Originally Posted by Bash
Part of the reason we love sailing together is that we work it as a team. There's absolutely no captain/1st mate relationship. If either one of us wants to reef, we reef. Much of the time we let the autopilot
do the work and both end up reading. A great life. If the sails
need trimming, sooner or later one of us will get around to it.
In my experience, a lot of the fellows who complain about being unable to recruit sailing partners aren't really looking for partners. They're looking for crew. I understand why women fail to get excited about such a prospect. There's nothing exciting about perpetual subservience.
While the rest of you are out finding your measuring tapes and waxing poetic, I just wanted to Thank Bash so much for posting
I have been wrestling and struggling with the question of whether we must have 'one' Skipper
aboard who is declared when I am fully capable of a large portion of operating and sailing our boat.
The rest of the world sometime robustly declares and at other times whispers in my ear...literally and figuratively..."There must only be ONE Skipper
...." This leaves me in a predicament for these reasons....
1) While I fully respect Chris' (my husband) abilities to Skipper our boat - when I am out doing my night watch and he is sleeping below decks I am fully aware that a situation could occur that would necessitate some quick decisions that he may not be able to make coming out of a groggy state of sleep...
2) I have been sailing since I was three years old and raced on big boats in college - I have a lot of hours under my belt, most as crew though except for the occasional boat delivery
where I would have my own watch...I have a lot of experience and time sailing...
3) I am conservative by nature at the present when it comes to weather
routing and taking on long passages (i.e. straight North out of Abaco
, N.C. directly)...my husband is up for more adventure in that realm presently...sometimes this can cause a lot of strife for me aboard...now that I co-own our boat I really just don't feel like crew anymore, and feel it is just as much my responsibility as his to safely get our boat and selves to the next port...That sense of ultimate responsibility I think is getting in my way of comfortably taking on bigger challenges and growing myself and my seamanship. Chris has definitely supported me in pushing myself out of my comfort zone when it is safe to do so.
4) It became clear to my awareness during our last season out to the Bahamas
which was our first big cruising trip that my husband is presently more equipped mentally to deal with the unknown and new situations that present themselves more easily. He is a more flexible thinker...I am dealing with this and trying to find resources to help me too be less apt to operate on the same neuro-pathways in my brain and to not hold on so tightly to wanting to control the outcome of situations so much.
5) I heed Intuition as a real tool, especially out there, and I have proven to myself over and over again that it is a necessity while sailing and cruising...Chris does not put as much value in it presently as I do....he relies more strongly on Logic...while as a package this sounds like a perfect combination aboard it causes the two of us angst frequently.
6) He is the eternal optimist and I am the realist...some say pessimist. I felt like my personality was some kind of failing in this degree until I read Beth Leonard's book 'The Voyager's Handbook' where she quotes her partner Evans as saying, "That successful crews consist of an optimist and a pessimist: without the optimist the crew would never leave the dock
; without the pessimist, they would lose the boat." Upon reading that I felt great comfort that there is a balance and while it is not always easy being the heavy, it could be a benefit at times...
7) I am coming to terms with the fact that Chris in many ways is further along than I am in regards to keeping his wits about him and not letting fear take over, where when I was first coming into our first major channel in Charleston with eight foot following seas behind us, having never felt that before, I was a bit on edge...of course today if I was presented with the same scenario I believe I would be a lot more comfortable taking the helm
because of experience. He was in the Navy
and at an early age was trained to deal with many different situations and possible emergency
situations...I did not get that training to that degree early on in my life.
It comes down to this. We worked well out there last season together for the most part and I am still parsing together that which worked well and that which didn't. It is very difficult to operate in a male dominated arena (though that is changing) and a culture that tells you that you are 'different' because you choose to take on the challenge of being 'Skipper'. I think that somewhere it has infiltrated my spirit to the degree that there are a lot more opportunities for me to question my abilities and competencies and to not take healthy chances or trust my abilities than if I had the 'dangly bits' that Aussee refers to
How many men
out there get behind the helm
of a boat, take it offshore
, with a whole lot less experience than I had last season on a sailboat??? Probably quite a few because they have an artificially, culturally induced, sense of confidence because men
should just be able to do that...so maybe that man scares the bagesus out of himself but gains enough experience to try again and then he gets progressively better...and that is alright...because he has been culturally conditioned that this is acceptable...then there is a woman like me, with a lot of coastal experience sailing, years and years, who gets her boat she co-owns to the Bahamas
with partner...manages night watches, manages a lot of the piloting, anchoring
, sailing, etc etc etc - who is then assumed by others to be crew and told that if she considers herself co-Skippering than she is putting the whole boat and crew at risk.
