Blog

THE INTERVIEW

MY PERSONAL REFLECTIONS  ON WOMEN IN SAILING

Jo Mogle

Some years ago, I was interviewed by a prominent female sailor who was writing a book about women in sailing. She chose to do this by providing me a questionnaire which, when completed, would provide her the information she was seeking. She called me a while later and told me her book wasn’t going to be published. Realizing that after all the time and energy (and effort to recall!) I had spent, I’d ended up with some interesting insight as to my involvement in sailing. Having kept a copy of the questions and answers, I filed them away in case family or friends might someday be interested in reading about my journey in sailing. Then a few years back when I retired from sailing, teaching and other related involvements, a number of people familiar with my lifetime of sailing insisted, “You REALLY ought to write a book!”

And so I did.

And here it is.

ENJOY!

Jo Mogle Punta Gorda, FL 2015


When did you first start to sail?

In 1960, my husband Dale was on active duty, stationed at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, when we got very involved in water skiing. The harbormaster at Hickam Harbor felt that as one of the “water rats” who hung around the harbor, I should take an upcoming all ­women’s American Red Cross Basic Sailing Course that he was going to conduct with the help of two GI. assistants who taught sailing at the Harbor. Sailing had no real appeal to me … it was pretty much a “man-thing” in those years, and, frankly, it looked pretty boring to me as a competitive and show water skier — but I thought What the heck. So I took the basic sailing course with twenty-two other women. We were “taught” by the two assisting “instructors” — the Harbormaster did some of the chalktalks, but none of the three got in the boats with the students. Their idea of teaching was to shove us off from the dock then stand on the end of it and yell at us — and come get us in a powerboat if we got in trouble.

                                       Hickam Harbor 1960: My life before sailing.


What do you remember about that experience?

Fright. A feeling of total incompetence. A wish to simply survive the course so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. I really had very little idea of what I was doing. I hung onto the tiller and mainsheet with the typical white knuckles of a frightened beginner, figuring that if the boat was upright, I must be doing something right, so my hands and arms literally froze in position. I remember at one time during a horrendous knockdown, thinking, “Please, God, just let me get through this and I’ll never step foot in a sailboat again!”

Was it alone or with parents, siblings, group of friends?

It was with a group of military wives whose husbands were stationed in Hawaii. (Military wives rarely worked back then; they did, however, do a great deal of volunteer work. In any event, we all had time on our hands to participate in any number of military base activities. Golf was the other favorite leisure sport for military wives in Hawaii at the time, with tennis close behind. And of course a lot of beach-going!)

How old were you?

I was 29.

What was your biggest motivation for learning to sail?

The invitation to join in the class by the Harbormaster — he was also sort of the leader of the water ski team our family were members of, and he made taking a women’s sailing class sound like something I ought to do.

Was it your idea or someone else’s?

It was the Harbormaster’s idea — and my husband encouraged me to give it a try. I was game for pretty much anything back in those days — the water in Hawaii was warm and beautiful, and I was comfortable being in and on it, and I didn’t think taking lessons was any big deal.

What type of boat did you first learn on?  What was your reaction to that boat?

The basic boat the Harbor used at that time was a wood lapstrake Olympic-class 13′ “Class A Dinghy” gaff-rigged with sprit – which (I later realized) carried too much sail area for beginners for Hawaii’s winds of 15 to 25. In retrospect, having survived the course in spite of the fact that the boat was virtually overpowered all the time, this class of dinghy was a poor choice. Boats the Harbor purchased later (Widgeons, then Holder 14s then Catalina 14s) were infinitely better suited. But at the time, there were no other boats on which instruction was taught. There were only about eight larger sailboats in the harbor, six of which were privately-owned. The other two belonged to the Harbor, and were converted-to-sail 26-ft. wooden “drop boats” which were carried by B-17s to be dropped during rescues at sea. The Harbormaster had them converted to sailboats while he was stationed in Japan and brought them to Hawaii in 1957 when he was transferred there.

                                13 – ft. wood lapstrake Olympic Class A Dinghy

Did it have a head? What did you do when you needed to “go”?

No, dinghies don’t have heads! (We used a 2-gallon plastic bucket on the 19’ keelboats.)

What were your most pressing thoughts the first day out?

“What in the hell have I gotten myself into?” and “What on earth made me think this was a good idea?” And a strong desire to just survive the next twelve weeks. (The course was thirteen weeks long, and included Red Cross CPR.) The lessons were held Wednesday mornings, and I remember many times I had to brainwash myself to get up and go down to the harbor. It was only the camaraderie of the other women in the class that kept me going — along with a fierce determination to see it through at any cost. It was a help knowing most of the other gals in the course were as apprehensive as I was. (Except few of us would let on–I learned all this later!)

Did you have confidence in your ability to learn, and in the abilities of those you sailed with, to keep you out of trouble?

I had very little confidence in my own ability — but being in a boat with two other women at the same learning level helped — I just automatically assumed they were catching on quicker than I was. Not capsizing was the order of the day — when we were able to get back to the dock without going in the drink we considered it a success. (The Class A dinghies, when they capsized and filled with water, could not be righted and sailed. They had to be towed back to the dock and de-watered. Very mortifying.)

If you went to a sailing school, what was the course called?

It was the standard American Red Cross Basic Sailing Class. I later learned that the two “instructors” had received no formal training in teaching sailing — they were just experienced sailors who were “appointed” by the Harbormaster, who was ARC-certified.

How did you prepare for the course mentally and physically?

No preparation at all. I was a competitive and show water skier at the time, was in excellent physical shape — and mentally, sailing appeared to be a snap, compared with water skiing. So no — no mental preparation. Besides, why would anyone need to prepare for something so unexciting and uncomplicated? (!)

If you took the course with someone you knew, did the school or instructor assign you to separate boats or session?

I didn’t know any of the other women in the course when it started. We were assigned boats arbitrarily, in pairs.

Did you have a male or female instructor?

The group had three — the middle-aged male harbormaster, a middle-aged male sergeant and a young enlisted man.

What do you remember most about the way that person taught? How did it affect your ability to learn and gain confidence from that person?

I remember the sergeant was likable, patient and knowledgeable; I don’t remember much about the younger instructor; I do remember the two of them standing on the end of the dock yelling instructions. I remember being very proud of my personal notebook, which I still have. It is filled with little artistic, hand-drawn diagrams and printed notes. It became obvious to me, years later, that I had no idea how any of what I was entering in the notebook related to much of anything on the water — I just remember I was very proud that I had such a neat notebook!


Did the instructor administer tests? How did you react? How did you do?

There was a two-page written (mimeographed!) test which was in essay form; it wasn’t too difficult; most of us passed. (They used that same test for years and it never got revised until I re-wrote it myself when I became the Instructor Trainer years later.)

Did the school offer certification?

Yes, we received Red Cross Basic Sailing Cards, Parts I and II (which were never explained to us, so I didn’t understand that until years later). We also received a “check-out” card from the Harbor, which meant that we could rent the sailboats on our own. In those days, everyone received these cards no matter how they did in the course.

Did you have classroom instruction as well as onboard?

Yes, we had a classroom chalktalk before we went out on the water. But there was no way those male instructors were going to get in a dinghy with us!

What was your greatest apprehension or fear when you started the course?

Embarrassing myself. I was considered a “star” water skier in those days, and the last thing I wanted was to blow my image. I also had a great fear of capsizing.

Did you overcome this during the course? What/who helped you in achieving this?

