Credit where credit is due

Last week, my family did something that not many families get to do.  It was an exciting adventure that involved a boat, the ocean, red hot lava, and the amazing reaction when these three things meet.  This trip was part our trip to Hawaii to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary.

The five of us took the Lava Ocean Tour based out of the Big Island of Hawaii.  This was a once-in-a- lifetime excursion that my family will never forget.  It was also a great learning opportunity for me, my wife, kids, and mother-in-law.  It wasn’t just a chance to learn about geology or nature, but a chance to teach them about fairness and appreciation.

The lava boat tour was everything we could have imagined.  Streams of glowing lava gushing out of jagged rocks landing in what appeared to be a boiling ocean.  My words cannot adequately describe the thrill of watching the molten lava come within meters of our boat.  It was a lot of fun, and my family will never forget what we saw there. (See sample footage here)

Now for the not so fun part…

On the way back from the volcano, our boat took a tremendous leap over a wave.  Before we set sail, the captain had warned everyone that this would be a rough ride, and if you were not prepared for the rough sea, you should either sit in the back of the boat, or skip the trip all together.

It gets worse…

I am not sure if it was the tremendous leap that caused it, but the boat had mechanical difficulties as we were heading back from the volcano and completely lost power. For some period of time, our boat was adrift, rocking in the waves, and slowly edging back towards the volcano, red hot lava, or possibly Japan.

It gets event worse than that…

While the captain did advise everyone that the sea would be rough, and my family did have the good sense to take Dramamine, we may not have taken quite enough.  Everyone was fine as long as the boat was speeding across the water, however, some did not fare well while we were waiting for our rescue.  The crew tried to comfort and assure us as best they could, but the reality was that we were stuck on a boat, drifting towards either Japan or the lava, and a fair share of the passengers were getting sick over the railings.

Our heroes!

After what seem like forever, a boat came to tow our boat to shore.  Of all people, it was the competitor of the tour company we were sailing with.  The boat was half as big as ours, and had its own passengers who had not signed up for rescue duty, but everyone pitched in to keep our boat from floating away.

Soon after the competition started towing us in, our tour company’s mechanic arrived on a jet ski. He got to work on our motor as the boat rocked and the passengers moaned and groaned.  My guess is that rescues at sea were not part of his job description, or maybe they were – maybe they are now.


The mechanic was able to fix the boat!  We soon returned to the beach where we started.  While some of the passengers were a little sea sick and grumpy, nobody got hurt, no life vests were needed, and nobody had to learn how to speak Japanese.  One of the grumpy passengers loudly asked whether partial refunds would be issued.  The captain acknowledged this request and politely directed the passenger to follow up with the tour company, as that question was above his pay grade.  I personally did not agree with the refund request, but I understood why the other people might have felt differently.

The tour company followed up!

The next day, my wife received an email from the tour company.  They acknowledged the mishap and explained what steps they were taking to make sure that the boat was safe for future passengers.  They also offered us a FULL REFUND!  I politely declined the refund, and requested that the tour company instead split the proffered refund between the captain, crew, and the mechanic who rode to the rescue on the back of a jet ski, fixed the boat, and brought the tour back safely!

My final thoughts:

In order to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences, you sometimes have to take chances.  You trust the people who accompany you on your journey to do their part to support you.  In this case, I felt like the crew of our lava boat tour did everything they could to set expectations, keep us safe, and show us an amazing and rare experience.  When something went wrong, they utilized all of their resources to make it right.

While the services that my firm provides to our clients may not involve lava and turbulent seas, I would hope that my team handles unplanned events as well as the crew of our boat and the seafaring mechanic did.

I hope that we all have partners and vendors who do their best when the journey gets rough, and who offer to make things right when they feel like they have let us down.