Mission Critical
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Mission Critical

Mission Critical

Mission Critical

I love phrases like ‘mission critical’. It’s military jargon pressed into the vernacular. And like all military jargon, it’s vague. Like ‘Fire for Effect’, ‘Light Discipline’, and my favourite ‘Roger’. Who was this guy Roger anyway,and how did he become the world’s best known yes-man?

The great thing about their vague usage is that they can be dropped into situations rendering circumstances either comical or desperately serious and you’re not quite sure which. Things like experiencing a mission critical failure while either heading for or sitting on the head (another bit if military jargon suitably vague).

Real failures that will actually end an undertaking are extremely hard to manage. It’s one of the primary reasons that only Americans have ever walked on the moon. Any other attempts have failed. Virtually ever aspect of getting a human to the moon and back is mission critical. From $3 solenoids to multi million dollar rocket towing tractors to spacesuits to software. When the US did it, everything had to be created from scratch with an error margin of zero. It was, and still is, an incredible and almost unparalleled achievement at managing mission critical in its purest form.

Sailing around the world non-stop requires that you pay very careful attention to those things that could end the undertaking. Given the complexity of the boat, the extreme environment, and the duration of the voyage, the list of things that could go wrong is daunting to say the least. It is impossible to carry enough bits and pieces to cover all eventualities so you must decide what’s ‘mission critical’ and what is not. It is, as I mentioned above, no easy task. My biggest fear was that some $2 piece of plastic would sink the whole caper.

In the picture are two broken bits. One is the outer forestay jib halyard. The other, a Dollar Store can opener. Which one is mission critical and why?

Short interlude of theme song from the game show Jeopardy and ……

We’re back. I gave it away with the reference to my favourite place to shop, the Dollar Store. The outer jib halyard is not in use. I have an inner jib on a Solent stay that is doing just fine. If there comes an opportune moment to reeve a new halyard, I’ll take it. I never figured the halyard to part. I figured the sail to blow out first.

When the can opener fails, most of the food aboard cannot be accessed. Yes, you  can prise
open the cans with a knife, screwdriver, or hacksaw but you’re assuming doing this on a nice, level, stable, stationary countertop. It is a different matter entirely out here and I can assure you,  opening a tin usually requires 3 hands and a foot to hold the bowl where the contents of said tin invariably end up. When it failed, a chill ran down my spine.

I thought I had a spare can opener. Scouring lockers and bilges have not turned it up. Luckily, I have a Leatherman multi-tool. It has a can opener and I am not reduced to sucking the contents out of my remaining tins through a hole punched topsides with a screwdriver or worse.

Now, its time for the daily O-Group with the crew before a visit to the head and then topsides to let the main have all nine yards.

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