I was talking to a friend who is a member of a well-established yacht club that shall remain nameless. She told me about when their yacht club attempted a “women’s sailing” program. The idea was that a group of women would take their boats, sail to a nearby anchorage, spend the night, and sail back. Sounds like fun, right?
Well, it turns out that out of the hundreds of families that belong to this club, only three boats were available for the event. It wasn’t because other boats were being used that weekend; it was because husbands would not let their wives take their own boats by themselves, for fear they would end up on the rocks.
This is unacceptable. Not just because its sexist to assume that wives cannot operate their boats as safely as their husbands. God knows, we have all seen some horrendous stuff out there. The consistent image of most of the boating accidents I have witnessed is a husband at the wheel screaming his ass off at his well-meaning, but utterly confused wife. No, the real shame in this situation is that it deprives the ones we love of the most valuable part of learning: the opportunity to make decisions and to make mistakes.
Barb and I have been sailing together for sixteen years. I’ve sailed more years with Barb than I have without her. Over those years, my skills have sharpened while hers have stagnated (I think she’ll admit that…). Lately, it has become clear why that is. When we are on the boat, we are sailing together, but I end up making all the decisions. Without the ability to make decisions and experience the reward or consequences of those decisions, Barb never had the opportunity to sharpen her skills.
Well that is going to change. Barb has begun an initiative to start a women’s sailing program as part of our club. The point is not to exclude the fellas (although I’m sure that has its benefits); the point is to take those who are all to willing to sit in the back and put them in a position where they have to make decisions and then learn from those decisions.
So guys, someone once gave you the keys to the boat and said “have at it.” Today, I challenge you to do the same for the ones who have been sitting next to you all these years.
And ladies, kick your husbands out of the cockpit from time to time, and get excited about Barb’s women’s sailing initiative.