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Old 28-09-2018, 06:03   #1
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Gender roles in sailing and cruising

About a year ago, I was reading a well-known book, and introduction to cruising. The author was one of a well-known man-woman couple who have been cruising for years. It was an enjoyable read, and there were little hints here and there that the author was part of an egalitarian, highly functional couple. There was a section on decision making and on how the two of them dealt with the inherent tension between the need to have only one captain and the importance of both being involved in decisions.


That sort of stuff really warms my heart. I read on.


There was a section about emergencies where the author revealed that part of their contingency plan was a notarized document stating that she would have the authority to operate the boat worldwide in the event he were to become incapacitated. That was necessary because, well, the boat belonged entirely to him.


Reading that, for me, was sort of like finding out that there isn't really a Santa Claus.


So, is that what it's like out there in cruising land? Traditional male-led relationships? Sometimes carefully papered over with a thin layer of egalitarianism and feminism?


Is that a reflection of society at large?


Or is there something about cruising that attracts strong men and women who are willing to accept a voyage where they are not a full partner?
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Old 28-09-2018, 06:13   #2
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

I married my wife 32 years ago.... I don’t know about others but every major purchase (cars, boat, house) has both names. We are partners and realize our individual strengths and weaknesses.

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Old 28-09-2018, 06:16   #3
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

Have two friends who are a male/female couple who were professional crew on a 125' motor yacht. At the dock the guy was nearly always addressed as Captain, and questions and explanations aimed at him.

He would consistently explain that his partner was the Captain and he was First Mate. A few enlightened souls would switch their attention to the Captain, but many more would/could not. Some even would not believe that the guy could not be senior in the Captain crew relationship and would laugh at the situation.

Situation is getting better in some places, but as a whole there is a long way to go.

I am half of a male couple crew, so don't face that kind of presumption.
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Old 28-09-2018, 06:26   #4
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

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Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
is there something about cruising that attracts strong men and women who are willing to accept a voyage where they are not a full partner?

My wife and I are both Type A. She has her strengths and I have mine. We both respect each other and as someone else already mentioned we have everything in both names.



If we weren't full partners on the water, my wife would have no interest going. She isn't just a passenger, she's as much in charge as I am. When she's at the helm, she gives the orders and when I'm at the helm, I give them.



In times of emergency, I like having her in charge because that's what she does for a living. She manages stressful situations day-to-day and is able to keep a calm head and rationally process the event. I'm retired military so I have no problem taking orders. It's a win win for me, her, our relationship and the boat.
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Old 28-09-2018, 06:34   #5
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

My wife and I have been cruising for the last eight years and we are both sensitive to traditional roles that have largely been out-dated due to evolving technologies and culture. That being said, I have substantially more upper body strength than my wife has and I’m much more mechanically inclined. My wife is far more observant than me, more detailed- oriented and patient. She has become an expert navigator and keen weather forecaster. We recognize that we have complimenting skills and there isn’t even a hint of competition between us.

I suppose I wind up doing more physical labor than she does but it doesn’t bother me and I’ve never complained about it or even mentioned it. We pretty much share the ‘pink’ jobs while I do the vast majority of the repairs and maintenance. When it comes to the bright work, though, she’s faster and better than me.

I like to joke that on our boat, I’m the boss and my wife is the decision-maker. One of the things that I feel has been critical to the success of our cruising lives, not to mention our married life (over 40 years) is that we pick our fights carefully. We make a point of saying nice things to each other. If an issue arises, we talk it out - sometimes without reaching a conclusion but we both feel better after listening and being heard.

It takes work and effort to maintain a good relationship and it’s irrelevant whether it’s an intimate, business or friendly relationship. I find that I get out of relationships directly proportional to what I put into them.

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Old 28-09-2018, 06:38   #6
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
There was a section about emergencies where the author revealed that part of their contingency plan was a notarized document stating that she would have the authority to operate the boat worldwide in the event he were to become incapacitated. That was necessary because, well, the boat belonged entirely to him.

Reading that, for me, was sort of like finding out that there isn't really a Santa Claus.

So, is that what it's like out there in cruising land? Traditional male-led relationships? Sometimes carefully papered over with a thin layer of egalitarianism and feminism?

Lots of folks buy a boat and then get coupled up later. Or couples buy a boat and the title ends up in one name only, for various reasons. Sometimes (often?) without regard to who plays what role.

In that particular case... if the boat was just titled in his name only, I expect they were just mindful that some governments require that kind of "who's allowed to be legally in charge" documentation.