No, I never really overcame the fear of embarrassment or capsizing. I was so relieved when the course was over and I didn’t have to go back out in those boats again. We students put on a great “graduation” party, though, which was to become the highlight of these women’s courses in subsequent years (and a key reason many of us enjoyed teaching the classes!)

What techniques and/or tasks did you find hardest to learn? Why? Do you think this was or is different from what men find learning to sail?

I found everything hard to learn. I never did understand how wind makes a boat go until years later, when I read books and discovered it on my own. Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I realize whichever instructor it was who gave the aerodynamics chalktalk did a pretty inadequate job. I later found out that none of the other women in the course understood it either. I also never understood the effect of too much sail area in heavy air, and it took me a l-o-n-g time to learn that if I just sheeted out, the boat would quit heeling. I think the men who sailed there had a much easier time of understanding the theory of aerodynamics because so many of them were in flying-related jobs. I still think men have an easier time of understanding the theoretical part of sailing than women — we tend to look at it differently, which affects the way we learn.

What techniques and/or tasks did you find easiest to learn? Why? Do you think this was or is different from what men find when learning to sail?

I found everything easy that didn’t involve actually sailing the boat! I was too apprehensive to master or enjoy that aspect. I loved the classroom part, taking notes, drawing diagrams, the camaraderie, and the coffee and snacks we had at break. (We took turns bringing home-baked goodies, which in itself became an exercise in one-upmanship.) My apprehension would start when it became obvious the weather conditions were favorable enough that we were going to have to go out on the water. (As opposed to staying in the classroom if it was blowing too hard.)

Looking back, explain any “baggage” you carried to that learning experience that got in your way in the learning process.

Sailing back then was heavily male-dominated, which I think contributed to the intimidation factor. I didn’t view learning how to sail as a real “need-to-do” thing for me. I had no goals other than getting the course over with so I could get back to water skiing and other family activities in which I felt a much greater sense fulfillment and reward.

Have you taken any courses since? Which ones, where? Why?

Not really. I went on to become one of the instructors myself (no formal training — just trial and error within the women’s sailing group I had helped organize.) Even when I became Hawaii’s Red Cross Basic Sailing Instructor Trainer, I received no formal training — I had been teaching for several years by then, so I was just appointed by the Red Cross. Over the years, I came up with new curriculum, policies and procedures, not only for Hickam Harbor, but for many of the other sailing instruction programs in Hawaii. The only formal training or sailing instruction course I ever took was the first US SAILING (then USYRU) Instructor Trainer Course with England’s Royal Yachting Association’s head Yachtmaster Trainer, Bob Bond at Stanford University in 1984. (My husband and I were selected to attend representing the Hawaii Yacht Racing Assn. because we were leaders in local sailing education at that time.)

Did you find you approached later courses differently than the first? More or less inhibitions? More or less confidence? Why?

It was the camaraderie of the women’s sailing group (The Wet Hens, which I helped found in 1961) which laid the foundation for continuing participation in sailing, teaching and racing. We grew strength from each other as we went, and it was they who helped me get over my fears and apprehensions. As the Wet Hens (as Red Cross volunteers) took over teaching the women’s sailing courses at the Harbor, we grew in knowledge, experience and confidence. We began racing the dinghies and got pretty good, eventually beating most of the other men and women who raced. We really worked hard at improving, and, as we know, racing can dramatically improve boat­handling skills. When our group had the opportunity to restore a converted 22 ft. Star and race it ourselves, we began a steep learning curve. Our confidence also grew a great deal with each class we taught. We all took turns giving the various chalktalks, and as someone would come up with a particularly effective presentation and/or a neat new visual aid, we incorporated it into our courses. Each year the subjects were taught with increasing polish.

Do you think women learn differently from men?

Yes, I have always thought so, and recent studies bear this out. Our brains function differently, we process information differently, and we form thoughts and attitudes differently, based on genetic difference and the way we are raised.

Do you think women prepare for learning to sail differently from men?
I think women give learning how to sail more study, thought and planning. Most men, having been conditioned over the years to feel it comes naturally to them, generally go into sailing with less thought, planning and preparation. I think they think they have an inherent feel for it, which causes them to feel they can “wing” much of it. (After all, men have been conquering the seas since the dawn of time — it’s an inherited trait!)

Do you think during the learning process, women on sailboats tend to become less assertive, less confident than they are in their lives ashore? Why?

I’m not sure being at sea has as much to do with it as their comfort zone in anything in which they participate. I, for instance, have no intention of getting “assertive” in anything involving cars — or assembling a new bicycle — or building a storage shed — or any other kinds of things that are mechanically challenging for me. I don’t think women — or men, for that matter — should be assertive about anything unless they are truly qualified to be. Assertiveness should only come with confidence and knowledge borne of education and practice. My son, for one, prefers women crew when he races, because they don’t challenge his decisions as skipper. But when I am on a boat with him, he listens to my input because he respects the knowledge and experience I have gained over the years. I rarely feel the need to be assertive on a sailboat because my level of skill is usually acknowledged. (I have also reached a point in life that I am very comfortable sitting back and letting others take on the responsibilities of command!)

What do you think are the benefits for women learning in women-only courses?

The negatives?

Benefits: Infinitely less intimidation. Greater comfort level. More willingness to take a risk. More comfortable in saying or doing something that might appear stupid. Camaraderie. Can laugh at themselves. Collective thinking with others of same general background, upbringing and life experience. Opinions accepted more openly. The natural herding instinct, i.e., enjoyment of being with other women. Even if a woman does get laughed at by other women, it’s a lot easier for most women to take than having a man/men laugh at her. There are no “gender” games or “competition” for male attention or respect. Men aboard can be intimidating, even when it’s not intentional. They can wither with a glance or a word, without even knowing it. (Not that women can’t also, but it’s just somehow different coming from a woman.) Men can have a way of ”taking over” a task a woman’s engaged in, sometimes because they just want to be helpful, but oftentimes because they see themselves as being able to do it better or quicker. Women are less inclined to do this. I personally enjoy sailing with both men and women — and I also like sailing with couples. Except I’ve noted over the years that when there are couples aboard, the women often have a tendency to “clump together” — choosing each other’s company over that of the men. The women will often gather and chat about the weather or the food (or the men) while the men gather in another area and talk about the boat, their next boat, their previous boat, or someone else’s boat — or equipment — or sea-going adventures. So what you often have is a small group of women sailors on the same boat as a small group of men sailors. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. I have also found that both genders “gain strength in numbers” — i.e., what one man won’t say to a woman one-on-one, they will say if they know there are other men to agree with them and/or back them up. Very often, if there’s disagreement, men and women will often take their gender’s side — sort of a “bonding” thing. In general, it’s the same behavior you find in many other settings. I see the same types of “gender clumping” in RV groups, other clubs and organizations, and in gatherings with family or friends.

Negatives: You won’t have the advantage of a strong back or pair of hands when you need them. If you’re with all women, and something breaks or needs “manhandling,” you often need quick brute strength. It’s simply a fact of life that men are generally stronger than women, and I, for one, have been appreciative of having had a man aboard when I really needed one. (Men are so much better at horsing anchors around, for instance.) Additionally, when you sail with all women, you don’t get the chance to enjoy sailing with other couples, which I personally enjoy. I also find that men’s conversations can often be more interesting and stimulating than a lot of women’s — I like talking about current world events and politics, and can usually hold my own in those types of conversations. And, of course, a major negative for some single women in an all-women’s group is that there are no eligible men aboard!

Do you believe, when it comes to sailing, women are more kinesthetic, visual or auditory learners?

