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Old 04-03-2017, 07:53   #1
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So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do About i

Ok guys (and gals) usually every few weeks someone starts a thread about how their wife/GF does not want to sail and what can they do to get them to become a willing sailor.
I asked my wife and here is her answer. This is what to do, read and then go do it.

This article about being a female sailor is written for both male and female sailors – and I hope that this will help more women to become real sailors in the best sense of the word.

Being a female sailor
This isn’t an easy role in the male dominated sailing world, and trust me – the maritime world IS male dominated.
“Ma’am – stay on board”
“Ma’am – get back on board” (louder)
“Ma’am- get back on board (angry voice)
As you’ve probably guessed, those words were spoken as we were docking – in St. George Town Marina on Grenada in the Caribbean. I really tired of being scolded and directed by the “best captains who are sitting on the pier”. To make matters worse, now my husband, Carsten tells me to get back on board. He never reacts like that, but now he is getting stressed by listening to the aggressive harbourmaster.
This dismal atmosphere is totally unnecessary, since there is nothing critical about this landing. Carsten was landing Capri at a “finger” in an easy breeze, but there wasn’t much room for our 4 meter wide Capri, since there were 3 boats in the same slip. So, Carsten was working his way very close to the finger to avoid hitting the boat alongside. This resulted in Capri getting very close to the finger and I noticed that the rubber fender that you usually find on fingers was missing here. I didn’t want Capri to get long or deep scratches on her side. I’m still careful with Capri. Despite her being 11 years old, most sailors think she is either new or only a couple of years old – we try very hard to take god care of her.
Her in the Caribbean, you call ahead on the VHF and announce your arrival to the harbourmaster, who then assigns you a slip. Since this marina is an expensive marina, two employees are waiting to take our lines as we enter the slip. So far so good, but every
Thing goes south hereafter because of a total misunderstanding of each others roles in this little drama.
During this calm and well-controlled landing, Carsten is making, I toss the bowline to one of the guys waiting and our spring to the other one. The finger is much shorter than Capri’s length, which is why I gave him the spring instead of the stern line. He starts yelling that he wants the stern line, which Carsten then tosses him. The “harbourmasters” now start hauling Capri in and she is really close to being scraped down the metal side of the finger. I react by quickly jumping down onto the finger to hold Capri off and to help the “harbourmaster” who is now holding both the stern line and the spring, while he tries to mash a fender down between the finger and Capri. Simultaneously, he’s giving instructions to the other “harbourmaster”. Everything here is going south, so I jump down to help him.
And then he begins yelling at me. I don’t follow his orders and try to take the spring from him, which he won’t release to me. Instead, I push on Capri to held her off the pier.
It was a humiliating situation for me and the humiliation would have been total if I had gotten back on board. So to maintain my self-respect, I stayed on the pier.
Later when Carsten was at the office paying, he told the “harbourmaster” that he had been out of line, since I know perfectly well how to dock a boat and also know perfectly well how to handle lines and fenders going to the pier.
Unfortunately I frequently have the experience that whether I’m the helmsman or the “fender-bender” – then the “pier-captains” (read: men) start telling me what to do. This hurts me and many times I get irritated and other times I get just downright angry. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet learned to just ignore them.
I frequently experience little or no respect from men for female sailors. I guess this has to do with the roles most women and men play on board a boat.
In most cases, the women, who I call “fender-benders”, get the lines ready for a landing and tie the fenders on the railings. Or when the anchor is dropped, she gets to push the button on the electric winch to drop it. But she follows orders from the man at the helm, when to drop, how much chain to let out, etc. etc. Only seldom is the woman at the helm and giving the orders.
At sea, it is usually the man who is the skipper (and 1st mate), he navigates and decides how the sails should be set. Occasionally the woman is allowed to winch in the sheets (after being given the order by the man, naturally). If a woman is allowed to take the wheel and be the helmsman and perhaps even stand a watch (typically the man will take the night watches, as he doesn’t trust the woman to do this), she quickly becomes an “autopilot”, holding the course the man has told her she must and calling him immediately at the least sign of any change/difficulty. In essence, she becomes an additional “AIS/Radar” alarm, keeping her eyes open and waking the man if the boat needs to be tacked or gybed. –should the wind change direction or strength and the sails need trimming or reefing – call the man.
This is not to say she shouldn’t call the man if necessary – both parties should call the other if a situation develops they cannot handle alone. But, she should learn to handle the boat by herself until she only calls the man rarely.
How much fun it is to be a “fender-bender” or an “autopilot”? That’s up to the individual woman to determine, but my experience is that the women who are locked in these roles become what I call “harboursailors”. When the boat leaves the marina – all they think about is how soon it will be in the next marina – the sailing itself means nothing to them – it has become a transportation interval that must be endured and frequently is neither comfortable nor fun nor interesting. These women are only on the boat because their husbands love to sail – they’ve never developed a love of sailing themselves.
