Join me for virtual sailing lessons

Last winter, the Argon crew gathered in Sam’s living room for “indoor winter sailing lessons.” These were a version of what sailing instructors call “chalk talks,” even though chalkboards were long ago replaced by whiteboards and now by screens.

While we won’t be on the water, join me for a virtual sailing lesson!

Between Capi and Argon, I’ve spent the last several years thinking about the same question: “What’s the best way to teach my friends to sail?”

Going sailing and spending time on the water is always my first choice. However, while out sailing some moments are about instruction while others are about sitting back and enjoying the company. I think I’ve gotten better at distinguishing between the two, but sometimes I can’t help but try to squeeze one more teaching moment in.

I do believe chalk talks are still important, even among friends. The triangular boat drawings offer a birds-eye view and you can talk through concepts without having to attend to the steering or sails. You can revisit things explained on the water or introduce a new theory. Hopefully, there are a few “ah-ha!” moments.

So, as this pandemic winter creeps on, I’m going to host two virtual sailing lessons in the next month. The two sessions will have the same lesson plan and, if there is interest, I will host a follow-up lesson later in March. I hope friends and friends-of-friends will join me!

Love a good “wind clock”! A big challenge learning to sail is the lingo but it’s also key for communication on the water.

Here’s what my virtual sailing lesson will cover:

  • My sailing and teaching experience (aka why the hell I’m a good person to listen to on this topic)
  • Basic sailing theory, how to find the wind, parts of a sailboat.
  • The lay of the sailing scene from tall ships to affordable used boats to the new fangled foiling technology.
  • Suggestions on how to start sailing in the Seattle area and other fun ways to get on the water.
  • What to learn or explore next plus, plenty of time for Q&A

To sign up, click below and save the date!

Capi’s 3rd Anniversary: Reflecting on pandemic boat life

“I bought Capi in January 2018?” I asked Andrew again.

“Did you?” he responded smiling.

It often feels like we speed away from momentous life events, anniversaries are one way to keep track. Now though, the distortion of time we’ve all experienced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic takes that a step further.

It feels like I’ve owned Capi for two whirlwind years and one long, strange year.

KEXP DJ Larry Mizell, Jr. reminded me one afternoon: We’d don’t always feel like celebrating so, when you do you’ve gotta celebrate!

Three years of boat ownership is like an in-between, not-so-monumental birthday. But, it’s something to celebrate! And perhaps a way to keep track of time. That frozen-in-time feeling from the early days of the stay home orders is gone. Life is continuing on, even though we’re home just as much.

I often used to be asked by friends and strangers alike, “what is it like living on a boat?” Now, I rarely meet new people so it’s friends asking: “What is it like on the boat in a pandemic?”

Well, it’s like before but more concentrated. Living aboard, pandemic or not, can be frustrating but also immensely fulfilling.

It’s also been very similar to what others have experienced through this seismic shift in our lives: a new emphasis on food, a lot more time with my partner, a tricky relationship with the news cycle, elevated anxiety and concern, missing my family, mourning a lifestyle we took for granted, heartache for the most vulnerable people in our world, and the daily act of trying to process everything going on around us.

Before March 2020, I had a pretty “classic Ballard liveaboard” lifestyle including access to numerous restaurants and bars, gatherings at friend’s homes, a storage unit, an office, a gym, a bag of quarters for when I had to shower at the marina and plans to travel throughout the year. Capi was home base and my orbit extended from there.

Now, my orbit has shrunk considerably, same as everyone else. However, my neighborhood is made up of docks, run by the Port of Seattle, adjacent to Seattle’s popular Golden Gardens beach and an access point to the waters and wildlife of Puget Sound.

And my home is a 34-foot sailboat I share with Andrew, who moved aboard in November 2019. As he got settled in, his observations and perspective reminded me about the novelties and differences of this lifestyle.

