Quirks & Perks of Sailing with My All-Female Crew

"What would men be without women? Scarce, sir...mighty scarce." - Mark Twain

Sometimes there are comments from the peanut gallery as we walk down the docks. “He’s gonna be in trouble when they get older”, they say. Or “He’s severely outnumbered!” For the record, I'm usually agreeing with these comments in my head.

What the peanut gallery has noticed is that I lead (and am lead by) an all-female crew. Things aren't any different on land either since even our cat is a female. I am blessed and THANKFUL to be surrounded in such a way and so, I thought I would share some of my observations as the only male onboard.

First, some heartfelt introspection. My wife and three daughters ensure that I'll always have an identity, that my calling in this world isn't hidden or perceived in my own mind as being scarce. I'm thankful every day for the opportunity to be a husband and father to three girls.

Hannah, Soleil, Erin and Isabel guiding my ship.

My all-female crew provide me a real sense of purpose. Because of them, there's more to sailing than just leaving the harbor, hoisting the sails and allowing the wind to carry the boat to the next harbor. There are lessons to learn, views to share, boredom to overcome, fears to set aside, and memories to make. Come to think of it, those last few sentences are a good metaphor for our life away from sailing too.

As a humble and probably all too often introvert (Wannabe hermit?), the females in my crew keep me in touch with the social side of sailing and humanity. Whether it’s singing at the top of our lungs in the cabin or socializing with power boaters in a marina clubhouse, my crew pushes me out of my comfort zone. I try to return the favor by occasionally dipping the rail in the water or having one of them take the helm around the docks.

Here's some other quirks and perks I've picked up on:
  • I'm never short-handed. There's always a willing partner to heave a line, wash the deck, or help with the helm. Girls dig boats too and mine are definitely able seawomen.
  • When a scream comes from the cabin at the sight of a spider (the BIG creepy nautical types!), I can easily lay blame on one of the females. "Wasn't me! I'm not afraid of spiders!"
  • The females on our boat tend to ask questions that might otherwise go unasked by the captain, even when he doesn't know the answer. This is good. The captain learns this way. 
  • The little ones open me up with their innocence and unknowingly remind me to be amazed at my surroundings. So what if I'm not sailing around the world? The blue water we're on is still beautiful. 
  • My wife helps me to be me, and even encourages it!
  • Have I mentioned that I’m the only one in our crew that can easily pee over the rail? Using the head is fine, but it’s not a necessity for me!
  • Sailing requires patience. Parenting demands patience. I'm learning to become more patient to the benefit of both.
I wonder what quirks and perks some veteran cruising dads who also sail with all-female crews would add? [Scott from Windtraveler, Michael from Wondertime, Michael from Del Viento, others?]

I historically lean towards the typical male "fight or flight" response to stress, whereas Erin and the girls are more "tend and befriend" in their approach. Over the years I've shifted to the middle, which seems best for dealing with sailing's stressors such as weather, unreliable engines and power boaters (kidding!). I owe this shift to my crew.

A few years back I saw a comparison of sample diary entries from a fictional husband and wife used to illustrate the difference in the male and female mentality. Maybe you've seen it? I'm going to share my own version of some fictional log entries from Erin and I for the same purpose. Here goes:

Log of s/v Bearly-A-Wake; July 10, 2014 by Erin
Weather was fine today - mostly sunny with moderate wind. Sailing was very relaxing and I was able to read more than half of a novel on the 5 hour passage to South Manitou Island. The girls played for hours on deck with Matchbox cars, pretending each had it's own name and personality. Soleil napped for 1.5 hours in the v-berth but was eventually awoken when Izzy dropped a car through the overhead hatch. Kevin seemed unusually distant this evening. He was in his element during the sail, smiling and loving every second of the long beam reach to the anchorage on the island, but now his mood has disappeared. Was it something I said? Did the Matchbox cars strewn all over the deck or the Polly Pockets littered in the cabin push him over the limit? I wonder if he's concerned about the approaching low pressure system to the north. We cooked an excellent pasta dinner and ate together in the cockpit, but he didn't say much. He said he wasn't upset, that it had nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it. After dinner he just sat there for a while, staring at the horizon. He was clearly distracted and his thoughts are elsewhere.