I think they’re all three, or at least the first two, although some studies don’t appear to bear that out. I think a lot of women are hesitant or intimidated by a sport that has been historically male-dominated, and are therefore apt to spend more time studying about it and trying to learn what they can before starting their course of instruction — and as it progresses as well.

“The Command, ‘Jibe Ho!’ should be made BEFORE the boom swings over.”


Do you believe, when it comes to sailing, men are more kinesthetic, visual or auditory learners?

My sense is that men are more kinesthetic, although I’m not really sure why, and I’m not sure studies will bear that out, either — it’s just a feeling I’ve gotten over years of teaching both men and women. I think much of my thinking as to where men are coming from is based on the theory I expressed in a previous answer — having a history of their ancestors conquering the seas, many men feel that boating of any kind should come more natural to them, and it could bother some of them to have to admit that it is difficult for them to grasp. They would rather plunge in and hope that they’ll “get it” without having to depend on “book learning” or having someone [of possible lesser status or intelligence] show them how.

How much sailing do you do now? With whom? What type of boat? Where?

Mostly cruising, and whatever is called for if I’m teaching or doing instructor training. I’ve sailed everything from 8-ft. prams and 14-ft. dinghies to 120-ft. schooners. I have sailed (and/or taught) in Hawaii, California, Washington, Arizona, Texas, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Mexico, the Bahamas, and throughout the Caribbean.

Do you consider yourself fit, strong, etc.

I feel fairly fit for my age, but given my age, I’m unquestionably no longer as strong and agile, and thus am not equal to many of the tasks men can perform. The way I compensate for that is to concentrate on what I’m good at, and leave the “grunt” work to those who are younger and/or more fit, regardless of gender. I can see what needs to be done and know how to delegate tasks, so that’s what I do. I am a skilled helmsman and tactician, and am good at calling sail trim and course changes. Most of the people with whom I sail are aware of my background of decades of onboard sailing instruction, which helps.

Do you truly enjoy sailing? What is it about sailing you enjoy the most?

I absolutely LOVE it. (Especially after I got over being seasick in heavy seas!) I love the beauty, the grace, the quiet (there’s no sweeter sound than hearing the engine turn off!) — the “back to nature” feeling — just me [and my husband], God, the sea, the sky. When I’ve been away from the ocean for a while, I find myself yearning for it (any body of water on which you can see to the opposite shore doesn’t count!) and have to make an effort to head to it for what Dale calls my “ocean fix.” I think the fact that I learned how to sail in Hawaii, then spent thirty-five years at it there had a profound impact. It is, truly, paradise, and, being able to sail there and elsewhere with all the great friends we’ve made through this wonderful sport, have made sailing, for us, almost a divine gift.

If crew or passenger, do you have the opportunity to be skipper? Do you take advantage of it? How do you feel when you’re at the helm?

I am practically always offered the chance to steer, as my reputation has usually preceded me. Unless I am unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the boat or just not in the mood, it’s my favorite position, and I practically always take the helm when it’s offered. How do I feel? Usually very comfortable — although I much prefer a tiller to a wheel, because for me, the control is more positive, and with a tiller, I feel more “in touch” with the boat.

Do you now primarily sail with your family, spouse, coed groups, all women?

I’ve touched on this somewhat already — it’s usually Dale and I together, with friends or family.. When I visit the Wet Hens back in Hawaii, I thoroughly enjoy being on a boat with that special all-female gang again. When we have the chance to get out on the water with any of our sons, all of whom learned to sail in Hawaii, it’s an extra special treat.

What does sailing do for you?

Sailing gives me a such a sense of peace, contentment, an “at-­oneness.” It refreshes my soul, helps me get my head on straight, lets me put the world aside for awhile, and helps me gain perspective and a better sense of priorities. Teaching is its own reward — knowing that over the years I have helped introduce many hundreds into this beautiful lifetime sport is mind-boggling. And it’s done so much for our family. Our sons learned to sail in a junior program Dale and I started at Hickam Harbor, and they were all so much richer for it — it helped mold their lives. Two of them went into marine professions because of their sailing: One son got a scholarship to attend a course in celestial navigation at the Pacific Maritime Academy in Honolulu because of his sailing, and as result, he got so turned on to celestial navigation that he joined the Coast Guard, where he rose to become one of its youngest chiefs. And when he got out, he was able to made a living delivering racing yachts to and from Hawaii, California and Mexico. Our youngest, due primarily to his sailing accomplishments, was able to obtain a congressional appointment to the US Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, Long Island), where he was on the varsity sailing team all four years, and became an Honorary All-American the year the team was ranked the #1 college team in the country. That led to a career in the maritime industry. All four of our sons still enjoy sailing when they get a chance. With our youngest grandson having started sailing, there are now three generations of Mogles involved in the sport.

Sailing also satisfied my competitive urges when I was in my mid-thirties — I won many races, in dinghies and keelboats, with both female and male crew. I became the Hawaii State Women’s Sailing Champion, and went on to participate in the national women’s championship (the only one at the time), the Adams Cup. We have owned a large keelboat with two other couples, and did a great deal of interisland racing and cruising in Hawaii. We have also cruised with friends in the San Juan Islands in Washington State and in the Caribbean. We have made so many friends in sailing over the years — they live all over the United States, and it is such fun to visit them in our travels in our motorhome, and go sailing with them. Or just sit around and “talk story” — which talk usually centers around the great times we’ve had sailing, and what it has meant in our lives and that of our friends and families.

What are your goals in sailing?

Happily, I’ve been able to accomplish just about all of them. I have sailed and/or taught on boats of every size and description all over the country. I have been able to introduce so many people into the sport (my own family included.) Becoming an Instructor Trainer, first for the American Red Cross and then for US SAILING, has enabled me to pass on the love of the sport of sailing to so many others. I have written sailing articles and features for newspapers and magazines. I authored US SAILING’s Instructor Trainer Handbook, and was a contributor to most of US SAILING’s textbooks, manuals and tests. I have been able to represent US SAILING at many boating conferences. I have been able to sail all over the country. I’ve lectured and given presentations at countless seminars, symposiums and conferences. I’ve raced and won more than my share of hardware, and I’ve taught a good many others who have gone on to win their share as well. I’ve helped organize sailing, racing, social and charitable groups and events that have benefited sailing and sailors, men and women, young and old. I’ve been involved in race management at every level, and headed up committees for the TransPacific Yacht Race and Kenwood Cup events. I’ve been selected as both Hawaii Yachtsman of the Year and later, Yachtswoman of the Year. My husband and I received US SAILING’s Prosser Award, for Excellence in Sailing Instruction. Recently, I was honored to receive US SAILING’s prestigious Larr Award, for Lifelong Contribution Toward the Advancement of Sailor Education, Training and Safety. I have achieved every goal I dreamed of, a few by striving for them, but mostly by simply their coming to me as a consequence of participating and contributing. My plans are to continue with US SAILING’s Training Program and National Faculty, help train instructors and Instructor Trainers, and to continue to represent US SAILING, as my husband says, “as long as it’s fun.”

Do you have to juggle home life, a career, being a wife and mother, with sailing?

Give us some advice as to how women can do this.

I no longer have to juggle, but there was a time I had to work at balancing everything. It helps when you’re lucky enough to have a husband and children who all love sailing, too. When our sons were young, we had them first water-skiing, then sailing, and they took to it like ducks. We started a junior sailing program ourselves, so there’d be a pathway for them to learn more and stay involved. (When you skipper on an all-women’s team against your husband and sons racing another boat in the same class, you have some interesting dinner table conversations!) Sailing and racing really did totally dominate our entire family’s lives at one point. My only “career” at that time was doing volunteer instruction (beginning, advanced, racing and cruising) to other women. Because our sons all loved to sail also, they were usually at the harbor right along with my husband and me. I do admit the youngest one took some persuading when he started sailing; not starting him out in the right boat at the beginning was an education in itself — and encouraging people to pick the right boat for beginners became one of my causes. Tip: Juggling is easier if the whole family’s involved!