We estimate we have 220 square feet of living space which includes our V-shaped bed (equivalent of a queen-size), main living area, kitchen with two-burner propane stove and oven, head with marine toilet and sink and an aft cabin we use for storage. In fairer weather, the cockpit is our second living area, adding about another 50 square feet.

Life afloat

Living aboard makes you extra aware of the weather. You observe all the transitions it makes in a day, what the forecast gets right or wrong. You hear when the wind rises and falls, when the rain starts and ends. When you notice it’s sunny or calm, even if it’s cold, you jump on the chance and go outside for a walk or to run that errand.

Spending most of the past year in this smaller orbit, Andrew and I have also observed the birds migrating, the snow melt and return to the Olympic mountains and the sun shift south as it sets earlier and earlier. We’ve seen the king tides, watched playful seals and porpoises, glided among moon jellyfish in late summer and noticed the water quality change when there’s yet another sewage spill. Yuck.

We’ve walked the length of the marina and back again many times now. We look at the big yachts visiting and see other marina tenants out walking. We’ve seen the full spectrum of sunsets and a few spectacular sunrises as well.

I very rarely feel confined on Capi. Much more often, it’s the marina environment that makes me stir crazy or restless. Last summer, it reached a new peak with multiple construction projects, crowds flocking to Golden Gardens, dozens of people walking, all of us liveaboards staying close by, and the surge in recreational boating.

Independently, each of these things are good: people enjoying being outside, more active boat owners, new pavement and facilities. But the toxins of 2020 made it feel overwhelming and complaining about it became a hobby. When it felt like too much, we headed the opposite direction of the visitors and got away by land or water.

By winter, we welcomed the quieter days and watched the construction projects that we thought would never end wrap up one-by-one. The long-delayed, but eagerly anticipated, opening of the new marina facilities with significantly improved showers and laundry was a welcome step forward from the limbo of last year.

Continuing to liveaboard

There is a park on the bluff above Shilshole Bay Marina called Sunset Hill. It’s a grassy stretch, not that big but offers a good lookout and benches. I’d never been there until last year, part of my explorations into the the surrounding neighborhood.

Looking down we can see Capi, just barely, but Andrew’s banana yellow kayak makes her easier to spot. The docks, lettered A-X, create rows upon rows of boats branching out from shore.

I enjoy the view from Sunset Park and other nearby look outs. It’s become familiar to me: the ever-changing water; commercial ships and pleasure craft; West Point lighthouse to the south and Golden Gardens beach to the north; all kinds of clouds spreading out across the sky; the Olympic mountain range with the distinctive peaks of The Brothers; the land across the Puget Sound; plus, airplanes, helicopters and even sometimes a drone making that annoying buzz.

Looking out from up the hill, reminds me to not take these surroundings for granted. I guess I am also part of the view, living down there. Although small, Capi is my place. If I weren’t here, where else would I be? I have to say I can’t imagine.

The days are still pretty short, but I know they are getting longer. It’s my 10th winter in Seattle and 3rd on the boat. Winter weather keeps us looking at the forecast and wearing our rubber boots. The new diesel heater has been awesome!

I am often my most productive during winter, even before the pandemic. It’s never quite the period of hibernation I anticipate but it’s an opportunity to slow down, learn and grow. This year, I feel a renewed sense of focus and more conscience about the choices I make at every turn.

Living onboard during the pandemic has come with challenges, but nothing like the hardship others face. I have everything I need and more, though my routines may be unconventional or inconvenient.

Capi 201

Living on a boat is not convenient. It takes extra effort.

For example, I recently disconnected the propane tank for a refill. I walked the tank up the dock, drove over to the gas station and paid $7 for 1.8 gallons. I loaded it back into my car, used a cart to get it back down the dock, hooked it back up in its locker with a wrench. After that, Andrew was able to start cooking dinner.

That’s one of many routine tasks boat life requires but most of the time, I don’t mind them.