That doesn't speak to your larger question, but your admiration for that particular couple can likely remain intact.



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Old 28-09-2018, 06:42   #7
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

How a given couple (CIS, gay, larger poly grouping, whatever) want to structure their finances and legal issues

is nobody's business but their own.

Freedom means freedom, long as neither deception nor coercion is involved.
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Old 28-09-2018, 07:15   #8
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
About a year ago, I was reading a well-known book, and introduction to cruising. The author was one of a well-known man-woman couple who have been cruising for years. It was an enjoyable read, and there were little hints here and there that the author was part of an egalitarian, highly functional couple. There was a section on decision making and on how the two of them dealt with the inherent tension between the need to have only one captain and the importance of both being involved in decisions.


That sort of stuff really warms my heart. I read on.


There was a section about emergencies where the author revealed that part of their contingency plan was a notarized document stating that she would have the authority to operate the boat worldwide in the event he were to become incapacitated. That was necessary because, well, the boat belonged entirely to him.


Reading that, for me, was sort of like finding out that there isn't really a Santa Claus.


So, is that what it's like out there in cruising land? Traditional male-led relationships? Sometimes carefully papered over with a thin layer of egalitarianism and feminism?


Is that a reflection of society at large?


Or is there something about cruising that attracts strong men and women who are willing to accept a voyage where they are not a full partner?

The sensible thing, for a truly committed couple, is to have the boat in both names, anyway.


As for who is "in charge", it is probably easier in most of the world for the man to be nominally the skipper. You can waste your time trying to educate the world, or you can just outwardly at least, go with the flow and present the picture that people expect to see, and move on to important matters. As a wise old man once said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and annoys the pig."


As for who is ACTUALLY in charge, that is up to the couple concerned. I personally think the natural order of things is for the man to be in charge, and offer no apologies for the way that I think. It is part of our evolutionary heritage. However, it is not necessary for this to be so in practice, in our present state of technological development, and so departing from this "norm" is not a big deal. Do it like you feel it. Plenty of couples have found that this role reversal is for them quite natural and practical. It's not such a far stretch from natural roles, either. If the woman is in charge of hearth and home, and you are living on a boat, well, then it's not so illogical. Anyway it is up to the couple how best to split up authority and decision making. Whatever works best for you. And anyway, more and more cruising couples are same sex, so you cant be too stuck in the idea that the man must be in charge. There might be two of them. Or none.



I think it is very common for one partner of a couple to have a lot more experience sailing than the other. Such is my case at present. GF/fiancee has very limited experience sailing and I have been messing about with boats and ships from an early age. Plus I am more the brutish neanderthal alpha male type, and she is more the soft and giggly feminine type. So the traditional roles work well for us, though I do take the time to answer questions in detail so far as possible, and listen to her concerns. Sort of a super benevolent dictatorship? As for the "skirt work", I do all the cooking. She washes dishes, makes salad, cappuccino, and cocktails. We both do laundry and stuff. She is in charge of organizing stuff because wherever I put something, she will move it anyway. We each already own a boat, and we are fixing to buy a bigger boat together. It will be in both our names, paid for by two equal checks from our separate bank accounts which we have not taken the time to merge yet. But there is no question in our minds or anyone else's who the captain is. If our experience levels were reversed, I would probably be a little embarrassed at first, but I would of course see the logic in her being the skipper, and that's the way it would be. If she were in charge and I were addressed as if I were the skipper in some overseas port, I would probably just go along with it to quickly get our business concluded and leave any officials or tradespeople believing that all is still right in the world. Some folks are easily disturbed and distracted, and it is not my job to teach the pig to sing.
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Old 28-09-2018, 07:44   #9
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

I have two petite female life partners...when we sail, we do have fairly specific roles. Not because of any inequality, just some realities of physical size differences. I've read it would be better if I (the largest) would handle docking physical stuff, but the transmission is too stiff at the moment for either of them to handle forward and reverse with any elegance (in a MOB or emergency, sure they can, but fiddling it back and forth for a standing turn between superyachts, not so much ). It's my job to get the boat perfect so they don't need strength to dock. Other roles we all split. Boat's only in my name for legal reasons, but they both are in my will. Hadn't thought of the paper onboard for emergencies, I'll have to address that. Lastly, I have a lot more sailing experience, so until a few more miles go by, under sail, they're stuck with me giving the orders But believe me, after we're anchored or docked, they outvote me on pretty much everything else
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Old 28-09-2018, 08:21   #10
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

Sadly, sexism is alive and well in the boating community. It’s diminishing as the older generations sail off into the sunset, but in my experience it is still quite strong.

