Time to Jump Back into the Water

Posted By: CAPT Bill Diehl, USCG (Ret.), P.E. Port Bureau News, Captain's Corner,

This is a saying I often said when we were moving in the Coast Guard. The kids thought it was a Coastie saying. When I decided to get out of the Coast Guard and said it, my daughter, Rachel, challenged me by asking, “What does that even mean?”  Here is what I told her:

When I was 2 or 3 my, Dad decided I was old enough to swim. He grabbed me unexpectedly and tossed me in the water.  Down I went and up I came — like a bobber.  Once I oriented myself, I grabbed the wall, scrabbled out, and immediately reported it to the authorities, Mom.  Days later it happened again, but this time he tossed me further out.  Up I came again, only to find myself far from the wall. He said, “Swim!” I doggie paddled to the wall and reported it again to the authorities.

You would have thought I would have learned my lesson, but sometime later I let my guard down and he tossed me a third time. Up I came, only this time Dad had jumped into the pool between me and the nearest wall, blocking my return to safety! He began saying, “Swim to the other side.”  I tried to get by the goalie, but eventually gave up and turned to face death. Somehow, I made it to other side. He followed me across the water and said with a big smile, “I knew you could do it, I’m proud of you — you can swim.” He was right. From then on, I could swim!

Years later I had a similar experience with my dad when I arrived at the Coast Guard Academy. I wanted to return to the wall of comfort — home, but the goalie was ready and thwarted my efforts.  He would say, “Turn around and put your head down. Get busy — you can do it.” After trying to get around the goalie for a year, my parents tossed my brother Bert into the Academy waters with me. Legend has it, he got me to the other side.  At graduation Dad had a big smile and similar words, “I knew you could do it, I’m proud of you.”

So, I told Rachel, over the years when I face the challenges of change, I say, “Time to jump back into the water” to encourage myself – and then I do it,

When I got out of the Coast Guard, I had no job offers. I told Annette, my wife, that this time I would try floating in the water. It was a little different from my previous, more determined swims. Tom Marian threw me the Port Bureau ring buoy, and off I headed in that direction.  Shortly afterward, the Coast Guard called to ask if I would return to help with the response to the big rig explosion off Louisiana. I already missed the Coast Guard—it was the near wall; the Port Bureau was still unknown waters. But my dad’s long-ago words popped up immediately and I knew the answer  — put my head down and stay busy with the Port Bureau. Exciting new achievements waited in the waters ahead!

Altogether, 40 years in the maritime working waters (with one-third of them in Houston) have flown by. I value the Port Bureau's work and relationships greatly. I also realize time is ticking and while Annette and I have our health, I want to play in the retirement waters (I hear it’s actually a hot tub). The beauty is we are staying here, so I can keep up with the relationships.

This is my last Captain’s Corner. Sure, I have some trepidation about leaving, but I’m also excited and happy.  I’m glad Tom trusted me with the Port Bureau. I’m grateful to the Board and our members for their confidence in me and the staff. Like my brother Bert, you got in the waters with us during discouraging times and ensured we got to the other side with encouragement, swimming alongside, and supporting the Port Bureau with the financial ring buoys.

I will miss my beloved coworkers, board, and members and acknowledge a debt of gratitude that I owe you all. But I have great confidence in Captain Eric Carrero and know that you all are going to continue to do great things. I will keep you all in my prayers and heart—SPLASH!

About the Author 

CAPT Bill Diehl, USCG (Ret.), P.E. retires as president of the Greater Houston Port Bureau on May 18, 2023. During his tensure at the Port Bureau, he utilized his 30+ years of marine safety and port operations experience to guide the Port Bureau in bringing members and community partners together for cooperation and collaboration to improve and advance the port region.