It doesn’t feels like we have been as productive as others with our extra time in 2020, but Andrew and I did move the needle on boat projects: we sealed some leaks (during the VP debate), dialed in the compact kitchen, converted our bulbs to fluorescents, had the diesel heater replaced, and worked with a mechanic to finally figure out how water got into the fuel tank, which was contaminating the diesel. Written out, that feels productive!

Parts of the boat we worked on this year

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the boat, the things we need to do, the things we could do — a dangerous category — I pull out my maintenance notebook and remind myself everything that both Andrew and I have learned over the past few years.

There is an infinite amount of boating knowledge out there waiting for us. For us, Capi is not a crash course but one of several learning platforms contributing to our education.

Andrew and I both have an ever-growing list of what we want to know about including the diesel inboard engine, splicing, the best way to sail a Catalina 34 downwind, new anchorages, battery efficiency and more.

Somehow, I’m able to reason myself from a frightened “there’s so much to know!” to an enthusiastic “there’s so much to learn!”

When I don’t have time to digest new knowledge, I don’t retain those lessons well or make important connections. I need to think about it or have it reinforced. It can be slow going but I’m building my knowledge for a passion I hope will last a lifetime.

New adventures with the “Argon Collective”

In March 2019, I shared my advice for the Argon crew. By April 2019, I became part of that crew. Considering it now, I made the decision when I wrote that advice.

I didn’t just want to support this boat and crew, I wanted to be a part of it. As Calla, my partner-in-crime in many things, said, “If you care about something, if you want to support it, you put some fucking dollars behind it.” So I bought into Argon (with Calla) and now have two boats I think about, do projects on and most importantly, SAIL!

In 2019, Argon enjoyed a fresh coat of bottom paint, new varnish, some overnights and lots of evening sails.

So, what is the “Argon Collective“? It’s both nothing new but also something different. Boat co-ops have existed before but since this one has attracted some attention, I wrote about it for 48° North.

The issue also featured our dear friend Jeanne on the cover (aboard Argon) and my perspective as a woman on the water (page 40). I loved reading other perspectives and articles from women in boating but that one magazine issue only scratched the surface.

In the two months since that article was published, the Argon crew has come together for a wedding, several moves, finishing boat projects and of course, as many sails as we could squeeze in before the days became too short. We’ve been together for important moments, big and small and had a lot of fucking fun. That’s what keeps me coming back to the “Argon Collective.”

The Argon crew celebrating at Sam & Charlie’s wonderful and windy wedding!

Also since the September issue came out, we’ve heard from some big supporters and some big skeptics about our style and women in sailing. Of course, I’m disappointed to hear anything negative about something that brings us all such joy.

I am eager to continue the conversation about women in sailing and any kind of boating because our experience won’t change with one conversation, one magazine issue or one article. Most women in boating also have families, are in relationships, and pursue careers. That means that at any given time, we might be fighting for equality on several different fronts.

Argon’s first night sail during the full moon and first time rigging up the spinnaker!

After the Argon article, I received some amazing emails from women eager not only to sail more but to sail with more positive people. How can we ensure more people have a positive experience sailing? That’s been the challenge since I started teaching sailing and has only become more and more important.

I’m sure people have wondered about my decision to buy into Argon. Why didn’t I stay on the sidelines? Remain a coach or observer? Again, Calla said it best: “I didn’t just want to make a cameo as a helper, I wanted to be involved with something that amazing.”

Sailing on Argon has been amazing and I hope you’ll read our story…to date.

The Argon Collective

Going sailing starts with a decision. A decision to learn to sail, to join a crew or to buy a boat–so many choices lead you down the dock. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re making that decision.

The morning after I agreed to buy into a partnership for Argon, a 1979 San Juan 24, I was hungover and second-guessing myself. The combination made me feel like I had a pit in my stomach.

Continue reading at 48north.com.

Advice for the crew of S/V Argon

It’s an exciting day! Today we celebrate the new co-owners of Argon, a 1979 San Juan 24 moored on Lake Union in the heart of Seattle. Like many new boat owners, these four women are at an exciting moment where they have a boat, a willingness to learn and a lot of adventure ahead.