I find it all very confusing at this juncture in my cruising career. Our last trip found us traveling down the Exumas
then to the Families, up to Eleuthera, and then Abaco
. We made some good miles for our first trip out I think. We came back from Abaco in three and a half days way out in the Gulfstream.
We managed the straight shot back to Beaufort
, N.C. very well, although I spent a good twenty four hours pissed that I felt I had not been heard by Chris and a fellow crew member
we had invited along to give us a better watch schedule so we would be able to hopefully catch more sleep between watches and to share the experience with him. He is a good friend and I respect him as a sailor so much. He has been sailing since he is six months old and we had sailed together before. The day before we left he plainly said to me, "I want you to know that Chris is my Skipper"...I didn't say anything at the time...but it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.
I now know that he probably was trying to be ultimately respectful, and say he wasn't going to just take over the boat and act like Skipper. Our second day out as the seas built a bit and there was more action and my defenses came down. I let our crew member
know I was a bit taken aback by his assumption that Chris was the Skipper solely, and that there was no discussion about this but that even after an entire season in the Bahamas with me contributing to the safe passage
of our boat that there was not even a discussion about who was Skipper.
I let him know I found this presumptuous and demeaning. Needless to say it didn't go over very well...but as I am down below preparing food
in ten -twelve footers, because I was the only one at that point that could be down below without feeling queezy...he came down the companionway
and told me I was 'amazing'! - 'How was I functioning down here in the conditions and without seasickness meds?' I sarcastically told him that it is amazing isn't it, and I guess it would take getting my 100 ton license
before I was granted any respect in other's eyes...." Needless to say he found his way quickly up the companionway
and we didn't talk until after dinner.
Luckily we worked through this and the next day all was well...but once another guy came aboard I felt unheard by Chris who I had worked with for five months with our weather
routing, navigating, sailing, all of it...it went from a mostly collaborative effort to feeling like I was merely a grunt....it was not a good experience and when we get back out there - there will be NO repeat performance of that experience...
I know I do have a bit of a chip on my shoulder from previous experiences I have had sailing in an arena where there are sometimes quite a few male chauvinists and I can have a tendency to be a bit 'sensitive' to some issues I probably should just let roll off my back...and in this case our friend most likely was consciously trying to be disrespectful. I fear that I have damaged my relationship with him on some levels, but I needed him to understand how it felt to be me in that situation.
I also though had to take a good hard look at myself in this situation and realized that because there are still aspects of ocean passages that I am not completely comfortable with (mainly being out for days when the weather forecast
could change) and I am fighting some fear, others will choose to disregard me...or because I present something like weather information in a way that is not just the facts, but laced with a bit of angst and fear, this can cause others to shut down and disregard the messenger.
I really thought twice about sharing this experience because I don't want to air my dirty laundry
, or make Chris feel uncomfortable here on CF (sorry Chris), but I think that is an unfortunate aspect of cruising is that many people don't share their fears, or their experiences that could make them appear vulnerable in other's eyes...
Going out in the Ocean in a little boat is an intense experience, well at least it has been for me. It has been incredible and it has highlighted all that is great in my relationship with Chris and myself, and those areas where we could use some work, and I am so grateful for the Ocean's teachings that way. Some couples will live a lifetime together and never be given this opportunity in the way we have.
Overall, I am left with a HUGE sense of accomplishment because I felt the fear and went anyway. Chris and I worked well together most all of the time, and we had a couple big challenges presented to us our first round out and we handled them ourselves, as a team.
Teamwork is so important and I have been the member of a large sailing team of fourteen people - we were a well oiled machine. It is so rewarding to work as a team towards a shared goal...whether you reach it or not, it is truly one of the most rewarding experiences I could have in my life.
What I am left with is that in my opinion it should be EVERYONE'S decision whether to make a passage
or not at a particular time and weather window...if there is disagreement or doubt than arrangements should be made that the boat doesn't leave or that person finds other arrangements to get to the final destination
. For me, once I commit to being 'out there' I have to want to be out there with every ounce of my being because the consequences of being out can be momentous, and I feel strongly it has to be my decision to be out there...not someone else's, even a Skippers...
I think the trust that is put in just one person aboard a boat to make major decisions as to the fate of that vessel without the crew's input can create some deadly outcomes some of which have been in the news as of late...if there are multiple smart people aboard why should only one person be burdened with the ultimate decisions of weather windows for example...why shouldn't everyone on that boat be empowered with the ability to save that boat and the crew's lives if a situation presents itself??? It is a question I am still grappling with, one which I have not found the absolute answer to yet....but hope I will soon.
It comes down to this - Trust, Respect, and more Respect for each other, the Ocean, the boat, and one's self...