One of the best things about my job is the great people I meet from all walks of life, joined together as a community of people who choose to earn their living or spend their spare time in, on or around the water.
These people come from a broad range of backgrounds, ages, ethnic and interest groups and it is the contrast between this diversity and the unique strength and unity of the boating community that I find so remarkable.
It is the same everywhere I go, right across Australia and New Zealand – boaties look after other boaties; they are drawn to each other in crowds and they welcome each other into their lives like long-lost friends. Rather like a gigantic international floating Rotary Club convention.
One of the common threads I see in all these people is the persistent search for balance – in their work, their lives and environment.
Take, for example, the universal quest to find equilibrium on the work-life balance scale. How many hours a week are too many to work; how many are too few to spend with family and loved ones? How many years are too many to keep working in anticipation of the day when one can stop and smell the roses – or, in nautical terms, stop and smell the two-stroke or teak oil fumes?
And as one increasingly mature friend pondered recently, at what point does one finally have to accept that “the hair in my ears is growing faster than the hair on my head”, and start trimming both in defiance? But instead, he has managed to convince himself that a strong crop of ear hair can only be an asset to someone planning to spend the better part of his retirement out on the water.
While we’re talking balance, there is also the ongoing quest to strike a perfect balance between regulation and education when it comes to boating safety. Our claims experience tells us that when it comes to avoiding disaster out on the water, there is no substitute for experience – but in its absence, a bit of practical training comes a close second. We also know that you are many, many times more likely to survive ending up in the water if you are wearing a PFD than if you are not. But at what point does a maritime safety regulator go too far in trying to change our behaviour on these issues and cross the line into the dangerous waters of over-governance?
Sustainable development versus environmental preservation is another major test of our ability to find the right balance between the sometimes conflicting interests of one generation and the next; of the commercial interests of the few lucky enough to be able to contemplate buying waterfront property, with the recreational interests of the many who stand to lose free access to the very same slice of beach or river bank.
What, if any, obligation should developers have to provide continued public access to parking, launching ramps and other infrastructure within their developments? How much is too much of Moreton Bay (or Jervis Bay or Port Phillip Bay) to lock up in order to provide a sense of equity to fishermen, while also trying to provide protection for marine life?
And as an amateur Keynesian economic theorist, I often ponder the whole consumer protection and competition policy versus a free market conundrum. If I were an Aussie or Kiwi boat retailer importing boats from the US at around 95 cents in the dollar, I would have to be loving free trade agreements, deregulated currency markets and the like right now. But, on the other hand, if I were building boats and exporting them, I’d be concerned that the level playing field was beginning to tilt a little in favour of my overseas competitors.
In life, as on the water, it is all about finding the right balance. Drop me a line to share your ‘balanced’ perspective on any of these issues at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publisher and CEO
Club Marine Limited