I am always amazed by how many people buy sailboats without knowing how to sail yet. It’s a brave, bold and downright badass move. What determines if they stick with it and enjoy that bold move is what comes next. How they get through the very real challenges of sailing, boat ownership and being on the water.

(more…)

Why I named my boat “Capi”

~ a 9-minute read ~


I’ve owned Capi, a 1994 Catalina 34, for exactly one year. I spent the year before that searching for a boat. I looked at dozens of boats online and checked out more than 15 in person before finding Capi in Oak Harbor, WA. That journey is a whole other story.

Before finding my boat, I hadn’t decided on a name. I figured that if the boat came with a decent name, I’d just leave it.

With Sea Bear or Fairwinds that probably would’ve been the case. However, with FreedomThor’s Hammer and the final boat I saw, K-Mak, it was clear I needed a name of my own choosing.

K-Mak was also exceptionally personal, a tribute to the former owner’s parents. I wanted a name that was personal to a point, practical and fun.

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Farewell K-MAK! Hello Capi!

Chris Catterton’s Rules of Boat Naming:

  1. Easy to say three times on the radio.
  2. Easy to read on the boat.
  3. Not more than 3 syllables.

Some contenders that I considered:

  • Okay – which I frequently mutter as I putter about
  • F.I.N.E. – Freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. Thanks, The Italian Job.
  • Pizza Mac N’ Cheese Nachos – My favorite foods. Didn’t pass the radio test.
  • And, of course, Capi.

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An early Canadian Edition of “The Curve of Time” I found.

“Capi” was the nickname of Muriel Wylie Blanchet, born in 1891 in Montreal, Quebec. A variation of “captain”, I first came across Capi while reading Blanchet’s memoir, “The Curve of Time.” I’ve written about Capi before and her British Columbia cruising expeditions with her five children, sometimes with a dog in the dinghy, on a 25-foot powerboat, have become lore in the Pacific Northwest’s maritime culture.

I admire Capi, a widow, mother and a pretty practical woman for many reasons, some I reflect on most often are:

  • She did a lot with a little. Like with tiny homes, bicycles or vans, boats are at their best when everything has a purpose and the combined features are like a well-choreographed opening number. Simplicity has its advantages and leads many of us on a more direct path to happiness.From “The Curve of Time”, first published in 1961:

    “Our world then was both wide and narrow — wide in the immensity of sea and mountain; narrow in that the boat was very small, and we lived and camped, explored and swam in a little realm of our own making” (p. 1).

  • She stepped beyond gender roles. Through her actionsCapi dismissed the perceived limitations that existed in the first part of the twentieth century. Traditionally masculine responsibilities, including engine work, fishing, boating and scaling mountains, were all part of Capi’s experience.

    “Engines were invented and reared by men. They are used to being sworn at, and just take advantage or you; if you are polite to them —you get absolutely nowhere”(p. 168).

  • She was a leader and strong for her small crew. To step forward, seeing that others need strength and to face scary situations with confidence and also humility, is an important type of leader. It is something I also aspire to do and respect all the small choices, not only grand decisions, she takes to be “Capi”.

    “I am supposed to look calm and collected at such moments, and my crew watched me furtively to see that all was well. I was busy, furtively arguing with myself”(p. 97).

  • She did it all with dry humor and character that lives on in her writing style. An aspiring writer myself, I have listened for, read about and am always working to build my “voice.” Capi found hers, it is very matter-of-fact and filled with natural curiosity. She writes of geography, history, anthropology, biology and any other topic that crossed her path. To really know it, you’ll have to read her book.

    “Children love booms—but mustn’t be allowed to play on them. The great sections of floating logs look compact and solid, but any one of the logs, if stepped on, might roll over and catch you in between…yet booms have an irresistible attraction for children” (p. 159-160).

