My wife and I plus some friends recently sailed in a 500 mile race on our 36 foot catamaran to Mexico from Florida. This trip isn’t for the faint of heart.

Pre-race weather report 25 knot winds gusting to 30 knots, 9 to 11 foot seas two days out on the Mexican side. Light trepidation was in the air at the pre party in St. Petersburg.

After we left the dock positioning for the starting line, the entire boat stared at me, asking “Jeff where’s the ice?” I didn’t know getting ice was my job, but I took responsibility. Every day I heard, “Hey does anybody want a hot beer?”, obviously directly at me.

Another issue a few hours after the start, we were met with a biblical-like plague of love bugs. They’re okay in small batches hitting your car grill, but something uneasy about thousands of bugs descending on your boat.

Typically this trip would take three to four days depending on the wind. That means no anchoring. 24 hours a day at the helm, two people shifts, every three hours for safety. Harnesses at night so you don’t fall off the boat. We had an autopilot but we couldn’t use it because it drained the house batteries too quickly.

Occasionally ships crossing in the night would wake up the crew, as did the building seas thudding against the hull. One night, the AIS system was beeping of a collision course with a container ship. We jumped on the radio and to my surprise, the captain of the huge vessel actually changed course. Whew.

At 3:00am, day three, under a moonless dark night, there was a problem. A big one. Gusting 30 knot winds, rolling 9-11 foot seas (weather prediction was spot on), sleep deprived, a line was released and the jib sheet was shredded in seconds. At the same time, a 200’ commercial ship was off our port bow blinking its lights because we were coming too close.

To add to the mayhem, a spinnaker line (unbeknownst to us) dropped into the water and wrapped around the port engine rendering it useless.

We tried to pull away with the remaining operable 9.8 HP Yamaha outboard. The motor strained against the incredibly strong (and consistent) Florida Straits. The shredded jib continuously snapped loudly but also creating tremendous drag to our forward momentum.

In last place and about 150 miles off the coast of Isla de Mujeres, the finish line, the Mexican Navy sent a frigate to check on us. Seeing such a large Navy vessel off your port bow was both comforting and disconcerting.

My Zen patience was tested, crawling to the finish line at 2.2 knots for two days.

As we finally approached the immigration dock, there were numerous sailors from the race there to cheer us on. This gave me mixed emotions of thankfulness but also a feeling of failure.

Post race we had a fantastic time, lots of restaurants, bars and organized events. My favorite was playing in the 52nd annual “Mexicans versus the Gringos” basketball game which we almost won. It’s been about 15 years since the Gringos have tasted victory.

The team worked very well together to get the boat ready for the sail back. We found a mechanic to fix one of the engines, got gas, new jib lines and food reprovisioning (with ice). My sister graciously ended up flying a new jib from Tampa to Mexico with one day’s notice. It was good luck since the jib fit and was key to sail home.

Side story, another sailor asked his wife to fly from the states to Mexico with a new Windex (wind direction indicator). She brought a bottle of Windex (yes, the glass cleaner from SC Johnson). True story.

On our boat was our French friend (I consider the sailing GOAT) who said something that really resonated with me. “We succeed or fail together as a team.”

I think this applies with our valuation industry, we rise and fall together.

In the end, it’s not about awards. We got to the finish line safely, had a great time and created memories about the journey.

What are the next steps in the valuation industry’s journey?

I say we ignore past successes and failures and look to the future with a fresh perspective.

The industry needs a dramatic course correction.

I hope the Appraisal Institute can be part of that new journey.

What can go wrong?

Appraisers succeed or fail together.

The better question is, “What can go right?”