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News - Women on boats

It's A Woman's World Too!

Here’s the bad news: boating is still largely a man’s world. Jessica Watson, Isabelle Autissier and their ilk aside, the majority of chandlery customers and Twilight racing crew-members are men.  Tradies who work on engines, paint boats or install electronics, slipway operators and the staff at you local chandlery are almost 100% male.  Of course women have always been on the scene, many sharing years of boating with a husband or partner or making a niche for themselves as race crew or (rarely) boat owners but many tend to feel that they are intruding on a masculine domain. And why is this bad news? Because the world has moved on, because women want “in” and because, as the sailing demographic changes and boat owners age, they are going to need their wives and co-owners to be involved if their sailing lives are to continue into retirement. Both look for more comfort and equipment to make their boating enjoyable and this is reflected in the increasing size and complexity of boats, which may require two to handle comfortably.  Men are keen for their wives and partners to play an active role and women are increasingly looking for opportunities to learn. The Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania saw these trends and took action in 2010; instigating a Women on Boats programme for its members and for any women who wanted to join. 

Taking as its’ motto “There Are No Dumb Questions”, the aim of “WoBs” is to build confidence and teach skills within a friendly group of other women. Over the past four years topics covered have ranged from the mechanical components of a boat (diesel engines, toilets, gas systems, anchoring equipment or electronics) to navigation, Collision Regulations, legal considerations of owning a boat, provisioning, first-aid and even physical fitness.

Engines are often a mystery to women and as well as spending time in the classroom, learning the theory of diesel engines, one-day workshops have been run in collaboration with Laurence Burgin of Franklin Marine. Women explore all parts of a typical small diesel and are encouraged to learn about their individual engines. Participants go away armed with a basic diesel engine manual and with some idea of how to trouble-shoot problems. Finally - pistons and pumps, injectors and cylinders demystified!

“WoBs” have also turned their hands to handling dinghies & outboards and practiced rope-handling. Some have done RYA Day Skipper courses and Boat Licences. Annual women-only weekends away on members’ boats have been hugely successful. Female owners skipper their own boats with all-female crews for weekends in the D‘Entrecasteaux Channel.  Taking the role of skipper means women have to learn all about their boats and for everyone aboard there is the opportunity to try things out in a relaxed situation without pressure or fear of criticism. Women encourage each other, commiserate, share past experiences and laugh together.

Women on Boats has evolved into a place for women to meet in a stress-free setting to learn about all aspects of boating. Instead of running as a course, the structure has deliberately remained casual and flexible.  Topics are covered in response to member’s requests and members are able to turn up as and when it suits. “Knowledge is power” and the knowledge and skills developed have given many WoBs a new delight in boating, while their increased confidence has been welcomed by partners and husbands. The success of the group can be seen in the increasing numbers of women who are willing to take the helm and the comradery they have found within Women on Boats has added a new dimension to the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania. If you want to find out more, check out the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania’s website. Sessions are held each month at the Derwent Sailing Squadron.  If you are a Woman on the Water – or if you want to be one – we want you!

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