Does care for your skin and hair affect your desire to sail? How? What do you do to protect your skin, hair and nails while sailing?

I got over worrying about that a long time ago. I have always kept my hair and nails short. I have sailed with women who were more concerned about their hair and nails than they were about sailing, which was a pain in the neck. The majority of the women I’ve sailed with are much more concerned with sailing well, not their appearance. I see to it that the women I sail with keep their long hair up, back, and secured (I’ve seen chunks of hair pulled out when caught in a block) and I ask them to wear no jewelry other than a wedding band. And no earrings unless they’re studs (I’ve seen hoop earrings get caught and rip out an earlobe). I wear sun block faithfully, as well as a hat or visor.

How do you dress for sailing now? What do you find most comfortable? Least comfortable? What do you wish was out there on the market to make you more comfortable while sailing?

I dress for warmth when it’s cold, and for cool when it’s hot. I layer. Having learned how being cold affects performance, I have been known to go through extraordinary efforts to keep warm. Cold can not only be debilitating, but it can so consume your thinking you can’t do your job efficiently. Over the years I’ve accumulated every imaginable nautical outfit, so I have a good assortment to choose from. But I also admit I adore nautical blouses, jackets, sweaters and jewelry, and if they’re affordably priced, I’ll add to my collection whether I need it or not. I’m at a point in my life where comfort counts much more than appearance. For instance, I much prefer slacks or shorts with all elastic waistbands and no buttons or zippers– much quicker when you’re standing on your head in the head! I prefer jackets or sweatshirts which fasten up the front as opposed to those that go on over the head. Clothing with Velcro closure is great, too. When it’s really cold, I like Patagonia-type underwear — and the Patagonia helmets are great, too, for really keeping water from going down your neck. I designed some women’s sailing wear some time back, and made some of it, too. I also helped design some women’s sailing gloves several years ago — ­the fingers in most sailing gloves weren’t designed well for women’s hands. I think there are some great clothes and accessories on the market now, but for the most part, they’re too overpriced — especially the “status symbol” sailing gear. I encourage my friends to substitute equally-adequate generic sportswear; I’d rather see them spending their money on other expenses involved with sailing than on acquiring a “yachty” look.

Did you grow up in a family with all brothers, brothers and sisters, or all sisters?

I had one brother, three years older than me. We took him sailing once when he came to visit us in Hawaii. He was gracious, feigned enjoyment and tried to get into it — but he never went sailing again!

Did your mother sail? Was she interested in other sports? Was she positive about sailing? When were you aware of sailing as a child or adult?

My mother engaged in no sports of any kind. She was, as were most women of her day, a homemaker–active in her church and literary club, and a devoted wife to my dad — a banker –which required her to spend a lot of time playing hostess to his employees and business acquaintances. I knew nothing whatever about sailing as a child, or as a young wife and mother. It wasn’t until the Air Force transferred my husband to Hawaii that I really became aware of sailing.

Tell us about tricks you learned from instructors, those you sail with or taught yourself to remember how to describe or do certain tasks aboard a boat.

A great number of the tricks and techniques I’ve learned over the years have (happily) found their way into US SAILING’s learn-to-sail books and Instructor and Instructor Trainer manuals. I wrote the original US SAILING Instructor Trainer Handbook, into which I poured many of my ideas, most of which are now contained in the Instructor Manual and the Instructor Trainer Manual, as well as parts of the basic sailing texts and tests, and the books in the Keelboat Certification System.

Tell us about any techniques in handling a boat, its equipment and sails you’ve learned or developed over the years that would help other women learning to sail.

For one, I’ve developed mixed feelings about what kind of boat a woman should learn on. If she’s so inclined, and can handle learning on a dinghy, I think it gives any beginner a real sense of independence and confidence in their ability, and there’s nothing like single-handing a small boat to instill a sense of pride and accomplishment. It also gives them a great base from which to build — most people who learn in dinghies can move up easily to handle bigger boats — but that’s not usually the case when it’s the other way around; learning to handle a keelboat is poor preparation for single-handing a dinghy. But I have found that the majority of women would be more comfortable learning to sail on a boat that is unlikely to capsize. They’re more stable and comfortable, and if a woman is apprehensive, unhappy or ill at ease, it’s easy for her to be fearful or dislike sailing — and that’s really unnecessary. I’ve been able to take the most apprehensive of women and get them comfortable on a dinghy — it’s all in the way the instructor handles that first sail. One thing that took me too long to learn is that in medium to heavy air, reducing the amount of sail area can be a great help — either using a smaller sail, reef, or roller furl — or just leave the jib off. I also don’t force beginning students to use a tiller extension at first if they’re having real difficulty with it. I am a believer in trying to discover what it is specifically that makes a student uncomfortable, and making every effort to adjust to it. Reassuring students that practically everyone’s apprehensive at first, and that it’s not unique to them, can be a great help. I heard recently from a student I had many years ago that it was my sharing with her my personal story about my own fears and feelings of inadequacy that convinced her to stick with it. She went on to become one of the best instructors I knew.

What would you like to see in books to help women enjoy sailing more?

Show pictures of women laughing and having a good time — at work, at play, lounging on the foredeck with a cool drink in their hand, nuzzling a good looking guy, eating great food–preferably a fish they’ve caught themselves under sail and cooked by their husband on the boat’s grill! Show them racing, cruising, with kids, with other women–even with their dog. Have some photos and descriptions illustrating shortcuts, like using lines with extra purchase, bigger winches, etc. It would be helpful to have some info and/or photos on overboard retrieval and rescues (a woman retrieving a man–especially the last step (bringing him back aboard). It can be a tough subject that few women want to even think about — but it’s one that all women who sail need to learn about early-on.

Tell us about a bad experience you had sailing and how you overcame it.

A couple come to mind. After I graduated from my first basic sailing course, and being heady with both my new certification card and bolstered by the bravado (however foolish) and what I thought I knew (and not knowing what I didn’t know) I decided to show off my new prowess (however ill-founded) by taking my family sailing. Back then, the basic boats the Harbor had were 13-ft. wooden lapstrake cat-rigged Olympic Class A dinghies, which carried considerably more sail than was really appropriate for beginners in Hawaii’s comparatively heavy air — the boats could be a real handful even for the experienced. It was therefore probably not the wisest decision for me to load up the dinghy with myself, my husband and our three sons (ages 9, 8 and 6) and take off in 15 to 20 knots of wind. Casting off, I backed the boat away from the dock and pointed it on to a course as we’d been taught in class. Everything was going fairly well until it was time to head back toward the dock. As I sheeted out and headed downwind, the boat, already overladen, slowly but surely began to take on water over the bow. (No one had explained during class that when dinghies sail downwind and the weight isn’t well aft, they have a tendency to “submarine.”) And with all three boys sitting in the bow, submarine we did. Water just kept coming in until I literally sailed the boat under water. My husband and sons, who had not yet learned to sail, had no idea what was happening or what to do about it — all they knew was that they were sitting knee-deep in water in a boat sunk up to its gunwales, its loose floorboards floating up and away — along with miscellaneous pieces of gear, including all three boys’ rubber sandals. My husband and sons, being excellent swimmers and water skiers and being used to being in the water, handled it with humor and aplomb. The boys laughed gleefully and took off swimming after the various pieces of flotsam, while my husband, in his usual low-key manner and wry sense of humor, wondered aloud if this was typical of the fun one has when taking up sailing. I, of course, was mortified — ­especially when the Harbor safety boat had to come out to rescue us and tow our boat ignominiously back to the dock, still full of water. It was a major setback in my newly-budding sailing career. It’s a “My First Sail” story my husband and sons still take great pleasure in telling