  • She sought a lifestyle that suited her, looking beyond the status quo. How else can we live our lives? Why have we built the life we currently lead? It seems the balance lies in the middle of exploring possibilities yet also recognizing what is right when it arrives.

    “To the north-east, the snow-capped mountains of the coast range reached with their jagged peaks for the summer sky. And north, south, east and west, among the maze of islands, winding channels lured and beckoned. That was what we had been doing all day —just letting our little boat carry us where she pleased” (p. 73).

I can’t remember exactly how long ago, but the first time I picked up a copy of “The Curve of Time” was while watching my colleague’s cat and house while they traveled. I didn’t realize until later, but Lisa had purposefully set out that book knowing my love of boats.

Out of this small, thoughtful gesture from another bookworm, I came to learn about Capi and her adventures. It made me think about how wonderful it must be to go cruising. I thought, “I should do that.”

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Capi figured it out so I can too, right?

Capi’s memoir made me believe I could do things I haven’t learned yet, especially when it comes to an engine. It made me want to see all the natural beauty tucked into this corner of the world, instead of searching for adventure abroad.

It made me want to pursue a lifestyle that makes me happy in thousands of small ways, but it does take a bit of extra work, especially with boats. In learning about the world of M. Wylie Blanchet, my world expanded.

So, long before the “official” renaming ceremony on June 11, 2018, attended by the esteemed Kuhlcats (my parents Bob and Sandy) who are unfailingly supportive and have now both read “The Curve of Time”; my boat became “Capi” to me.

My gifts to “Capi” in year two:

  • A fresh bottom! Haul out, paint, the whole nine yards and I have no clue what I’m doing…yet.
  • A scrubbed bilge. It’s pretty intimate but not too scary, she’ll be clean top to bottom.
  • A new cooler! Ok, this one is really for Andrew and me.
  • Sharing sailing with even more friends and family. I’ve spent years telling people I’d take them sailing! Sometimes I’d find a boat and pull it off. Now though, I get to take people out on my own boat whenever I want. Isn’t that something?! All I hope is they have enough fun, they want to go back out.

Happy Anniversary, S/V Capi! Here we go, year two.

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Capi’s first-anniversary cruise! We headed back to Poulsbo, site of our first overnight cruise. Day 1 was dead calm but coming back we were scooting along in a nice northerly!

The year I bought a boat

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.

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This dork successfully docked her boat!

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.

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He hates sailing. 😉

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.

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When one of us goes sailing, all of us want to go sailing

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!).

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Departing for a week of cruising on Capi, another dream come true this year!

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 ckuhlcat@gmail.com.

Sailing a lot, with lots of ladies

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 second of three short essays about women in boating. ~ a 6-minute read ~


A good sailor is an experienced sailor. The more time on the water, the more you know, the easier it is to stay two steps ahead and soon enough, you’re nerd-ing out with the rest of them.

Last year, a new friend of mine bought a boat and wanted to learn how to sail. A year went by without connecting, the tiller broke and luckily the boat moved to a marina closer to us. When I finally got onboard Argon, a San Juan 24, this spring it was with a purpose: To teach Sam how to sail her boat, to help her feel comfortable taking others out and have fun along the way.

There was no lesson plan, just a notebook I think we misplaced. I recruited Jeanne, who still teaches sailing, and we taught by doing it, figuring it out. You step on a new boat and it’s unexplored territory. With Argon, we explored together and had a blast.

“What’s this line do? Oh! Spinnaker halyard.”

“Hmm, there should be a cleat here, guess it runs that way…oh yeah, makes sense!”

“What a cozy slip you’re in. I mean, seems possible to back out so let’s try that.”

For several weeks, the three of us regularly took Argon out on Lake Union and hardly saw another boat. We experienced light wind, puffs and breeze from every direction. Some things got labeled, others were memorized and we encouraged Sam to do as much as she could on her own. Soon enough, she was sailing without us!

That would’ve been enough to make this year memorable. See, I believe anyone can learn to sail and do so confidently and safely on the water. What makes a sailor is a perfect storm: enthusiasm, a positive learning environment and enough great experiences you keep going.