My husband is frequently asked by other male sailors – “How did you get your wife out on the big oceans and how did you get her to become a cruiser”? or “Carsten – you’re one lucky guy, having a wife the loves to sail.” My husband always says, “You get the woman on board that you develop. If you don’t get her to become an active partner in sailing and in the boat – meaning she also gets to do half the fun things – you’ll never get her on board”. I can only agree with him. If my life on board were as a “fender-bender” or an “autopilot”- we’d never have gotten to the Caribbean and we wouldn’t be attempting a circumnavigation.
I’m lucky that I have a husband who thinks we both should be able to sail – equally well. We don’t have to be exact equals in everything – we can supplement each other. We decided at the start of our sailing lives that both needed to be able to single-hand the boat adequately. This is simply a safety question – if one of goes overboard, the other one must be able to maneuver the boat back for a pick up – alone. One of us can also have an accident on board that results in a debilitating injury – the other one must be able to sail the boat to the nearest harbor alone – even if that harbor is 1000nm away.
So we’ve both taken the formal training, sailing proficiency exam, Yachtmaster 3rd class, Yachtmaster Ocean. Long Range radio certificate and Motorman’s Proficiency exam. The practical aspects of sailing are a common task for us – meaning we discuss the weather and plan the routes etc. – together. Harbour maneuvers and anchoring, we split the duties. So we both stay in practice and both of us can dock or undock Capri equally well. The role of helmsman and the watches are split evenly – we’ve agreed that the person at the helm is that day’s “skipper” and calls the shots. We’ve also agreed (this was my decision) that in a critical or life-threatening situation - Carsten is the Skipper and he makes the decision. He has read so much more about sailing and not the least about water sailing">blue water sailing (he also has more experience blue water sailing than me), and he simply has more guts that I do, I’m happy to defer to him if we ever reach that kind of situation. Finally, everyone else expects the man to be the skipper. Everyone (read: men) seem to naturally address Carsten as the skipper – I don’t need that type of power struggle nor do I feel the need to “piss off” my territory. I’m completely Ok with him being the formal skipper.
The fact that I also am an active participant on an equal footing with Carsten has made my sailing life much more interesting and exciting. The desire to circumnavigate is just as much mine as it is his.
So all you male sailors out there – if you want your wives/girlfriends out on the ocean with you, you need to yield the skipper role to her and, not least, motivate her when her courage fails. Carsten has been really good at motivating and supporting me, especially in docking maneuvers, when I’ve lost my courage and asked him to take over. His answer has always been “ you can land the boat just as well as I can – if anything happens – well that’s why we have insurance”.
But my last words here are to my sailing sisters. You can take the challenge and take responsibility for the role you wish to have on board. Participating equally with your husband means not only that you are both sailing, but also all the other tasks there are on a boat. There are many tasks that women generally shun. Some would say, ”you have to take the sour along with the sweet”. I’ve never looked at it that way, even when I’ve been doing some nasty, dirty or dangerous tasks. You need to be ready to leave your comfort-zone and get your hands dirty and perhaps break some fingernails.
I’m the safety officer on board Capri, so in addition to checking all the safety equipment and updating all the manuals, I’m also the lucky one who gets to go up the mast and check the rigging. First time I went up the mast (this was in a harbor), I wrapped myself around the mast. My hands were wet with sweat and they were shaking uncontrollably when I was putting riggers tape around the splitters. When I was standing on the spreaders, I could feel my legs shaking and my knees wobbling – it was anything but fun, but I was proud as a peacock when I finished it and was back down on deck. “Enjoy the view”? I was so terrified I never looked down.
Safety also means underwater and I dive on the hull to check our propeller, zincs, axel, keel and the rudder.
I’m also the one who is in charge of the winches on board – I’m the “winch-wench” as Carsten likes to call me. I take them apart, clean, oil and grease them so they purr like a kittens when we use them. I also check the engine, change the oil, oil filters and impeller. If I need help – I call Carsten.
When we were preparing Capri for our journey, before leaving Denmark, the men in the marina were astonished when they saw me in coveralls, facemask and eye protection, sanding Capri’s hull. I’m too small to use the big machines so I was using a mouse sander and it took me almost 3 days to sand all the old antifouling paint off the bottom of the hull. This was something the men had never seen before – ok, women might help with the painting – but the sanding? Not in a million years. It was hard and very dirty work, but I think that cruisers should participate equally on as many projects as they can. Carsten is much more technical than me – but I can supply the elbow grease.
There are a number of technical tasks I haven’t learned how to do yet – and there is one little item I’ve neglected – on purpose – to learn. Repairing the toilet remains a man’s work on Capri – this is one job I cheerfully let Carsten do (but he doesn’t do it cheerfully).
So dear sisters – if you want equality on the boat – you have to get involved in all the jobs there are on a boat (and there are many, many jobs). But look at it this way – you’ve developing yourself as a capable sea(wo)man. I learn something new every day as a cruiser. Carsten and I quit our careers, jobs, sold our house and everything else to become full-time cruisers. We enjoy every one of our days and after 8 months and one third of the way around the world, we haven’t regretted it for a minute.
You can do the same.
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Old 04-03-2017, 08:14   #2
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Thank you for your observations.
SADLY, the attitude is not confined to sailing but is present in all male oriented situations.

