Flowing With The Current

Flowing With The Current

Almost every analogy breaks down at some point, this one is no exception.

Almost every analogy has its breaking point, and this one is no different. We set out for a weekend of sailing in the PNW, known for its extreme tides and tricky currents. One such current flows under the Lion's Gate Bridge as you exit Vancouver for the Salish Sea. Under the right conditions, currents can surge to nearly 5 knots. For an old boat capped at 6 knots, this is significant.

Sailing is a passion of mine. Despite understanding tide charts and recognizing we were pushing our luck, we ventured out. As we navigated the channel, our speed plummeted from 5 knots to a mere 2 – akin to a slow walk. With limited time, moving at such a pace is agonizing. Moreover, at this speed and against strong currents, controlling my boat becomes a formidable task. The waves, intensified by the clash of current and tide, forced us to bash our way through. Nevertheless, we persevered and eventually made it safely to the other side. 

The weekend on the water was magnificent, showcasing the beauty of our region, despite the typical cold of February. Our return journey, timed with the current, transformed the experience, propelling my boat to a record speed of over 8 knots! 

Here's where the analogy comes in. 

I've been pushing against the current for years and asking the team to do the same. I started VSSL with "Camp Supplies" and wanted to share my passion for outdoor preparedness by creating a very complex "Build Your Own" application whereby our customers could build their own outdoor readiness tool kit, using all the various components I’ve developed. It's been a rewarding, but very challenging project. The complexities from development, to working with over 30 vendors to inventory management have been complex.

This element of the “BYO” had put significant stress on the organization. But I've always loved the tool, so the team has been diligent about putting their heads down and making it work. They've done an amazing job. I've sailed with them against the current. We've been heading towards our destination, but it hasn't been easy! 

A small deviation from the analogy: 

The product I made, right after our initial Camp Supplies, was an insulated flask. For me, VSSL was as much about readiness as it was about having something to celebrate the journey. To expand on that philosophy, a few years ago we started introducing coffee making products to our line-up. As important as readiness is, the advent of technology has reduced the critical need for readiness components. Now every new iPhone can call for help, even in the most remote environment. I truly believe preparation is and will continue to be very important, but people take that aspect of their journey far less seriously now that they have devices that can easily summon help (I won't get into the pros and cons of this "convenience" here, save that for another post). We also found that our lifestyle (Provisions) products were outselling our readiness (Preparation) products by a margin of about 4:1.

I remember not too many years ago when I was taking a course on offshore navigation. One of the students asked the instructor if he would be teaching us how to use electronic navigation devices (like chart plotters) as well as traditional methods. He nearly blew a gasket and told us that devices would never replace paper charts. While I could still work my way through navigation on a chart, it's been many years since I've relied on one. My point being, we're inherently driven to finding the most efficient method to solve problems. For better or for worse, as a species, we're perpetually evolving. And companies need to do the same. 

I'm sure by now you know where I'm going with this.  

Getting into the "coffee equipment business" has been like turning my boat to go with the current. And now that we're in it, I fully realize how difficult it's been pushing the other way. Don't get me wrong, it's not easy - it never is. But it's a LOT smoother.  

VSSL is here for the long haul. I started this company with the lofty dream of creating a company that one of my grandkids could work at some day, and considering my own kids are barely out of their teens, that's hopefully a very long way away! To me, that means evolving. Steering VSSL in a direction that honors the principles we set as a company remains paramount. We're here for the journey, and to help you get the most out of yours with the products we create.  

To that end, our evolution has us discontinuing the Build Your Own portion of our website. The good news is, for a short time, all the inventory on our builder is substantially reduced as we need to make shelf space for our other products. The bad news is, it makes me a bit sad. I love that tool. But we're evolving, doing our best to keep the boat afloat by sailing with the current. 

Thanks so much for your continued support! 

Todd and the VSSL Crew 




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