I also believe that’s hard to come by, especially for women interested in sailing.

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Even in this ideal scenario, we experienced the sour side of boating. The sexism lurking just beneath the surface which is perpetuated by an older generation who knew a different world and a young generation that should know better.

A man on the dock once joked our departing boat and crew was “unlucky,” we didn’t laugh. Others not-so-subtly watched us from the corners of their eyes, questioning our approach because it was different than their own. Later in the summer, we were prepared to boycott Duck Dodge because the theme felt detached from reality. There are more opportunities for women in boating, but barriers and tasteless traditions still remain.

Long before I bought my boat, I dreamed about using it as a vehicle to teach other women to sail. Nothing formal, but to provide a vessel where more experienced sailors and those who are interested in sailing more could safely set out together. This summer, my dream came true.

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Ladies sailing trip 2018

On Friday, June 15, two sailing vessels (Argon and my boat Capi, a Catalina 34) departed from Shilshole to Poulsbo for the first annual ladies sailing weekend. For three days, nine women across two boats shared everything: space, dreams, food, wine boxes, knowledge, laughter and more than I can capture in this essay.

The weekend was humbling, inspiring, hilarious and, at one point, brought me to tears (the good kind). We navigated, we chatted, we set sails and we had space for our version of sailing. One friend learned at 6 a.m. she’d passed her nursing exam, another caught the sailing bug and another tested out her new kayak by paddling among harbor seals at night.

This weekend, more than six months since that trip, we are all getting together again and the excitement is feverish. When I think back to that June weekend, and every time on the water with these ladies, I know I’ve experienced something special and I can’t wait for more. We’re planning future sailing adventures and hopefully more perfect storms leading to more lady sailors.


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 ckuhlcat@gmail.com.

I’m still thinking about Team Sail Like a Girl

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 first of three short essays about women in boating. ~ a 6-minute read ~


December is almost at an end and more than Christmas, I enjoy the end of each year for the moment of reflection it provides. This year, I’m thinking about the importance of Team Race Like a Girl‘s victory in the 4th annual Race to Alaska (R2AK).

A top talking point in the summer, I don’t want to let this landmark accomplishment slip away with 10 p.m. sunsets. Here are 5 reasons the all-female team’s win is even more than it seems:

1. They didn’t let anyone build a glass ceiling. I’ve researched and written about the youngest solo-circumnavigator Laura Dekker, who happens to be female, the first female solo-circumnavigator (Tania Aebi), and the first woman to have sailed single-handed around the world via Cape Horn (Naomi James). So many of these “firsts” come decades, if not centuries, after male dominance in their respective categories.

R2AK is a modern race inspired by a simple concept: race unsupported to Alaska from Washington. The fresh face of this race made it a ripe opportunity for female sailors before layers of patriarchy or institutional sexism were allowed to dominate.

Team Race Like a Girl’s win took my appreciation of R2AK from novelty to notorious. These women’s victory was a great thing for the race and the region.

2. I don’t know anyone on Team Race Like A Girl. I would never claim to know all the female sailors in Seattle but, I know, or at least recognize, a lot. Over the past seven years here I’ve coached, raced, volunteered, set sail wearing all pink, and covered the annual NW Women in Boating panel at the Seattle Boat Show meeting some amazing sailors along the way.

I don’t know Aimee Fulwell, Jeanne Assael Goussev, Allison Dvaladze, Anna Stevens, Haley King Lhamon, Kate Hearsey McKay, Morgana Buell or Kelly Adamson Danielson and that’s exciting! I do hope to meet them all someday, but seeing more and more women sailing in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest is critical for the longevity of the sailing community. It’s a pleasure to not-know you!

This year’s NW Women in Boating panel will take place during the Seattle Boat Show on January 28 at 6 p.m., you can also hear from Team Race Like A Girl on the same day at 4 p.m. — see you there?