Log of s/v Bearly-A-Wake; July 10, 2014 by Kevin
Dinghy outboard won't start...can't figure out why.

In reality, our dinghy motor has always run just fine and SailFarLiveFree.com is as close as we have to a ship's log. My point with the above fictitious log entries is that Erin and I (and likely our daughters too) think differently and sometimes on different levels. Some of that is just who we are, and some is due to our genders, I'm certain. The cool thing is that our thought processes are usually complimentary when we're sailing.

All I really know is that I am thankful for my family and am a better sailor and person for having them in my life.

What about you and your crew?

Nautical Scout Collapsible Gear (and giveaway!)

"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." - Steve Jobs

Storage space seems to be a limiting factor on many cruising sailboats. Because of this, many of us are forced to make tradeoffs. Should we leave both side decks open or cram one full with a SUP lashed to the stanchions? Do we want to bring along the spinnaker and play musical sail bags when it’s not in use, or should we leave it at home and curse the light air?

On our particular boat, a Catalina 34, storage tradeoffs often occur in the galley since lockers are limited there. So naturally I was eager to get my hands on some of the collapsible cookware from Nautical Scout. I tried the tea kettle over the weekend and came away impressed with the quality and how little the collapsibility effects overall function as cookware. It simply extends up from the 2.4” collapsed position in a second or two and is ready for duty as a 5-cup kettle (5.5” tall, 6” wide). I boiled a full kettle of water on our stove and didn’t have any issues pouring into a coffee cup, though the food-grade silicone does get slightly more flexible when filled with hot water. The kettle’s bottom (as with the other collapsible cookware available from Nautical Scout) is made of stainless steel. This little kettle will become part of our morning coffee routine while anchored out and make pouring through a filter screen into a coffee cup much safer than pouring directly from the sauce pan we’ve been using.

The other collapsible product I tried out was a 1.85 gallon bucket, also from Nautical Scout. This is a product that will get some serious use on our boat. We use a bucket to wash our decks, take showers in the cockpit, rinse laundry on the hook, collect beach treasures when ashore, and bail the dinghy after a hard rain. The 2” collapsed height will make it a welcome addition to the cockpit lazarette. When fully expanded, the bucket measures 7.75” high and has a maximum width of 11.5” at the top.
The best space-saving bucket I’ve used before this collapsible one was a bucket made of canvas. However, the canvas buckets don’t hold their form as well and tend to accumulate the dirt, oil and soap they are exposed to. The 100% food grade silicone from the collapsible bucket seems completely impervious to soap and dirt, something I hope proves to be true with time.

And I’m not the only one who likes these new collapsible products. My kids are oddly entertained by collapsing and then expanding the bucket and kettle repeatedly as if they were magicians. I'm not quite sure they care about the space-saving benefits of the design, but they're certainly impressed by the collapsing action.
Want a chance to win a free collapsible kettle from Nautical Scout? Simply share the link to this review on your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account and send us an email with your name.  We'll choose one winner at random in 2 weeks to receive a free collapsible tea kettle. 

A Sailing Rockstar - Fugoo Bluetooth Speaker Review

"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." - Bob Marley

Do you listen to music while you sail? Or perhaps you play tunes in the cockpit during sundowners. Maybe you like to kick some beats at the beach when you go ashore. No matter the circumstance, having a small portable Bluetooth speaker opens the possibilities for more time spent enjoying the music you like.