It will be a slow process to get men to change, if possible at all. Even in the medical field, women physicians seem to have to prove themselves over and over again.

As for you. I believe you have the training and skills to be the able sailor that you are. It matters not to me that you are female. It matters that you are competent, prepared and professional in your approach and manner. To achieve the qualifications you have, did not depend on gender. It depended on ability and comprehension.

I have had the privilege of having a female flight instructor and a female medical instructor for emergency work. Both were competent beyond belief and both taught well. I had not a single problem with being subordinate to them and did whatever they requested knowing it came from a knowledge base far beyond my own.

It is hard for women with superior skills to deal with some attitudes. It is unfair as well.

You explained your feelings well and I hope it will resonate with men and women equally.

Congratulations on your recent sailing wins and I know it took both of you to achieve it.

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Old 04-03-2017, 08:25   #3
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Good write up and it's clear you are both enjoying your experiences. My view is that you motivate yourself, no one can do it for you. Some women simply are more motivated to learn sailing and some are not. Yes for sure the attitude of the males can have a real effect on the learning environment but it still gets down to a women's individual choices.
My wife likes to break chores down to pink and blue and they are not always obvious. She goes up the mast to make inspections and she looks after any repairs aloft. She assists me in any engine work and some of the more complex boat repairs. She does her share of the tough grunt jobs like sanding, painting bottoms and waxing top sides. She makes all the meals and does all the shopping and provisioning. She can helm the boat and set and trim the sails and navigate. There is very little she doesn't have a working knowledge of but while she enjoys life at sea and is ok with crossing oceans she much prefers the land traveling in new destinations and discovering new foods and ways to prepare them. She has raced as crew for a season and taken all the basic training courses but she is really not into the sailing part of our adventure so it's just something she has to know for her own safety but there are other things she prefers. That leaves me with the part I love and that's just fine. Like your wife she won't have anything to do with head repairs, it's the first thing on the blue list.
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Old 04-03-2017, 08:38   #4
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

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Originally Posted by robert sailor View Post
Like your wife she won't have anything to do with head repairs, it's the first thing on the blue list.
yeah, I do not know of a single woman sailor who works on the head.

I am ok with that, but sometimes I wonder how this came to pass
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Old 04-03-2017, 09:27   #5
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

I am a female licenced Captain and have sailed oceans. You just have to keep to your job and ignore the noise. Remember we are capable of doing more than one thing at a time.
The guys are serial computers -one thing at a time. Many of the "instructors on the dock don't even know how to tie a cleat hitch properly. Just enjoy your sailing . Its a great life. We can only change them by demonstrating our competence.
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Old 04-03-2017, 09:42   #6
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

I was/am a retired international radio operator. When I transferred to NY in the 80's I showed up first my first midnight shift and there were 18 guys sitting there. They had been planning for weeks on how to drive me crazy. The women's restroom was the broom closet. When we finally "commissioned" it as a women's restroom they taped saran wrap over the bowl, so I couldn't see it and... well, you know. They saved up the grossest jokes, farts, you name it for me. I just laughed at them and did my job.

I think this whole issue has faded in most things but is still around in sport like activities. Sailing, sky diving, skiing. It seems "macho" to take over - and I have to admit that about 80% of the ladies I've met while boating don't even know (or care) how to change the oil. As long as they stay close to shore it seems to work. I want more. In the beginning it was a struggle to get my husband to "let go" of some of the decision making, but he's lightened up to the point that I don't walk around pissed off all the time. He just has decades more experience and I'd be stupid to insist on 50/50 when I don't know what I'm talking about.

