For me, 2018 is The Year of Lady Sailors. We stretched definitions, made monumental gains on the water and perhaps most importantly, reimagined sailing culture our way. This is the third of three short essays about women in boating. Read the first and second essays too.
~ a 7-minute read ~
This last essay felt the hardest to start because it’s about me. Anyone can tell you I love a good story, telling and sometimes retelling them until hopefully, the telling gets better. After spending a year in awe of the women in my life, I’ve also come to love listening, taking in all the amazing stories, personalities, experiences and ambitions of the women around me.
Each one has their own laugh and we laugh a lot. We all have our own dark moments but also many joyful ones. Being a woman in our modern society comes with its challenges. These women have become a community providing emotional and social support, brought together by sailing. When you’re so focused on the water, the wind and the boat, especially in a gorgeous place, you forget about everything else and even though we talk about it a lot, being present is hard to do.
The best moment of 2018 for me was departing Oak Harbor Marina with a crew of four on my newly purchased Catalina 34 (then called K-Mak). January 14, 2018 was cold, calm and clear. I’m very fortunate to have friends who are down for a boat delivery in the depth of winter. We left the dock shortly after 9 a.m. motoring my new home to Seattle, once I figured out how to get the engine started. That moment was scary, surreal and fun!
We stumbled around the boat at first, figuring things out as we chugged through Saratoga Passage, and exclaimed with each new discovery. The loudest exclamation of all still haunts me to this day: “Oh no! We forgot the beer!”
Kim, who is an incredible friend, took pity and drove south to meet us in Langley with the beer. The Port of Langley is petite but that day the guest dock was wide open. Thanks to Kemp’s calm coaching and salty nature, I docked my sailboat for the first time without too much fuss.
Hours and a couple beers later we pulled into my permanent slip at Shilshole where friends greeted us and we popped champagne. I thought for sure I’d cry that day but I was just too excited.
The rest of the year has definitely been exciting too. I moved aboard, had a boat renaming ceremony (meet Capi!), learned how to fix things I never thought I’d fix, took many memorable sails and in general, rearranged my life to make being on the water my top priority.
In addition to many fine sails with the ladies, sailing with my boyfriend Andrew, and watching him become a sailor, is a highlight of 2018. He is the fastest fender slinger around, enjoys pouring over maps and now knows the adrenaline rush of being in a squall.
We make a pretty good team too. It’s taken some work, miscommunication, and practice but his confidence in me pushes me to keep learning and be a better sailor.
Andrew’s support and joy of reading forums (my worst nightmare) helped me buy Capi. His encouragement helped me dock again and again until it finally didn’t intimidate me so much. His great attitude made it easy to teach and share what we learned. And finally, he’s always excited for us ladies to go sailing, even when he gets left behind. But its fun when he comes too.
So despite 2018 being the “Year of Lady Sailors,” Andrew is a huge part of my evolution as a boat owner and sailor myself. We’ve both learned so much about boating over the past year and in the end, we’re both just “sailors,” not a “lady sailor” and a “male sailor.”
I think it was important this year’s R2AK victors called themselves “Team Race Like A Girl,” it made people think and talk about women in boating. That should be a conversation at every level of boating from lake cruiser to the highest levels of competition. I hope that in the future, they’ll just be called “Team Awesome” or something gender-neutral.
As part of this aspiration, I’m retiring the label “lady sailors” and leaving it in 2018. While it conjures a picture of laughter, sunshine and good friends in my head, it also skips the part where we belch, get smelly and salty on the water and enjoy being anything but lady-like. Don’t worry, I’ll come up with a new name for this crew soon!
This time of the year can be hard. Seattleites know how the short, dark days change things, some feel slower and others speed by. I haven’t taken Capi out in two months. The storms can be loud. The walks down the dock feel longer and folks can’t believe you’re living there. I’m often preoccupied thinking about how I’m going to shower, do laundry and transport things to and from my little oasis (more about liveaboard life to come!).
But, it’s 100% worth it. As I approached these and other challenges this year, it helped just knowing I owned my boat. That’s farther than I was the year before and I figured out how to make that happen, so I can probably figure out what’s to come. Knowing you can figure something out; whatever might come up is important. Part of that is because I have a community of women who love to sail, be on the water and challenge themselves by my side.
Anyways, that’s what I wanted to share. Thanks for reading and happy new year!
I’m beginning a project for Women’s History Month (March 2019) and I need your input: What do female sailors want? Share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.