The water rat in Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Wind in the Willows’, so aptly summed it all up when he explained, “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Ratty’s emphasis was on, 'nothing, half so much worth doing.' Why? Because the practice of boating is a character forming activity by nature of the physical and mental demands made upon those who ‘mess about in boats’.
Although Mole and Ratty started by having a good time sculling Ratty’s punt, it wasn’t long before they both found themselves in the water, because of Mole’s impetuous attempt at sculling without permission. Ratty ingeniously rescued Mole by using the ‘sculls’ to float him to the river bank. Then he got him warm and dry by persuading him to do some running. Despite the seriousness of the situation Ratty never grumbled or castigated Mole, instead he made a big joke of the whole affair. In so doing Ratty proved he had real character.
Ratty’s enthusiasm for boating could not be denied. He would say things like, “Lord! The times we’ve had together! Whether in winter of summer, spring or autumn, it’s always got its fun and its excitements.” Since he mentioned his, ‘Lord’, maybe he knew a little more about spiritual things than we imagine? Could he have read the words of Paul the Apostle in Romans, chapter 5, “We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character hope.”?
Paul’s statement could well have been the foundation principle for Kurt Hahn’s first Outward Bound Sailing Centre at Aberdovey, in Wales. Over the past 40 years this organisation has spread to 30 countries - all with the same mission of character building. Leaders of these adventure centres teach their students essential new skills which they use while working within a team to achieve goals and objectives under demanding conditions. In so doing they learn to work together.
Some of the skills directly taught on Outward Bound Sailing Courses entail things like tying knots, splicing rope, boat handling under sail and oar, navigation and cooking. Participants are also taught common skills such as verbal communication, problem solving and decision making. One of Hahn’s ideals was to promote the truth that people can achieve more than they thought possible by adopting and believing the motto, “I can.”
In summary, organized outdoor activities equip youngsters with useful skills and attributes; things like leadership, self-confidence, teamwork and perseverance - all applicable within the world of work. Such character training brings hope for a bright future.
Outward Bound UK http://www.outwardbound-uk.org/
Outward Bound USA http://www.outwardbound.com/