On Tuesday, May 17, Southern Star/Buccaneer Cruises received an unscheduled visit from the US Coast Guard inspection team, with the intent to deliver a letter. Visits from the Coast Guard, scheduled or not, are always taken seriously.

Certificated passenger boats, like ours, require annual topside inspections by the Coast Guard. If the inspection goes well, you advance to go and collect two hundred dollars, as you are allowed to continue to operate your boat. If the inspection reveals a serious problem, your boat may go directly to jail where one cannot run passengers until the problem is corrected. Inspections are not taken casually or lightly, so when the Coast Guard shows up at your vessel, you know something important is about to take place.

We always strive to give our absolute best aboard Southern Star Dolphin Cruise and Buccaneer Pirate Cruise. Whether we are training crew, maintaining the boats, or sharpening customer service skills, we continually seek to raise the bar, setting higher standards for our staff. We have a Kingdom mindset that applies to every aspect of our business, and our consistency in excellence is a key principle of our vision.

At this year’s Blessing of the Marketplace, Marwan Rifta presented the keynote address, speaking on excellence in business. He described the ingredients of a recipe for success, a recipe which propelled him to president of a multinational, Fortune 100 — not 500 — but Fortune 100 Company. Marwan was in authority of over 2,600 employees, and annual revenues reached over 2.5 billion dollars during his time in this position. Principles of integrity and excellence were the cornerstones on which Rifta built his company. His speech was powerful and inspiring.

In our marketplace, we put forth our best efforts to embrace these principles. We are aware, however, that sometimes situations occur that may result in a negative impact. So, when Lieutenant Clausen, the USCG inspector in authority over our region, arrives with a letter, unannounced, he has our full attention. The letter was addressed to Mr. Cliff Atwell and crew and signed by M.A. Clausen, lieutenant in U.S. Coast Guard:

"The M/V Buccaneer has been selected as one of four vessels in the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Panama City's fleet of responsibility that consistently maintain the highest safety standards while ensuring the vessel remains inspection ready at all times. The knowledge exhibited during exams by the vessel's crew stands as a testament to the training program executed by all parties and strides for perfection. The M/V Buccaneer and crew were selected for this distinction by your local USCG Marine Inspectors who visit nearly 200 vessels each year. Please pass on to your staff our appreciation for their commitment to fostering a partnership that emphasizes professionalism.

Once again, thank you for your commitment and dedication to passenger safety while exceeding regulatory requirements."

We were both surprised and honored to receive this commendation award!

I am not writing this to boast of accolades, but to inspire and encourage excellence. Excellence is the difference. It’s the difference between an A and a B. True, it requires more effort, but it also pays higher dividends.

Whether you are a student or a teacher, an employee or an employer, the extra effort will shine like a bright light. These principles of integrity and excellence are Kingdom principles. Jesus is my model of excellence and integrity. He put forth the greatest effort and paid the highest price. I believe it is His desire for us to live with a spirit of excellence in all we do.

Some say you get out of life what you put into it. Some say it’s the principle of sowing and reaping. Regardless, if you desire an excellent life, then excellence must be an ingredient of your personal recipe. I am so proud of Captain Cannonball and his merry band of pirates. Consistently, day after day, they put forth the extra effort. Well done, good and faithful captain and crew.

By the way, one of the other three boats to receive the award was the Southern Star seven years ago, also captained by Captain Cliff Atwell.

Capt. Steve Wilson and his wife, Wendy, are owners of the Southern Star Dolphin Cruise and Buccaneer Pirate Cruise in Destin.