Creativity and Boldness: Character qualities for helping

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I remember a unique opportunity to help someone in trouble that required creativity and boldness.

Shortly after going into business in Islamorada in the Florida Keys I bought a boat. The boat traveled at 61 mph and I used it for water skiing and skin diving.

One day at a marina next to a bridge going over the waterway that took us from ocean to bay I was filling up with gas. A small plane began flying over the waterway at low altitude rotating his wings up and down as if in distress. I did not see it the first time but when he went out over the ocean and turned around someone pointed it out to me and said I think he wants you to follow him.

So we jumped back in the boat and followed him into the bay. As soon as we got past the mangroves we saw a boat on fire. So I headed that direction at full speed. As I drew near I saw three men in the water.

They were the men that captured porpoises for Sea World, Marine Land and other such places.  They informed me that the gas tank had just been filled which contrary to popular opinion meant that it was safer because it was acting like a long wick. If the tank had been empty it is more likely to explode.

I remember once in Chu Lai, Vietnam in 1967 during a rocket attack they hit a stack of empty fuel tanks and it created a large explosion that looked like all of MAG 13 had blown up.

I dropped the men close to a bell boy in the bay and made a high speed run directly at the burning boat. I turned too fast on the first attempt. On the second run I created a spray of water from one end of the boat to the other which put out the fire that had spread to the whole boat. Now the only fire was right at the fuel tank.

I did not have anything to put out a gas fire. I made a few more high speed runs focusing all of the water on one spot but it was futile and by then the Coast Guard had arrived and they were signaling me away.

Sometimes just being available is not enough. I had enough control of the boat to do what was needed.

What do you do in emergencies? Being prepared requires learning character.

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