Boating industry poobahs (not me) had a meeting at
the Miami Boat Show in February and I understand the
hot topic was women.
It's not what you think.
source told me the industry association described
many things it was doing to promote the sale of more
boats. They announced a new section on the website
dedicated to spousal conversion.
Male and female laughter rippled through the room.
One person was overheard telling a friend it would
be nice to convert to an 18-year-old.
But the real point they were making is that boat
sales have never been as good as they could be
because many times the wife tells her husband "no."
I'm sure some women – and who can blame them – have
been put off by that long and unfortunate habit in
the boating tradition to assign the role of captain
to the man and the role of first mate to the woman.
That is a thing of the past. Good riddance.
But the main thing the marine marketing experts were
saying is that many boat sales never occur because
many women, married and single, lack confidence in
their own boating abilities and also are
apprehensive about boating safety issues.
believe there's something to this.
recently read the first person account of a woman
who learned the hard way of the importance of
training. This was written by Robin Freeman, Chief
of the Department of Education of the Coast Guard
“It was during one of our first few trips offshore
that Rick asked me to stand by the wheel while he
went aft to tie some fishing jigs. Suddenly I heard
a gurgling, choking sound. I whipped around to find
Rick doubled over, his face bright red! I feared it
was a heart attack. Three horrible thoughts struck
simultaneously: I don’t know where I am. . . I don’t
know how to call for help. . . Please don’t die!”
was not a heart attack. Her husband was choking on a
piece of fishing line. He coughed it up and he was
okay. But that didn't minimize this woman's feeling
of helplessness while her husband gasped for air.
And, in retrospect, she wished that she had learned
how to operate the boat and use the marine radio
before her scary incident.
That would have been before they started taking out
Boat sellers have been very good at selling the fun
of boating. Now there is recognition that sometimes
boat sellers need to adjust their sales focus to
address safety and operation, especially among
women, even to the point of offering boat courses.
Learning from a textbook won't cut it, in my
opinion. Real learning and confidence only comes
with hands-on instruction, in a boat. You can study
it, but you also need to do it. That's what we do at
Florida Sailing & Cruising School, our liveaboard
Our instructors positively, absolutely do not assign
the male to the helm and the woman to handle the
dock lines. Each student, male and female, spends
the time he or she needs to be proficient at all
responsibilities – operating the vessel, navigating,
docking, anchoring, communicating on the marine
radio, even lighting the stove.
hold this truth to be self-evident: The safest
vessel will be the vessel on which everybody knows
how to do everything. Sometimes the wife will be at
the controls and the husband will be applying
sunscreen to young faces and arms. And sometimes it
will be the other way around.
Management consultants call this redundancy. I
rather like spousal conversion.