- Hey, girl I don’t know where to find sugar!
- Hey girl, I think the space needs cleaning already.
- Hey, boy when do you think of asking me to help with gybing?
- Hey, boy when will you consult me about navigation?
Women who sail all around the world probably know where I’m going with these, though I hope I am speaking for the minority of us now. But still, in 21st century sailing experiences, years after maiden voyage of „Maiden” - we may have theoretical partnership in the rallies, the regattas, the watches, boat chores, cooking and cleaning, provisioning but still - when it comes to certain issues in #boatlife our male colleagues and friends have preferences and learned behaviours.
Of course, everyone will deny, but through the years I have witnessed a lot of assumptions about my role and position on deck. I am now an offshore skipper and I love to sail. I’ve crossed the Atlantic, I travelled from Ushuaia through the Falklands to Brazil, I sailed on Irish Sea, made my way through the Bay of Biscay. Unfortunately I also like to do provisioning, I like to clean the deck, make swans out of towels and I like everyone on the boat to be happy with their day. But at a certain point I’ve realized that when I display my emotional and home warming skills, my sailing skillset is automatically forgotten, buried under the notion that evidently being a maid suits me. And yes both of those things do suit me!
As they should every sailor regardless of their gender, as a matter of fact. We’re a team. I would really like some of my male friends to make an effort with their dinner. Guys, you can do it! And I would really like to have more trust, even from my own husband - Yacht Master Ocean, with whom I travel a lot and who is Via Oceano’s captain in this rally, about the ways I can understand navigation.
And yes - I tend to be more sheepish with my decisions sometimes, the neutral position of my sailing engine is set to „I am not good enough” but if you give me some space, I will do well. Space - sometimes even literally. Design in general it is not some practical gift from the heavens, it is deeply rooted in the culture and our culture is still patriarchal. The boat design is no exception. As a woman- sailor, I would love the designers to understand that woman’s bodies on board are equally important as the men’s when you are wondering how to build the navigation desk, the bridge, the toilets.
And I think we the most important thing, and the most beautiful, we need to remember is that sailing is mostly not physical strength, but intelligent decisions, intuition - which is distributed regardless of gender. Maybe I can’t pull that rope as hard as you, boy, but I do know what to do with it. And when situation is hardcore, my adrenaline rush will make me as strong and determined as I have to be, because it is my will and experience that counts.
And what human mind can experience during sailing is really thrilling and amazing - and not only for fellow sailors, for everyone interested in human nature. One of my favourite books about the sea and human nature is Ellen McArthur’s autobiography, „A Full Circle”. I wouldn’t have sailed if it wasn’t for that excellent reading. And what was most incredible about it is that she was not afraid to show her vulnerability - as a sailor, but also as a human being. She didn’t produce a heroic narrative about taming the waves, it was pure awe of the beauty and horror of nature, about feeling helpless and privileged in face of it. She confused she felt incapable, she felt fear, missed her home but also cried with joy.
It was pure vulnerability and resilience at the same time, way before Brene Browns of this world have brought it up. It was sustainability way before when it went global, it was against rivalry but all for the process of it and internal experience. Ellen showed us and is still showing us, through her many projects, how to see not only sailing but our place in the world. She’s a philosopher.
I think we need more of these so-called feminine qualities nowadays. In the end they are just human, only falsely attributed to woman only, to save the world and ourselves from dictatorship of progress, ego, success goals and into what the sea teaches us to do - be in the flow, in the moment, be present, pay attention, to feel a part of. To be an unimportant but so an indispensable piece of the puzzle.