Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sharing the Load

Now this is a chick I'd like to drink a bottle of
wine with!
Today on the radio the Coast Guard announced that a 30 foot boat about 11 nautical miles ahead of us was in distress with two adults on board - one being a man who had suffered a heart attack.  I can only assume* that the other adult was his wife.  Based on that assumption, immediately I thought of the wife and wondered, "Does she know how to operate the boat?"


Too often in the boating world the answer is "no".  There is this 'thing' they talk about in cruising where people divvy up boat responsibilities into "blue" and "pink" chores.  Men do the 'blue', women do the 'pink'.  The tasks themselves are just as obvious and reminiscent of life in the 1950's.  This is possibly the most annoying aspect of the cruising community and it irks me every time I read anything where people casually mention it.  Not because I'm an uber feminist**, but because that's just not safe...

While Scott and I do fall into a somewhat "traditional" pattern of roles and responsibilities (i.e. I do most of the cooking/cleaning, he does most of the engine work/boat handling) we both try to make sure to keep those responsibilities in check.  Sometimes I check the oil, sometimes Scott does the dishes...sometimes I trim the sails, sometimes Scott makes the bed...If (god forbid) something ever happened to Scott rendering him useless, I would have no problem running the boat by myself.  I know how to use our chart plotter, how to read and plot a course on a nautical chart, I understand how to use our VHF radio, how to raise, lower, and trim our sails and how to dock our boat.  I would be able to bring us and our boat to safety, should we ever need it.  I have to give both Scott and my dad credit for this "balance" - because both of them are adamant that I know all things 'boat'.

Like I said, we still fall into many of the traditional male/female roles - and I am completely okay with that.  Changing it up, however, not only keeps us on our toes - but keeps us on par with one another.  Sharing the load, for us,  has almost nothing to do with "gender roles" and everything to do with safety.

So ladies, next time you are coming to a new port - take the helm and put your man to work on those dishes!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

*And it is only an assumption, but for the sake of this blog post - it works.
** Not that there's anything wrong with that!  It's just not me...

7 comments:

Dawn Ireland said...

I totally agree, and plan on doing the same when we get our sailboat next year!

Neophyte Cruiser said...

Another great point regarding safety on board. I recently had the experience of having a crew member who came from a boat that divided tasks between 'pink' and 'blue'. I was dumbfounded to find this person, who described herself as a sailor and racer, clueless when it came to trimming sails and could barely hold a steady course while hand steering. I'm all for sharing the tasks and being cross-trained and competent to operate the boat, regardless of gender.

Lisa said...

I love all parts of boating, although I would prefer to do the dishes then get grease under my fingernails. (On the other hand, I have been known to be up to my elbows in diesel fuel while changing fuel filters on the Mississippi--a long story.)

I DO NOT understand how a couple can go cruising without both spouses knowing how to navigate, run the boat and at least get close enough to a dock so that someone could help in an emergency. Since none of these things takes strength, it is purely a matter of "tradition" when wife does not know these things. It can be, however, truly a matter of life and death. You two are a shining example of how it should be.

Brenda and David said...

Good on you! David and I also share tasks so that each of us knows how to do everything. We each have our "one thing" we won't do if we're alone. My one thing I won't do is go out on our 11 ft bowsprit to hank on or off the jibsail. It is just tooooooo scary for me. Dave gets his adrenaline rushes changing head sails out there in a gale. I get mine just watching him do it. Luckily the sail can be lowered working the halyard and a downhaul from the foredeck. If I ever had to do it alone, well, I'd just lower it into the netting, lash it, and let it stay there until anchored. Dave's one thing--cook himself hot meals, he'd subsist on PB&J indefinitely.

Windtraveler said...

@ Dawn - you go girl!
@ Neophyte - Thanks! :)
@ Lisa - I am 100% with you, and thank you!
@ Brenda - we have those tasks as well - when it's nasty, Scott usually does the raising and lowering of the main (have to do it at the mast) - and he is generally better at figuring all sorts of things out when it comes to systems - must be the engineer in him! We try our best to play to each others strengths.

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

We totally agree! We plan on learning everything together this next year. I've already docked our sailboat a couple of times. It not only builds confidence, but makes me feel empowered! It's like, yes I can do that!

Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

I'm late to the party on reading this, but I totally agree. Too many times, we had something happen on the boat where it took both of us to resolve it -- for example, the engine temp suddenly soaring. After shutting down the engine, I raised the sails and sailed us to the nearest safe anchorage, while Dave deal with the split in the oil cooler.

Two other things to think about with the "division" between the sexes: men tend to be taller and stronger and boats tend to be rigged for them. Every time we replaced/rerigged something, we made sure that it could be handled by someone only 5'3" tall (me), not just someone 5'10".

The other item is driving the dinghy. We saw relatively few women who routinely were willing to use the dink on their own. I'll admit, if we're both in the dinghy, Dave is more likely to drive than I -- but I tend to take it more often just by myself. Maybe it's because I grew up around boats, driving ski boats and so on, but I can't imagine not having the independence AND the safety of being able to drive it. Many women say they can't pull start an outboard -- we have a 15-horse 2-stroke, no a tiny motor. Good maintenance makes it easy to start -- way easier than any lawn mower!

I LOVE hearing about other women who know how their boats work and can operate them on their own!

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