The second incident was our first interisland trip from the island of Oahu to the island of Molokai — a distance, from our harbor to the main harbor on that island, of about 55 miles. My husband had learned to sail by then, and had sailed one of the Harbor’s converted-to-sail 26 foot B-17 airplane “drop boats” a few times. He was challenged at the yacht club bar one evening by a sailing buddy to race the two drop boats to Molokai. It didn’t seem like all that big a deal, so we piled all three of our sons (ages about 10, 9 and 7) aboard with another couple who had about as much experience as we’d had; the other boat had two couples aboard. By the time we got about three miles off Diamond Head, we all knew we were in over our heads. I and all three sons became violently seasick, as did one of the husbands on the other boat — so much so that when he tried to jump overboard and swim to shore rather than endure the misery any longer, and he had to be forcibly restrained below. Anyway, we pressed on, ignorant in our determination to win the race. The night was long, cold, dark and extremely frightening, especially for our young sons, who were retching all night long, begging us to bring their misery to an end. As is prone to happen (unbeknownst to us at the time) the seas started to build as the sun came up the next morning, and our progress up the infamous “slot” between Molokai and Lanai ground to a crawl. We had lost sight of the other boat in the night, and at morning’s light they were nowhere to be seen. As conditions worsened (seas running about ten feet and winds of up to about forty-five knots) we realized that with the headway we were making (actually, not making) we would not only be unable to make it to the harbor still well up the coast, but would be unable to find safe harbor anywhere nearby. We made the decision to just try to beach the boat as best we could. We fell off onto a reach and headed for shore. As fate would have it, as we approached the shoreline we saw what appeared to be a small protected bay and headed for it. As we entered, we saw, at the far end of the bay, a bulkhead. Although we didn’t know it at the time, we had sailed into a small, little ­known commercial harbor that was used for loading sand onto barges. We were able to make it to the bulkhead and tie up, and we crawled off the boat and dropped onto the ground exhausted. We literally passed out, sleeping right where we dropped for several hours. A frightening experience, and one which taught everyone involved the foolishness of setting out on a trip no novice could possibly be prepared for. Realizing the jeopardy into which we placed our family and friends was sobering. Needless to say, it was quite a while before we attempted an interisland trip again–and when we did go again, we made sure we were prepared—in both experience, knowledge, and crew capabilities–and with a proper boat and equipment.

Tell us about a funny incident that occurred while you were learning or sailing with women or in a coed group — one that resulted in not only good laughs but had a productive ending.

I was racing with a group of the Wet Hens on the big Labor Day race from Lahaina, Maui to Honolulu on a 28-ft. boat that belonged to one of the Hens. It was the first time an all-women crew had ever competed in the classic race, which was the premiere event of the racing season, and there was quite a bit of publicity about us in the local paper. About mid-way through the race, we were sailing neck and neck alongside one of our competitors (all men) when one of the gals got the idea to take our racing uniform shirts off. (This was back in the early 70s, and you just didn’t DO that sort of thing.) The guys on the other boat got pretty distracted and starting paying more attention to us sitting there in our bras than to either their course or their sail-set, and it wasn’t long before we passed them–and another nearby boat of all-men as well’ We ended up taking a trophy for the race, to everyone’s surprise–especially since in the middle of the race our tiller broke, and I spent quite a while sitting on the sole, lashing it back together using a screwdriver and large file as splints–I and the gal who owned the boat really had our hands full trying to steer and lash a tiller at the same time. Lessons learned from that trip: 1) How to successfully distract male competitors, and 2) The wisdom of carrying the equipment needed to repair a broken tiller.

Tell us about the best experience you had sailing — one that gave you great satisfaction and helped boost your confidence level.

Two come to mind, the first being when I finally got good enough to enter a team in the Hawaii State Adams Cup runoffs, and ended up beating the teams of other women from the four major yacht clubs who were thought at the time to be infinitely more skilled and experienced than ours. Getting to go to Seattle for the area finals with the support of our club and our yacht racing association was very heady stuff. Articles and pictures in the paper — all that jazz.

The second one is of one of the many 10-day interisland trips we made with friends on the boat we owned together. Everything was so perfect–gentle tradewinds, crystal-clear turquoise waters, vividly bright blue skies with puffy, pure white clouds, a great boat we were all very proud to own together, the greatest of friends–all good sailors and such fun to be with, great food and drink, picturesque anchorages, great raft-up parties, Hawaiian music playing on our stereo and coming from other boats, singing harmonies on into the night—and then to do well in the race back home to Honolulu. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

If you had your biggest wish when you first learned to sail, what would it have been?

To be able to afford a nice yacht, and sail throughout the Hawaiian Islands. (Been there, done that, happily!)

If you had your biggest wish now in sailing, what would it be?

To be able to afford a nice BIG yacht — and a paid crew to maintain it! And take a long, leisurely trip throughout the Caribbean with family and friends.

Any final thoughts?

I can’t end without emphasizing how big a part the Wet Hens have played in my life.. Were it not for that group of gals, I wouldn’t have stuck with sailing at all. I can’t say enough about how the camaraderie, love, support, generosity and caring of the Hens over the years has been one of life’s greatest gifts — not just while we were in Hawaii, but ever since. Many of the friendships I made have lasted for decades, and all these many years later, I still count a number of them as BFFs (Best Friends Forever.) As I return to the Wet Hen reunions every five years and see the current “flock,” it’s so meaningful to me how the legacy lives on. Over the years we’ve heard so many great stories of how being a Wet Hen has changed so many women’s lives — and that of their families and friends. Many years ago, when I was interviewed by a reporter for a Honolulu newspaper, I summed up the Wet Hen experience by explaining to him that “it’s a Lifetime Thing.” And indeed it is….and has been — for those lucky enough to have been a part of it.

To all who read this: Thank you for having been part of the fabric of my life. May the wind be always at your back, your seas calm and favorable, and your life filled with green flashes!

In my early days as a Wet Hen, when I was still prone to seasickness (thank goodness THAT gets better as one ages) I couldn’t believe I was the only one who went through that…or any of the other conditions often suffered by new sailors (water, sharks, fear of capsizing, falling overboard, drowning, mortification), I wrote this and read it to the students and guests at one of the early graduation parties, where I found out I was far from the only one with these private thoughts!

THE WOULD-BE SAILOR’S LAMENT

I just love the sport of yachting,
It has everything I admire,
I’ll tell you what, just the thought of a yacht
Just sets my heart on fire.

I love the jazzy yachting clothes–
The reds, the whites, the blues,
Blazers, and caps, and crisp white slacks,
And nautical shirts and shoes.

I love the sunset cruises
When we sail under motor,
And tool around off Waikiki
Pretending we’re rich boaters.

I love talking boats and tossing around
Those clever nautical phrases;
I love big boats and small boats
And not quite so tall boats, and
Even those darn tippy Lasers

I love boat parades, champagne brunches,
Cocktail parties and yachtsmen’s lunches.
A love dinghies and class boats
And in-hock-to-your-ass boats.

