Here's the Change Post for Tuesday 2/22/11
I’ve been talking with other boating women – all First Mates. First Mates as defined by this blog are those people (male or female) who were not raised as boaters, who are not licensed captains, and who came to this dream by way of their partner. Of course the majority of First Mates are women, but I’ve read articles by and about women who dreamed of this lifestyle and who have the skills to travel at sea alone or with a less experienced sailor/boater. I know women captains who are as skilled at boat repair as EW, who are excellent captains, cruisers and racers. I are not one.
I do have control issues, and have found that the more I know, the more comfortable I am. Not all First Mates feel the same way. Based on very informal conversations with other sailors, the First Mates who know less – who aren’t comfortable handling a watch, anchoring the boat, navigating, or even driving the dinghy – are less comfortable overall with the cruising lifestyle.
Yesterday – when a Change/Relationship post was supposed to run, EW and I took advantage of light winds and motored 11 miles to the Marina at Emerald Bay, where diesel is available. This allowed us to recharge the batteries fully (something we need to do twice a week, at least) and to fill the water and fuel tanks in preparation for a weather window to Puerto Rico. Emerald Bay is a nearly perfect marina that would be perfect if they had diesel nozzles that fit our deck fills. EW used a funnel we had aboard that also didn’t fit our deck fills and that leaked. It was a slow process, requiring me to help hold the funnel and to sop up dripped diesel with paper towels. Marvin, the outstanding dock person at the Marina at Emerald Bay finally took pity on us and offered to fill our tanks. Marvin has run into this problem before and knows how to hold the nozzle slightly canted, and press the handle just enough to allow the tank to fill mostly cleanly. Since Marvin was busy with other boaters, EW took over again and filled the tanks Marvin’s way. It was still slow, and somewhat messy and EW couldn’t hold the nozzle and check the vent so I remained on my knees with oil absorbent pads provided by Marvin, caught diesel and monitored the vent.
At one point, Marvin came back to watch the progress and said, “You are a good team”. I thanked him, and a minute or so later I realized what he meant. “You mean you don’t see a other wives get up close and personal with their diesel fill tanks?” He laughed and said, “No Ma’am, I do not.” I was surprised at that. Other boats must have deck fills like those on La Luna, who helps the captain when he’s filling the tanks? I’m a jump in where needed kind of woman. (Unless it’s gooky. I hate gooky.) This trip down the coast and into the Bahamas has become a training ground for me. We plan to sail for many years and we’ll be safer, healthier, and happier if we both have the ability to do most of what is needed.
Before my dad let me try for my driver’s license, I had to pass his test: check and add oil, pump gas, change a tire, and drive on ice and snow to his satisfaction. The more confidence my folks had in my skills as a driver, the more I was allowed to have the car – so there was a big pay-off for me. (Plus, twice in the past xx years I’ve helped women stuck beside the road with a flat.) Similarly, the more I know about running and maintaining the boat, the better I am with the dinghy, the more freedom we both have. The same goes for those who have the RV lifestyle, I have family members and friends who have learned to drive 5th wheels, RV’s and tow trailers through city streets and mountain roads, and to park in tiny campsites. If EW and I were to take up that lifestyle I suspect he would do most of the driving and I would do most of the navigating because that works for us – but I’d still learn to drive the rig. It’s about safety, control and freedom. Knowledge is power.