Helping Women Get On Board
Since Jim and I sold our house (approx. five years ago) and moved aboard our boat Kismet, to seek adventure on the waterways, we have become quite experienced in most aspects of the “live aboard” lifestyle. Shortly after we immersed ourselves into our cruising adventures, we began to notice a recurring topic of conversation among boaters – women who were reluctant to join their male partners in this amazing way of life.
Not all women cruisers we meet start out with a burning passion to hit the waterways. It seems many have had a somewhat hard time in overcoming their misgivings and concerns about leaving home for one reason or another. If you’re a regular visitor to our BoatU.S. Cruising Logs, you’ll know I’m not one of these more typical women who’s faced with concerns about the prospect of living on a boat because, as you already know, I’m as passionate about my new lifestyle as my husband, Jim. I jumped at the chance to leave home to explore. However, as a woman it’s not hard for me to comprehend the seeds of terror lurking in these women’s hearts. I can understand to some degree where the terror starts, why and what it may take to sooth the fear. In fact, I have often been approached by or received email from a male boater asking me to take a minute to talk to his partner – to help relieve her anxieties about long distance cruising.
I don’t know why this subject hits home for me. Maybe it’s because I firmly believe my life wouldn’t have been complete without the boating adventures we’ve experienced during these last five years (I also say this about Jim – I wouldn’t have wanted to miss having him in my life). I feel a tremendous sense of inner satisfaction when I can share my own experiences with other women – actually helping to quell some of the building fear and assisting their efforts to get comfortably and happily “on board.” During my many conversations with hesitant women, who were soon to be boaters, I’ve seen a lot of light bulbs turn on as their expressions brighten while I share my insight, passion and enthusiasm for boating with them.
Jim and I started to talk about the possibility of taking some time out of our trip to publish a book on this topic, which has become close to my heart, and what such an undertaking would mean to our current rather laid back lifestyle and travel plans. Then we discussed different ways of approaching the subject and I came up with an outline of what I felt this book should be about. This is when I really began to feel the passion and excitement start to build for this project. What a great opportunity to help women, who were new to boating and uneasy with the thought of leaving their comfort zone to get “on board.”
Women are reluctant to adopt this nomadic lifestyle for many reasons. It may be that they don’t want to leave their young grandkids, maybe they can’t detach themselves from the comfort and safety of their home, some may think their social life, as they know it, will come to a screeching halt, others may actually fear that spending time with their partners in confined spaces will redefine their relationships. A very scary thought for some women apparently. I have been surprised by some of the statements they’ve shared with me, ones that were quickly and easily addressed and put to rest after just a short conversation.
I have also come to the conclusion that many men are rather helpless in knowing how to identify and answer some of their partner’s concerns. I’ve met lots of men who are almost desperate to get their partner on board but don’t know how to accomplish the task. I strongly believe the answer to this dilemma rests initially with the men themselves. I’ve tried to address this with men not only in a chapter in the book but when talking to them directly. It isn’t what I share with his wife that is most important, but it’s critical that he, himself, have a better understanding of, and interest in, his partner’s concerns. (I think some men actually do get this and as a curious side note – over 1/3 of the people who have filled out the form on the favorsventures.com website, to be notified when the book is available for sale, are MEN! Go figure.)
Next Jim and I talked about what kind of vehicle it might take to help these women overcome their apprehensions. I searched websites and books (all those trips to West Marine and other assorted boating stores became research for me while Jim stocked up on supplies) and didn’t really find anything that, in my opinion, would do the job. We had already published a book about the Great Loop, When the Water Calls… We Follow (favorsventures.com) by 27 different loopers, which includes their experiences while completing the Great Loop so we were familiar with the process and I began to think that something similar might be helpful to women who were hesitant to commit to this lifestyle. I personally don’t believe that a narrative by one person can truly give the reader the whole picture. Reading only one perspective can be limiting to someone who really needs more of a “village” approach to get a good overview of this lifestyle.
This is how the book Women On Board Cruising initially came about. I started the groundwork while we spent the early spring and summer on the Chesapeake Bay and finally finished it during our two-month stay in the Keys (almost one year later). After the commitment was made to follow through with the project, I sent an email to many of the women boaters we’ve met over the years, explaining the book project to them and asking for their help in submitting a chapter. Some of the women I contacted connected me with women they knew who they thought would be a nice addition to the venture. This is how we came up with 25 women – loopers, sailors, a few professional writers and one woman who had sailed around the world. I was immediately impressed with the interest and quality of the women who signed up to write chapters. If I asked for input from them they were not only quick to respond but offered help if needed. I think many showed a very vulnerable side that immediately caught my interest as I was reading their submissions. I think most of these women identified with, if not personally, the proposed readers of the book. These veteran women cruisers seemed to know just what to share and share they did – trials, tribulations, humor and tips on long-distance cruising.
These are some of the questions included in my guidelines to the contributors: What were the shared roles and responsibilities between you and your partner? Tell us about the YOU before this experience and the YOU after. Was it your partner who had reservations? What event or experience brought you the greatest growth during your trips? What achievements were gained that you would not have realized in your land life? Did you find you got lonesome or homesick? If so, how did you deal with it? Did friends and family from home join you during part of the trip? What were the rewards of the social interaction while traveling by boat? Did conquering your fears become a life-changing event for you? If you encountered a situation that was horrific and un-thinkable in your previous life, what did you learn from the experience? Sharing Space – if you had misgivings was it, in actuality, as bad as (or better than) you thought it would be? How did you find the availability of grocery stores, restaurants, medical care, etc? What were your rules of engagement with your partner? Tell us about any tips and/or tricks you would like to share. Tell us a story that would help describe your experience. If you traveled with a pet, how did you manage with the challenges presented in this situation? I told the women that I did NOT want excerpts from blogs, logs or journal entries or a long, extensive list of places visited, fuel facts, expenses, etc.
After many “back and forth’s” with copy changes and additions the book finally started to take shape. I had to make an effort to be mindful of our trip plans and tried to work when Jim was absorbed in other projects. I also tried to work on bad weather days so that I could spend the nice days enjoying our mutual passion of boating. It definitely was a challenge for us. We knew it was important to make a point of blocking out time (away from the project) when our moms were on board with us for a week each or when friends visited. I also tried not to be too involved with it when we were cruising through new territory. However there were many late nights and sunny days when I was sucked into the book project with a self-imposed deadline looming ahead. But I will have to say that it has been well worth the effort and really – how bad can it be to have to work on a boat tied to a dock or at anchor with incredible scenery, warm breezes and tropical locales?
I really could not have done this book without Jim’s input and support. He feels as strongly as I do that it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on an opportunity for adventure because of inadequate information. He probably sees it from the male vantage point – the dreams he’s been able to convert into realities because I was a willing and happy participant. He’d really hate to see another guy’s dreams dashed as a result of half of his team abandoning ship.
After reading and re-reading the book in the process of organizing it for book formatting, I immediately recognized what a helpful tool this book will be for reluctant women boaters. Now, when a guy asks us to talk to his partner, we’ll have a more in-depth tool to share with them – to help sway her decision in a positive direction. Sure, we could just share our thoughts and personal experiences but now we can also share the 25 different perspectives and insights of other women long-distance cruisers.
Women On Board Cruising (http://www.favorsventures.com/p/bus-wobc.html) will be available for sale mid-May 2010. We’ll start taking orders May 1 with a shipping date of mid-May.