I love ketches and schooners
And yachts with ballooners,
I love Sabots and Flippers
And even their skippers.
love sloops and yawls and fund-raising balls;
I love after-race drinks and trophy dinners,
And hanging around with happy winners.

Lots of sailing magazines
Adorn my coffee table,
I even read the boating news
As often as I’m able.

The sport of yachting’s really great
It’s at the very top of my scale;
If only I could take part in it
Without actually having to SAIL!

Jo Mogle

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY, GALS!

A little bit of history….

It has to be admitted women have come a long way in recent years in sailing, and that they’ve had a pretty long row to hoe in their “invasion” of this most male of sports. It stems, of course, from the long perpetuated superstition that women are bad luck on a boat. (Some fellows STILL think so!)

Many years ago, when yachting was strictly a sport of the very wealthy, women didn’t participate in racing, but were allowed aboard for cruising on the fine big yachts, and for shore parties, They never did any work, of course – they wore long beautiful dresses, big fancy hats, carried parasols to keep the sun off their delicate complexions and were waited on hand and foot by stewards.

As recreational boats became less expensive, and became available to yachtsmen of more moderate means, women began to help out aboard the family boat, mostly in the realm of sewing or preparing box lunches. After the race, wives and girl friends appeared at the dock with hors d’oeuvres, to serve cocktails and entertain the crew and guests for post-race socializing. In fact many women are still perfectly content to play this role.

Gradually, though, over the years, wives and girl friends began to become more actively involved. They began to go along on cruises, then on races, handing up the sandwiches and beer, Many, having had the tiller thrown at them quickly by a frantic skipper who dashed up on the foredeck with a yell, “Here! Steer the boat!” found it wasn’t so frightening after all — fun, in fact. They started learning how to handle sheets, sails and winches, and a major change was under way.

Of course there are still many skippers who will not HAVE a woman aboard their boat. Many men, in PARTICULAR, do not want their WIVES aboard – and in doing so, of course, find they can’t very well allow any other woman aboard either, no matter how good a crew she might be, for it would shoot holes in their “No Women Allowed” excuse which has served so well to keep their WIVES off the boat. To be honest, many men feel their boat to be their private domain — their sanctuary — the one place where they are indisputably in charge. This is a real desire for many men; in today’s frantic world a man’s boat can often be an excellent panacea for him. The pressures many men experience can be completely relieved by a chance to get away to the sea — to be his own master completely divorced from wife, kids, telephones, lawn mowers and the mad pace of civilization. A number of men have returned so refreshed from a trip to sea they think they should be able to declare their boat as a medical deduction on their income tax! Of course, it CAN work the other way: Some men work all week so they can race on weekends, and some men work all week to FORGET how poorly they raced on the weekend! But for the men who indeed feel the need to “get away from it all,” including women, I say Fine – their boat is serving a good purpose – more power to them. But for those fellows who race because they thrive on the heady excitement of the sport of racing, and are just flat out there to win, let’s consider the female sailor:

Theory #1: “Women aren’t strong enough.”

With few exceptions, I don ‘t argue with this very valid point; most women would struggle to make strong winch gorillas. But then, no one usually expects a woman to perform gorilla chores. But there are many duties a woman can handle equally as well or even better than some men. And I don’t think anyone will disagree, for instance, that a good female crewmember is better than a gorilla-sized klutz. For instance, in moderate or light air, women can be excellent on the helm or trimming a jib. The same delicate touch that does needlepoint or paints fine eyeliner can feather a tiller or keep telltales straight.

Theory #2 “Women aboard make me and my crew uncomfortable – we can’t talk or act natural.”

Admittedly, most of us gals really do still appreciate being treated with courtesy but a woman who places herself aboard a male-dominated boat in a racing situation is usually very aware that tension, excitement, frustration or anger can evoke less than gentlemanly behavior, and she’s usually willing to accept it or she wouldn’t be there. It must be remembered, too, though,that there are also many MEN who take just as much offense as a woman would to be yelled at: “pull in that f—ing sheet!” Remember too that women are often used to that kind of language at home or at work when tempers flare, and many have learned to let it roll off their backs. But if you take a look at some of your consistently-winning skippers, you’ll find most of them have learned there is little necessity for blue language to get the job done. I’ve even heard several skippers comment on how much BETTER their crew behave when a girl’s aboard!

Theory #3: “Women don’t have enough stamina.”

Excluding situations calling for extended periods of brute strength this argument holds little water.

A woman in equally good physical condition can last easily as long as a man in a long race. Many women require less rest and less sleep. Most are more instantly alert when aroused from sleep to take their turn on watch – maybe stemming from Mother Nature’ s inbreeding in the female to prepare her for midnight feedings! By the same token, many women seem to be less prone to fall asleep on watch.

Theory #4: “Women distract me and my crew from concentrating on the race.”

What a flattering complaint! But it can, indeed, be valid–depending, of course, on the girl and how she dresses and conducts herself. But it is the skipper who sets the tone. If he brings along a gal who tends to distract, then he probably won’t expect 100% concentration from a bunch of healthy American boys. There have even been times a skipper has or topless crewmember to his advantage in a tight tacking duel!

Theory #5: “Women expect special consideration. You can’t treat them like one of the guys.”

If you find this is true, you’ve asked the wrong gal to crew, or you haven’t made your wishes known to her. The ones who are truly interested in racing and crewing is because they want to help win the race, and will neither expect nor ask for special treatment. Most just want to contribute to the team effort in whatever way they can. Most women ask perhaps only one thing on a LONG race – and that’s a working head. If creature comforts were foremost in any gal’s mind, she’d have taken up some other sport after her first distance race.

Theory #6: “Women are more prone to seasickness.”

Not true. Women have one advantage in this area over a great many men: They don’t think it’s “sissy” to take seasickness preventative medication. That’s got to be one false pride that is one of sailing’s biggest waste. The hours of suffering and loss of manpower due to seasickness because someone is too proud to take appropriate medicinal precautions is foolhardy. When the weather really gets rough, even the oldest of salts can get queasy. There are several good medications on the market, and for those who are REALLY prone to seasickness, a regime started enough ahead of a trip will give the middle ear a “calm reserve” which I can personally vouch for, and has been proven to work in even the most severe cases.

Theory #7: “Women chatter too much and ask stupid questions.”

Again, that can pertain to either gender. There is no such thing as a stupid question – asking indicates the desire to learn. If you want your crew to improve, you must help them learn, male or female. It’s the timing that’s critical. When you’re in the middle of a crucial spinnaker jibe is no time for anyone to ask, “Why are we jibing?” If you make your wishes known to your crew as to how you feel about chatter or question-asking, you’ll find most will make every effort to respect your wishes. Many skippers insist on absence of any kind of talk during a critical situation. Some like a moderate amount of chatter to keep tension down. Some want no conversation that doesn’t directly relate to the race. Some like their crew constantly feeding them information about what the other boats are doing, what the wind is doing up ahead, and so on, while others want NOTHING to interfere with their own concentration. So the chatter factor applies to men and women alike. I’ve had fellows who’ve crewed for me actually make your ears tired. And I’ve had women crew for me who wouldn’t open their mouths when a starboard boat was bearing down on us hidden under the jib because she was “just sure I knew what I was doing and didn’t want to suggest I was unaware.” So if a gal talks too much, let her know about it – it’s up to the skipper to lay the ground rules.

NOW LET’S TOUCH ON A FEW THINGS about women in general that can make them good race crew:

First, let’s face it, women on a boat are, on the whole, obedient. They’re usually good about taking orders and doing as they are asked without a lot of backtalk. They rarely question a skipper’s authority.