Sailing is easy. The "harbor masters" are easy. I just laugh at them and do my job.
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Old 04-03-2017, 09:50   #7
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Very good post! While I can agree with most of your comments, the one that I don't agree with is working on the head. If one is good enough to perform all other functions on the boat (as it should be), then to say it's the man's job to work on the head is hypocritical. You are proud to get your hands dirty on everything else, but too dainty to to work on the head. The mechanics of working on the head are after all pretty simple so it must be that working on the head is below you. If you want to be accepted as equal, then act equal. No one likes to get full of crap working on a head, so dig in or your whole argument is what's found in the head, crap.
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Old 04-03-2017, 10:08   #8
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

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Very good post! While I can agree with most of your comments, the one that I don't agree with is working on the head. If one is good enough to perform all other functions on the boat (as it should be), then to say it's the man's job to work on the head is hypocritical. You are proud to get your hands dirty on everything else, but too dainty to to work on the head. The mechanics of working on the head are after all pretty simple so it must be that working on the head is below you. If you want to be accepted as equal, then act equal. No one likes to get full of crap working on a head, so dig in or your whole argument is what's found in the head, crap.
lighten up. its a joke between us, neither one of us likes to do the head. But I do not get seasick and my wife does sometimes so fixing the head at sea is something I do, no need to get seasick just to prove "equality".
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Old 04-03-2017, 11:11   #9
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

A couple who I've known for many years have a boat in Gouvia Marina on Corfu.
They share all the jobs apart from any electrical work. She is often to be found up the mast and has recently done a lovely job of repairing the heads which required emptying the holding tank by hand with a small jug....
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Old 04-03-2017, 11:19   #10
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Speaking of heads and females.
I was at one time a brown belt in Shorin-Ryu karate and fought full contact.
Once when sparring in the Do Jo with a female student who I was not taking serious, axe kicked me in the head so hard I was knocked out with a nasty concussion. My worst knock out ever. Once I was able to think clearly again, I contemplated my mistake.
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Old 04-03-2017, 12:05   #11
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Great post! If I ever get lucky enough to have a female partner onboard for any length of time (not likely in my near future tho' ) I'm gonna show her your post (copy and pasted to MS Word already). Thank you! (Now just gotta go find that woman! )
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Old 04-03-2017, 12:21   #12
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Great piece . Pretty much mirrors how my spouse and I sail and cruise. All except the fact that she is much better at docking than I. I’m the one who needs the encouragement and the support when coming in, and I’ve sometimes bailed out and begged her to take over. You should see the ribbing I get from all “the boys” when this happens .

Despite her obvious competency I know my partner is on the receiving end of sexist attitudes, and occasional remarks. Sexism certainly exists in the sailing/cruising world, as it does just about everywhere else. I think it is diminishing with each passing generation. Most of the truly cringe-worthy comments come from the very-grey-haired ones now.

On our boat we pretty much each do everything (including docking). When we’re out we purposely shift roles each day between with helm/navigation and deck/galley/whatever else needs doing. Most decisions get made as a team, but if there is something urgent happening, whomever is on the helm is the one in charge. This ensures we can both do everything on board. If you’re cruising as a couple it seems essential to me that we both are competent to do everything on board.

So I agree … if you want to have your partner (female or male) as part of your cruising life, given them the support, the space and the responsibility to be equal partners in the whole activity. On our boat there are no “admirals” and “captains.” If pushed we say our boat has co-captains.
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Old 04-03-2017, 12:21   #13
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Very well said, 1. mate of Carsten! (I didn't get your name...)

I will certainly heed all your input and advice, as we are setting ourselves up as a husband and wife team on our own boat this coming summer.

Your entire post resonated very much with our own sentiments regarding how to approach our endeavour. I am happy to hear that your 'modus operandi' has served you well so far, and that your journey is still bound for the west horizon.

Wish you fair winds and many a happy sail as equal partners on Capri

Brgds,

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Old 04-03-2017, 12:45   #14
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Great post!

Honestly, "equality" is not natural for me. I was raised to be passive and accepting. I'm very greatful that my bf does not take advantage of this attitude but I am still learning to communicate as an equal. He does know more than me. I try to take advantage of what he can teach me but also learn on my own too.
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Old 04-03-2017, 13:07   #15
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Re: So Your Wife/GF Doesn't Want to Sail, Here is Why and Here is What You can do Abo

Fat chance. My wife's refusals to sail on anything smaller than a large commercial cruise type vessel or perhaps one of the big European river tour boats have nothing to do with anything I can say or do!
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