Our boat, and indeed all our assets, have always been in both our names. Sometimes this causes consternation to the bureaucracy, but so be it.

We sail and cruise as a couple. Underway we purposely switch roles every 24 hours, loosely dividing the duties into helm/navigation & deck/galley duties (sail management/trim, anchoring, meals, etc…). Person on the helm is the “captain.” Any split-second decisions that absolutely must be made are made by whoever is on the helm. No questions asked. However, the vast majority of our decisions are made via discussion. The fact is, unless you’re constantly pushing the limits, the number of major snap decisions that must be made on a cruising boat are few and far between.

When we’re not underway we are more loose about duties. We both cook and clean more or less equally. I’m physically stronger, and slightly taller, but she is smaller and more flexible, so these realities sometimes drives a task. But most of our daily life duties are shared.

I don’t really understand how a cruising couple can function with ‘blue’ and ‘pink’ jobs. When there is only two of you on board, I think it’s dangerous to not have both crew equally able to perform ALL tasks. This doesn’t mean being equally capable in all functions, but I just shake head in disbelief when I hear about cruising couples where “he” must be on the helm, and “she” can’t steer, reef or manage the anchor. This seems like a formula for disaster.
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Old 28-09-2018, 08:49   #11
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

The only thing I'm not allowed to do is laundry .... cause everything turns out pink.

Sharon does impeccable glass work, changes oil and impellers and occasionally lets me drive the boat. We both do virtually every job onboard except that she does not like playing with electricity.

We are also business partners and if she does not get equal attention from clients, I walk away forcing them to deal with her.

oh ! almost forgot .... she is stunningly beautiful.

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Old 28-09-2018, 09:12   #12
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

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Originally Posted by GrowleyMonster View Post

As for who is ACTUALLY in charge, that is up to the couple concerned. I personally think the natural order of things is for the man to be in charge, and offer no apologies for the way that I think. It is part of our evolutionary heritage. However, it is not necessary for this to be so in practice, in our present state of technological development, and so departing from this "norm" is not a big deal. Do it like you feel it. Plenty of couples have found that this role reversal is for them quite natural and practical. It's not such a far stretch from natural roles, either. If the woman is in charge of hearth and home, and you are living on a boat, well, then it's not so illogical. Anyway it is up to the couple how best to split up authority and decision making. Whatever works best for you. And anyway, more and more cruising couples are same sex, so you cant be too stuck in the idea that the man must be in charge. There might be two of them. Or none.
Gawd, I wish more right-wing neanderthals (just kidding) were like you Seriously though, it's nice to see people can still hold differing opinions and still get along with others.

On our boat, we share pretty much every decision, but in a different way. She's the book nerd and can remember everything we ever learned but isn't so much of a hands on. I learn by doing. So when a decision has to be made we pool our resources and try to balance theory and practice. Except for docking. She hates docking. I have to bully her into doing it a couple of times every cruise.
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Old 28-09-2018, 09:40   #13
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

If you have the time find and read Rosie Swale's book "Chidren Of Cape Horn."
Written in the seventies.
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Old 28-09-2018, 09:44   #14
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

There are as many answers as there are couples. I could point to averages or I could point to exceptions. I think it is like when someone once asked "do you really use bikes when cruising?" and the answer was "It depends on whether you ride bikes before you left cruising."


If your house has pink jobs and blue jobs, that will continue (on a boat you will BOTH have jobs). If you share decisions, that will continue, though if one chooses to remain a non-sailor, they obviously will never share in all decisions. The notion that there can be only one captain is a little different on couples boats--say it all you want, it won't fly. If they truly are equal in skill and experience, it should probably be like when I sail with some of my friends; who ever has lead of the watch is captain; tell me what you need me to do.
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Old 28-09-2018, 09:49   #15
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Re: Gender roles in sailing and cruising

I will echo some earlier posts. Do whatever you and your spouse want to do. That is your business.

The idea that “sexism is alive and well in the cruising community” just rings hollow.

I’m assuming you were alluding to Lin and Larry. If that’s how they did it and they were happy good for them.

If one doesn’t like that kind of arrangement do not do it.

Side note a vessel needs a clear Captain. There are situations that require decisions, not committees. Decide early and decide based on merit, not gender, sexual orientation or skin color.

Just a tip ;-)
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