Second, women have a tendency to be more patient, especially in light air sailing.

Next, of those who learn to handle the helm, women make excellent drivers. Most seem to have considerable finesse, and can develop an excellent tiller hand. And if the helm is properly balanced with sail proper trim, they can learn to handle most any size boat, even in a good blow.

And there’s nothing like a gal in light winds. Women seem custom made for tender boats – agile, light, gentle – they seem to have a natural ability to move on cat’s feet. Remember, too, crew weight can represent as much as 40% of a boat’s displacement. In light or moderate air, women make outstanding foredeck crew – they don’t tend to clomp around so much. And they can be great wind sniffers. And try putting a gal in charge of watching for distant marks or obstructions, or a competitor’s sail trim – they can be like hawks.

And you’ve got to give the gals the edge in the housekeeping department…who knows better than a woman who’s used to being raised cleaning up after others? They sure know what type of food would make a mess on a boat. They’re natural meal-planners and sandwich-makers; a man will slap two slices of dry bread together with a slab of baloney, but what crew wouldn’t be perked up when a gal comes up from below with crabmeat sandwiches, deviled eggs or homemade chocolate chip cookies?

Women are great packers. They have a way of tucking in the little extras that a man may overlook. It’s often the female crewmember who comes up with the bobby pin that replaces a missing cotter pin, or something you can use for a protest flag when you need one in a hurry and yours is buried down in a locker someplace.

And women are neat. They usually help pick up after everyone on the boat. They seem to know how to stow stuff properly in the first place, so with the first healthy knockdown the stuff up on the windward shelf doesn’t end up on the cabin floor. Women are also methodical list-makers and note-takers. And labelers. And organizers. They instinctively seem to keep a better order of things.

And let’s face it – gals are clean, pretty and smell good…they can be great morale boosters.

NOW ABOUT YOU GALS WHO RACE, OR WOULD LIKE TO MORE OFTEN: What makes a good crew applies even more to women who want to hold their own against the fellows in this competitive sport.

First, gals, you yourself – are you in good physical condition? Can you swim well? Is there any way in which your physical condition could cause concern to the skipper or crew to the extent you wouldn’t be able to contribute fully to the winning of the race? If you have to be given special consideration, you may be more of a hindrance than a help.

Your clothes: Check the weather report and wear the proper clothing. If a hot day is expected, are you taking something to keep the sun off, or are you going to be constantly looking around for a shady spot instead of concentrating on the race? If rain is predicted, or even suspected, make sure you take your own good foul weather gear. Is it likely the race will continue into darkness? If so, you’re going to get cold – add appropriate sweats and long pants, because if you’re cold you aren’t going to be able to perform at your best. Pick your racing clothes with a thought to comfort, efficiency and consideration for the rest of the crew. That bikini top that spills your charms may do wonders for your ego, but if it distracts the skipper or crew, they can’t concentrate as they should. And good boat shoes are a must.

And keep your hair under control. The long, straight look may be “in” but no one likes to be slapped in the face with a whiplash of hair. I’ve seen long lovely locks caught in cleats, winches, jib hanks, hatch covers, fairleads, and people’s mouths. Keep it tied back, under a hat or pinned up out of your way – and everybody else’s

Gloves: Most women, along with a heck of a lot of men who won’t admit it, are better off if they wear gloves. Unless you do daily manual labor and have healthy callouses, there’s no way your hands can be conditioned properly for the punishment of hard racing. If you don’t race regularly, you can get by with a pair of ladies’ gardening gloves – not the cloth or plastic type, but the rough imitation leather ones. Cut the fingertips off unless you’re intent on protecting your manicure. Some gals use regular sailing gloves, but many find the manufacturers have designed the fingers too short for a woman’s usually longer slender fingers. Some gals have found that men’s size small handball gloves work well for them.

Hats or Visors: If you wear a hat or visor, secure it with a piece of string to your top or jacket. Likewise with your sunglasses, especially if they have prescription lenses. One top skipper has a great solution: he drills tiny holes in the stems of his glasses, through which he ties fishline. Barely visible, and does the job nicely. Use fishline on your hat or visor, too. Incidentally, if you’re blind without your glasses, carry a spare pair with tether already attached.

Sunblock lotion: Apply it liberally. You’ll suffer in Sunday’s race if you got burnt to a crisp on Saturday. Pay particular attention to your lips. Ordinary lipstick is not enough unless it has a good SPF factor and you reapply it as needed.

Your gear: Take what you need, but nothing more than necessary. Women have an unfortunate reputation for carrying way too much stuff around with them anyway, and you should be especially mindful of both weight and space on a racing boat. When was the last time you cleaned out your purse? Bet your carrying around a lot of stuff you don’t need on a race boat…clean it out. Leave what you don’t absolutely need to have at home or in the trunk of your car. On the other hand, I’ve made it a habit to add a couple extra items when I race that have really come in handy: a marlinespike, pliers, waterproof tape, yarn, small piece of wire, aspirin, band aids, dry-erase (not permanent) marker, a short piece of small line, a protest flag, and even a small shackle or two. For short races, take only a small ditty bag (small see-thru cosmetic bags work great) and make sure it’s waterproof. Put your sweatshirt or jacket in a ziploc bag and write your name on the outside in permanent inkwriter. Ask your skipper where HE would prefer you stow your gear – some are quite particular. (I’ve always tried to find a little “squirrel-hole” just inside the hatch, on the back side of the bulkhead for my small ditty bag. And you’ll be happy if you find a place for your foul weather gear that you can access quickly; you’ll be in no mood for rummaging around for it.

On longer trips, again, take no more than you’re sure you’ll need. It’s still a race, and weight is important. Stow your gear in a waterproof seabag. If the cost bothers you, try one of the insulated plastic picnic bags that are waterproof—most have zipper or velcro closures and big handles.

LET’S TOUCH ON WHAT A GAL CAN DO to make her presence on a boat not only welcome but in demand. Most of these tips can apply to any crew, male, female or teen.

First, really try to learn what it’s all about. And there’s no better training ground for learning how to handle a big boat than starting on a small one. The beauty of the art of sailing is that the theory is essentially the same, no matter the size of the boat. Get yourself into a little boat and take it out and play around in it. Do figure-eights by the dozen; practice tacking, jibing and mark roundings. Get so you’re as comfortable as you can in that little boat. If you can sail a single-hander well, moving into bigger boats is an easy transition, given adequate crew and practice.

Read – read, read, read. Public libraries have countless books, magazines and DVDs on sailing and boats of all kinds and sizes, from beginner on up. So does the Internet. Check with friends already involved in sailing, racing or cruising…most experienced sailors are more than willing to share their thoughts on their favorite sailing books or videos–and even loan them, along with back issues of sailing magazines. With my background, you’ll probably not be surprised to see me suggest you visit the

US SAILING website [ussailing.org] as an outstanding resource for everything sailing including a list of good certified sailing schools. (A lot of talented people I know dedicated years of time and effort to put this website site together and keep it relevant and jam-packed with great information. I can vouch for their expertise!)

Learn the race rules. Attend seminars and lectures when local hot shots are willing to part with some of their wisdom, experiences and theories. If you don’t understand a certain rule or interpretation, ask someone. Or, again, check the US SAILING website. Or just Google Sailing Race Rules. There are even some racing and race rules quizzes you can take online. If you’re really interested in becoming a student of the rules, check around as to who might have a copy of the Appeals, which book goes into what the rules are all about and how they apply. Great resource for understanding the race strategies of experts.