I can hear some of you asking, "Why do I need a Bluetooth speaker when I've already got a perfectly good stereo and fixed-mount speakers on my boat?"  I can think of many advantages of a portable Bluetooth speaker for sailing. To name a few, try these:
  • Beach music - You can bring a Bluetooth speaker with you when you go to shore.
  • Dinghy music - Ditto. Now your dinghy has a sound system too.
  • Dock music - Ever want to have tunes on the dock or up at the marina grill?
  • Digital music library - Does your boat stereo have a connection for your phone or iPod? If not, a Bluetooth speaker allows you to play digital music from your device library and other sources like Pandora and Spotify
  • Energy savings - Using a portable Bluetooth speaker saves your house batteries
  • Non-boating uses - A Bluetooth speaker can be used at home too for backyard bbq's, etc.
Now, to make a portable Bluetooth speaker feasible for use on a sailboat, it would have to be waterproof at the very least, and probably offer other protection too like being sandproof for the beach and shockproof for those times when an extreme angle of heel clears the shelves. Sounds like a job for the Fugoo "Go Anywhere Speaker"!

The Fugoo (rhymes with "who knew") speaker is touted as being shockproof, snowproof, sandproof and waterproof to 3 feet for up to 30 minutes. Much of this "proofing" comes from the components being shock-mounted on reinforced case materials and protected by impact absorbing end caps on all eight corners. The speaker itself is essentially an internal core that is then covered with a choice of jacket designs, including the Sport model I tested. The base Style model lists for $199 and features a fiber/cloth shell. The Sport ($199) has a fiber-reinforced resin shell with rubber trim for added impact protection. And finally, the Tough model ($229) is crafted from resin and aluminum, creating the highest level of durability (I've seen a video of it being run over by a Jeep without issue).

I could go on about other technical features like dynamic EQ, magnetic ferrofluid, and passive radiators, but wouldn't you rather just see the results of Hannah and I dunking the Fugoo underwater?

Come Sail Away, indeed!

As you can see, the Fugoo is happy to swim and keep on playing music (and hold the Bluetooth connection) without much fuss.  I'm not sure how Fugoo managed to keep water from entering via the open mini-USB charging port, but I'm happy to report they've done it.

Putting aside all of the ruggedness and suitability for a watery environment, the Fugoo also boasts really good sound quality, at least to my ears. Music comes through clear and crisp with no noticeable distortion, even at full volume. However, full volume may not be loud enough for some if you're hoping to share your music with the entire anchorage. For most, the volume range is plenty for what you'll require onboard.

The sound comes from two tweeters for highs, two woofers for midrange sound and two passive radiators for modest bass. Fugoo's press materials specifiy 95 dB, but the highest I attained was 91 dB using the Decibel 10th app on my iPhone. Another nice feature is that this speaker is set up for 360 degrees of sound, so you don't necessarily have to have it pointed in one direction or another to hear it. Omnidirectional!

Battery life is listed as 40 hours at 50% volume on continuous play. I didn't let it play for that long continuously, but we've been using it off and on now for a couple of weeks and still haven't exhausted the initial charge.

What about accessories? There are a few really cool accessories to make the Fugoo even more useful. The one I've been trying out is the Bike Mount, which actually is perfect for attaching the Fugoo to a stanchion or the steering binnacle, as long as your tube diameters are between 7/8" and 1 1/4". You can also get a wireless remote control and other mounts.

Bike (stanchion) mount

I really like the Fugoo speaker, but to be a true review, I've got to come up with some nitpicks too, right? First, the price. Starting at nearly $200 makes this one of the most expensive options for a portable Bluetooth speaker, so you've really got to value the rugged/waterproof design. And speaking of design, I felt like the form factor is a bit large considering some of the competition.  Size for a Bluetooth speaker might be subjective, but it also represents a trade-off between portability and sound quality. So far I haven't run across a smaller speaker with better sound than the Fugoo, let alone the protection the Fugoo offers from the wet environs of a sailboat. So maybe the Fugoo's 1.1 lbs and roughly ~8" length strikes the proper balance.

In any case - Sport, Style, Tough - the Fugoo is a high quality choice for serving up sailing music.

Pros: durability, sound quality, battery life

Cons: cost, size (for some)

Bottom Line: A speaker that delivers music to the sailing experience in all conditions