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Sue Catamaran
Sue Pelletier's happy place: on the deck of a 40-foot catamaran in the Caribbean

It’s Been a Lovely Cruise

What I learned about meetings, and life, from sailing in the Caribbean

I know, you’re thinking, “Oh no, not another what I learned about meeting planning on my sailing vacation” post. OK, I promise I’ll keep it brief and try to spare you at least some of the awful puns this time around, but there were a few things that came home to me as we sailed around the Spanish and U.S. Virgin Islands recently.

1. Believe the guy, not the guidebooks. All the cruising guides we studied said that Bahia Salina del Sur on Vieques was a beautiful harbor to anchor in, but when a man on a fishing boat came screaming out to wave us off as we entered, we believed him—especially since the only words we could make out among his very fast Spanish were “unexploded ordinance.” (That area of the island had served as a bombing range for the U.S. Navy until 2003.) We decided it would make sense to beat feet back to Culebrita rather than drop our anchor on something that would make our catamaran the site of some unexpected July 4th fireworks. Even though, as a writer, I’m a firm believer in the written word, I’ll trust local knowledge over a guidebook any day.
Planner takeaway: If at all possible, do a site visit and talk to the people who work at your host facility. The pictures always look good, but look for yourself and ask around before dropping anchor.

2. Start working on your succession plan. We’re still relatively seaworthy, but we’re also working to get the next generation steady as she goes to do the hard work when we get old enough to prefer being passengers to drivers. Fortunately, my stepson and his wife are taking to the sailing life, and on this trip (their second with us), they got a lot more hands-on, steering and grinding winches, with us on standby at their shoulders, ready to offer advice (and grab the helm if need be).
Planner takeaway: If you’ve been on the job for any length of time, you likely have a lot of institutional knowledge locked away in your head. Even if you have no plans to abandon ship, take time to share what you know with the next generation—even, or especially, if it means handing over the controls so they can get a feel for how to steer your vessel.

3. Always seek new horizons. We’ve been sailing in the Caribbean for 25 years now, and there’s a reason the British Virgin Islands have always been a favorite. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t continually seeking new seas, new harbors, new sights, sounds, and tastes—which is why we have ventured from St. Vincent to Grenada, from the Abacos to our new spot this year, the Spanish Virgins off of Puerto Rico.
My personal takeaway: Sometimes, no matter how much you love your current ship and crew, something new pops up on the horizon that you just have to explore.

One such opportunity recently came across my bow, and I find myself setting a new course in my career. I look back on my 20-year journey with MeetingsNet with great affection, appreciation, and amazement at how much I have learned, seen, and experienced along the way. I will miss the MeetingsNet crew terribly—especially my fellow editors Sue Hatch and Hannah Kinnersley, our art director Sharon Carlson, and our publisher Melissa Fromento. We’ve been sailing these waters together for a long time, and along with fair winds and following seas, we have been through our fair share of high seas and rough weather together. You couldn’t ask for better.

And of course, I will miss you, our amazing MeetingsNet readers. Thank you for 20 years of your time, attention, ideas, and overall brilliance in doing the hardest job very few people outside of this crazy business even know exists. It’s been a joy sharing your stories, and I hope we’ll meet again on our journeys through the warm and hospitable meetings industry waters.

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