In what now feels like a different epoch, before we collectively had heard of social distancing, our family was on an ocean cruise in the Caribbean. A big boat, with several thousand guests and crew. We were delightfully unaware of any contagion which might be lurking any time this many people inhabit a “small” space. Our family enjoys what in recent years has become an annual event of time spent together on a boat. As a value investor, I find cruises to be a more affordable way to vacation together as a family, with just enough alone activities so patricide is not contemplated, not openly anyway. The family continues to expand, with the kids pairing up and having children of their own. Everyone’s schedule is generally flexible since the grandkids are not yet in school, so finding a time which all can travel and which is in the “off season” is doable. This simply means the cost is significantly lower and the boats are not crowded.
A week or so on the high seas allows us to bond as a family, to reacquaint parents and adult children, to create memories the grandkids will hopefully share with their grandkids, and to develop bonds with our sons and daughter-in-law. Time for us to share a meal, a drink, conversation, or simply a laugh while fully relaxed and without the burden of the daily grind. With technology, we can answer our emails and voice mails from the office far from home. Simply put, these annual events allow us to share experiences and to become closer.
Although we enjoy the voyages, we rarely purchase the extras, like excursions or the drink packages. Again, value investors. However, some rules are meant to be broken. On this trip, the ship had a planned day spent on an island owned by the cruise company and one of the extras was a zip line. This isn’t just any zip line. It is the longest and the highest zip line in the Caribbean. The take off point is 500 feet above the beaches with spectacular views down the flight line of more a half-mile and at speeds approaching 50 mph. This sounded like fun and a new experience for me, so several of us decided to take the plunge, including me, Josh, our son-in-law, Zach and daughter, Nicole. Only one problem, I’m afraid of heights. Now this may sound ridiculous that the pilot of a small plane has a fear of heights, but unfortunately, I am. In truth, it’s not unusual and I have met several pilots suffering the same phobia.
All went well as we boarded the golf cart which was to bring us up to the top of the hill. The drive up was on the back side of the hill and traversed lush, tropical terrain. At the top of the hill we disembarked the golf carts and followed the path towards the departure point. Upon seeing the zip line, my heart dropped into my stomach and I started to fear what was planned. The idea that I would be strapped into a chair, feet dangling, some 40+ feet off the ground and then launched into the unknown became horrifying to me. Let’s just say I was having doubts. Vocally expressing my concerns to Josh, Zach and Nicole, led to a solid amount of laughter, and a kind of teenage joy that comes from watching a friend in self-inflicted distress. I was scared, even though in reality I knew there was nothing to fear. At one point I decided to walk back down the same road we had ridden up. Of course this was verboten. Through the “encouragement” of Zach and a young woman who was employed by the cruise to strap participants in, I allowed myself to be strapped in. I would like to say that my desire to beat the phobia won the day, but in truth it was from shear embarrassment. Once in the air, I experienced tranquility, my fears vanished and I truly enjoyed the zipline.
As I write this letter alone at my desk, the markets are up sharply, but it’s a cold, blustery, overcast day with snow falling. Somehow the weather feels apropos, in sync with the new normal we are all experiencing. Fear of disease, lost wealth and income abound. A bit of loneliness grips us all. We respond to each experience in a different manner. Although I am fearful of heights, I am very comfortable in an open sided, fabric covered aircraft at a 45 degree angle to the ground, only held in by a strap. Yet a zipline terrified me. Similarly, each bear market varies and what may terrify some is old hat to others. No matter how difficult, just hold on as this too shall pass and just as I found tranquility in the ride, in the not too distant future we will all look back and realize how our faith, diligence and shear tenacity allowed us to outlast all Covid-19 could muster.
As always, we thank you for your business and for your continued trust.
Jack P. Cannata