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?

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