3. Some of them are moms. I mean, holy cow! How proud their families must be! Too often the adventurous sailing woman is depicted otherwise whether young and free or older and wiser. Why can’t you sail and work and compete and do whatever else? You can and it’s important to do so.

Team Captain Jeanne Goussev told the Seattle Times, “we know that we’re strong women, but when you’re running your daily life, you don’t always get to meet her.”

These women trained, prepared and committed to not just transit but race the Inside Passage. They have careers, younger children and are not solely identified by their sailing. Throughout that preparation, they must have faced the challenges we all face at times: last minute snafus, dirty laundry, unexpected traffic, childcare logistics and grown up shit. Kudos to them all.

4. They won as a team. On the R2AK website the Day 7 update captures the energy of not just a victory but of an unspoken upset: “There was something different about tonight; everyone felt it…the moment seven women stepped simultaneous, arm-in-arm…and became the fourth champions of R2AK.”

The eight women of Team Race Like A Girl (one team member did not participate in the second leg) achieved their goal as a team. That level of teamwork requires collaboration, communication, compassion and conviction.

“We would not have succeeded without any one of these women,” said Goussev in the interview with The Seattle Times.

5. They are a different kind of female sailing role model. Who did I look up to when I was learning to sail? Was it that instructor from Ireland who could roll tack her Laser perfectly in short-shorts? Or (pre-nose job) Jennifer Grey in Wind? Or my friend’s mom who organized all the post-race BBQs?

I learned something from all these female figures (roll tacks are about physics, not sheer force; don’t get a nose job; snacks are essential right during and after racing) but I’m excited for young sailors, regardless of gender, to learn about how eight women worked together to win R2AK before we had a chance to wonder “what if?”.


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 ckuhlcat@gmail.com.

Photo credit: R2AK/Katrina Zoë Norbom

2018: The Year of Lady Sailors

For me, 2018 is the year of lady sailors, including myself. We stretched definitions, made monumental gains on the water and perhaps most importantly, reimagined sailing culture our way.

A “lady sailor” is a silly label. When I say it, I imagine my female friends who are passionate about sailing, or being on the water, and sharing that passion with others. I imagine Olympic hopefuls dedicated to their teammates and training. I imagine role models for the girls that learned to sail this past summer. Like many labels, it doesn’t quite say it all.

I’ve struggled to described the women’s movement taking place on the water. It’s not so different from the ones taking place on land. What I see are women taking to the water on their own, pushing the status quo in competition, supporting one another in a traditionally male-dominated pastime and in general, having a blast together.

To end “The Year of Lady Sailors”, I will be publishing three short essays about women in boating; about myself, about my friends and about strangers. This year isn’t the peak, it’s the pivot.

I’m also beginning a project for Women’s History Month (March 2019) and I need your input.

The project is titled: What Female Sailors Want

What do you want? What needs to be different? When it comes to sailing, what is most important to you? Send your thoughts, aspirations and experiences to me at ckuhlcat@gmail.com.

I have an idea of what I want but can’t wait to hear what you want too. Don’t wait, I’m listening!

Love Seattle’s Duck Dodge? (Now you don’t have to) Skip it next week.

UPDATE: 

I appreciate the DD Race Committee’s reconsideration and response to the July 17th theme I took issue with, they have decided to remove the theme.
 
Writing to 48° North Sailing Magazine and on my own blog allowed me to reflect and work through my opinion, solidifying my beliefs and ambitions for the Seattle sailing community. I was given the opportunity to express this opinion and drive others to discuss something that clearly struck a chord.
 
I believe more than ever we can hold ourselves to a higher standard, especially in our recreation and have a lot of fun without it being at the expense of others. Thanks to everyone who read, shared and talked about what is best on-and-off the water, you made a difference.

Happy Summer, Seattle Sailors! If you’re like me, you’re love/sun/beer drunk about this time of the year. Late evenings, eager crew and only half the layers. Yes, sailing in Seattle is great, but sailing in Seattle during summer is unrivaled.

