unique concerns and interests.

New innovations for people with disabilities? Ways to expand Eco Island? Vocational training? Virtual reality? Revenue stream? Volunteer management?

All of these questions tie into my fairly narrow focus on hauling, repairing, and relaunching as many boats as possible between now and Oct. 11.

Fortunately, I was able to ignite Naples marine surveyor Pat Kearns about this project. While I see the long view as resulting in new content for my company, specifically www.ProBoatE-Training.com, Pat sees an opportunity to test out her own “Boats Up Close” photo-inspection software. She’s in.

We’ll photo-inspect the boats, follow up with full survey reports, generate work orders, activate the trainers and volunteers, set up work parties, and that’s that. Almost too simple, right?

Yes, quite. The first informal inspections have uncovered boat-repair needs that go beyond simple cleaning and painting. The trainers I want are not readily available. The volunteers I want are not readily available. And the project keeps getting bigger, bigger, and bigger.

We still have eight weeks, though! Bill Lindsey at Star brite has committed to a workshop on boat maintenance on Aug 28, and I’m closing in on a couple others. I’m developing an idea for teams, preferably competitive teams, to take on individual boats, whether they are 20-foot sailboats or kayaks. We have enough projects for everyone.

I like my idea for teams, but I don’t know if anyone else will. Shake-A-Leg Miami is full of skippers and captains, so I am suggesting that each Ship Shape Team (SST) have a mother, instead. I like the idea of a nurturing model. We’ll see how our recruitment process goes this week. I hope a lot of unexpected people contact us to join in. And I hope the staff, especially the people I haven’t met yet, really embrace this program.

We all have a chance to learn a lot about boats, safety, team building, and leadership. What’s not to like?

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