There is one blemish on my summer sailing schedule, though. Earlier this year, Duck Dodge Race Committee decided July 17th’s theme would be “Pimps and Ladies of the Night.” I think this theme is absolutely unacceptable and compromises the fun atmosphere of Duck Dudge and a sailing community that is constantly trying to grow and “get more people on the water.”

Not sure what “Duck Dodge” is? Read my summary from 2014 on Fremont Universe.

Initially, my reaction was to shrug it off. Then, I overheard that this title was a revised version. My indignation quickly rose as I thought, “They looked at this theme, reconsidered it and yet they still put it on the schedule with the name only slightly tweaked?!” The F-bombs flowed after this realization.

I was not alone. As friends of both genders and various levels of sailing experience bemoaned the insensitive, offensiveness and “fratiness” of the theme, I wondered “how can we change it?”

Why does this matter? In my mind, it is often too easy to continue with the politically incorrect, simply because “that’s the way it is.” Think I’m too p.c.? Too bad. I believe in behaving the way things should be, not the way “they just are”.

I first approached this situation as a recurring practice that needed to be disrupted. However, after learning about the lack of precedence, I felt dismayed that in 2018, after the record-breaking Women’s Marches, prominence of #MeToo and day-to-day discussion of diversity and inclusion, this is what Seattle’s most popular Race Committee chooses.

In May, I composed my thoughts and emailed the contact on Duck Dodge’s website with the subject “Feedback from a fellow sailor”. A week later, with no response yet from DD Race Committee, I shared my opinion to the editor of 48º North and the following was published in the magazine’s June issue:

48º North June 2018 - Duck Dodge Letter to the Editor

But that’s not the end. Later in May, after the June issue had gone to press, I did receive a response from the Duck Dodge Race Committee.

In summary, they referenced the challenge of pleasing a community of over 2,000 sailors and the fact that the theme has appeared several times in the past. They did say the theme would stay on the 2018 schedule but removed from the greater list of rotating themes that organizers pull from each year.

I was happy to hear the theme would be retired but also disappointed that it could not be changed almost 8 weeks out, especially with the plethora of additional themes at their disposal. My response follows:
Hiya,
Thank you for your response and consideration. I’m happy to hear that the theme will not reappear in the future and will skip Duck Dodge on July 17th in favor of an evening with a theme I’m more on board with. 
With a long list of themes at your disposal, I sincerely hope you’ll keep my input in mind and try to view 2019’s themes from a diverse set of perspectives. It truly is impossible to appease everyone but I believe focusing on themes that uplift our community, such as Pink Boat, is an incredible opportunity and will make Duck Dodge even better for years to come.
– Cara

So now what? Well, there are two parts.

Part 1: I’m calling it a “sail-in”

First, consider skipping Duck Dodge on Tuesday, July 17 this year. I will be at the dock with an amazing crew, discussing what we hope for the future of our sailing community and welcoming landlubbers aboard. A casual “sail-in” if you will, with all the other best parts of Duck Dodges: drinks, laughs and nerdy sailing jokes.

If you do sail next Tuesday, please do me a favor and skip this theme. Look around on the water and think about how lucky we are to be out, on sailboats in Lake Union during the middle of a Seattle boom. How can we share this with more people?

Part 2: DD RC, you can do better

Second, I’d like to take issue with the Duck Dodge Committee’s reference that “Pimps and Ladies of the Night” or similar versions have appeared multiple times at Duck Dodge in the past. While that may be true over Duck Dodge’s 44-year history, it does not appear to be the precedent in the last decade.

Based on my research, the theme “Pimps and Ladies of the Nights” or similar has not appeared in the last 10 years. The closest specter I can find is a “Tart & Vicars” night in 2011 when overall, the themes appear to undergo a revival.

 

My advice to the DD RC is to just stop and think about it. That includes looking around and thinking about the composition of the race committee: Does this group reflect our greater community?

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you on the dock on July 17th.
– Cara