Another great way to learn a lot about racing is to offer to serve on a race committee. Regatta Committee chairmen are always happy to have an extra hand with spotting boats, flag-raising, signal-sounding or recording, and the experience can provide insight as to how races and race committees administer races. It’s of such value, in fact, that many fleets or clubs are requesting that skippers and crew take a turn serving on a race committee at least once a season so they understand the multitude of problems this valued group has to handle. I believe I’ve learned as much about racing and tactics from watching races from committee boats as I have from being in them, particularly listening and watching the experts aboard discuss determining courses, detecting wind direction and velocity, mark-setting, wind shifts, tactics, covering, sail set, radio protocol, rules infringements, and possible protest situations. Too, you generally find individuals of long experience on committee boats, and just listening to some of the conversations can be a real education. The same goes for protest hearings…and bar-rail experts who re-hash races on the docks or back at the clubhouse. Some of the opinions and theories you pick up are invaluable – all free for the listening.

Look for a crew slot on a boat – any boat. If you’ve got any moxie at all, you’ll be welcome aboard any number of boats, especially just before race time somebody’s regular fails to show up and they’re often willing to take just about anybody to get an extra pair of hands or added weight. Even if all you get to do the first couple of times out is get the cold ones out of the cooler, you’re gaining familiarity with the boat and crew and observing how things work. Keep your ears and eyes working and your hands ready to help and you can become a regular in no time.

Incidentally, women who aren’t willing to pull more than their own weight are twice the work for others and tend to create resentment. Long races, in particular, are trying at best, even for good friends. Be tolerant of personality quirks, because all the worst ones seem to come to the surface during exhausting races.

IF YOU SERIOUSLY WANT TO GET INTO SAIL RACING, there are some additional things you should consider:

ATTEND THE SKIPPERS MEETING if you’re able, and make mental notes on various points that may be clarified. Read the race circular and instructions, start times for your class, and any course information. Listen to pre-race chit-chat—you might pick up some helpful tips on the weather, anticipated wind patterns or prospective courses of the experts. Learn who the top boats are in your class, and if it’s a series, which are the boats yours needs to beat and by how much.

GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST the night before a race, eat a good breakfast, and lay off the booze. No one appreciates a hungover crew no matter how lightly they try to treat the situation. When you board a racing boat, winning is what it’s all about, and it’s to this end a good crew will devote herself. The skipper’s wishes are foremost. Now’s not the time to worry about your makeup, hairdo or recent manicure. Arrive neat and clean, and try to maintain your femininity without going to either extreme of being a prude or becoming too much “one of the boys.” Don’t expect any preferential treatment—you’re now part of a team.

BE ON TIME. Don’t give the skipper a moment’s cause to doubt you’re showing up or wonder how your tardiness is going to affect getting to the start area on time. Women have an age-old reputation for being late—don’t let it be said of you. Greet your skipper and crew with a cheerful disposition and a positive mental attitude. Size up their moods and be enthusiastic. Think WIN right from the start. Don’t complain, and throughout the race, keep your conversation always upbeat.

BEFORE THE START: The last ten minutes or so, don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. All racing crews are keyed up before the start, whether they show it or not. Some skippers prefer to have a member of their crew handle the time-keeping, others don’t—but they want NO distraction during this time. During the first ten minutes or so after the start, keep talking to a minimum, and do not engage in interaction with the crew unless you’re addressed….this can be the most critical time of the race. Everyone is concentrating very hard on getting the boat moving. Don’t be drawn into conversation by nearby competitors.

LEARN YOUR SKIPPER’S LANGUAGE. I’ve seen skippers say “Ease the jib off just a hair” or “Let the main out just a “scoche” or “just a tad” – and have no idea if he means one inch, two inches or a foot. (By the same token, if you’re the one giving a command, try to be specific.) Don’t get bent out of shape if you get yelled at. Sometimes all a skipper is trying to do is indicate the need for haste. They rarely mean anything personal…it’s just the way some of them communicate. It’s easy for a skipper to get frustrated when he’s stuck there on the tiller when it would be so much easier for him to drop it and take care of the problem himself. And don’t bark back at a skipper or launch into a lengthy explanation – just let it go. And when things go badly, don’t try to be a Little Mary Sunshine. But don’t add to the problem by grumbling, either.

IN A CRISIS: Stay out of the way unless you are positive you are helping. If you can’t be part of the solution, at least don’t compound the problem.

KEEP THINKING: Is there anything I can do for anyone? Offer to get someone something from the cooler or down below? Tidy up trailing sheets? If someone’s taking photos, offer to take one with them in it. When you’re below, ask those on deck if you can get them anything. (Conversely, however, if YOU want something from below, don’t ask someone else to fetch for you.) [Boating etiquette]

DON’T SMOKE. Always ask permission first. Hot ashes can make holes in sails. And if you’re fishing out a pack of cigarettes, lighting up, or smoking, you’re not giving your full attention to your job. If you’re in the process of eating or drinking, make a mental note of where you can quickly stash that open drink can when you have to drop everything. Spills all over the seats or cockpit are messy, slippery and aggravating.

LEND A WILLING HAND and don’t think yourself too good for the dirty jobs, such as bailing out the bilge, cleaning the head or picking up. Make sure your own gear is stowed where it belongs and that it will remain secure when the going gets rough.

AFTER THE FINISH: When the boat’s crossed the finish line, celebrate the win. Congratulate all on a good race, no matter where the boat placed. Let the skipper know you enjoyed being part of it, and, if you feel it’s appropriate, comment that you’d love to be asked to go again. Ask if you can get anyone anything from down below. Remember helping clean up is just as much a part of the race as the rest of it. When you get back to the dock, stay and help straighten up the boat, and don’t leave until it is completely put to bed (unless the skipper insists you’re free to go—or invites you to stay on for some post-race socializing). If you want to dash to the head on the dock or at the club, – explain that, and that you’ll be right back to help clean up. After everything’s squared away, try to allow enough time to participate in any socializing in which you’ve been included.

POST-RACE SOCIALIZING: Take special care to watch your behavior during the cocktail hour. If your boat’s won, be careful not to gloat about the victory – stick to compliments for the skipper, the crew or the boat’s performance. The only thing worse than a poor loser is a smart-ass winner. Be gracious to your competitors, win or lose. And don’t ever disparage your skipper, his tactics, the crew or his boat to others, no matter how things went. This isn’t to say you don’t deserve just as much chance to unwind as any of the guys, but there’s no disputing there’s something unattractive about a woman behaving badly under the influence. Most people find boorishness distasteful in either gender, but even more so in a woman, and you must keep in mind that your behavior is also a direct reflection on your skipper and host.

ATTEND THE AWARDS PRESENTATION if there is one. I have to admit this is a subject rather close to my heart, as I am personally aware of the amount of effort that goes into the selection, engraving and presentation of awards, and the accompanying efforts of the committee or sponsors. Trophy presentations should be considered just as much a part of the race as the rest of it. It is very disheartening to an award committee to call out name after name and have no one come forward, not even a member of the crew. I think this is a real discourtesy on the part of a skipper. If it is unavoidable for him to attend, he should at least designate someone to do the honors in his behalf. When you are a crewmember, take time to accompany your skipper to the presentation. You’ve been part of his team, and he’ll appreciate not only your support, but also the enjoyment of having you share in the thrill of his victory – or even in sharing the agony of his defeat.

In the same vein, take the time to thank the race committee. Theirs is a usually thankless job, and if it weren’t for their efforts, there’d be no race in which to participate in the first place.

PROTEST MEETINGS In my experience, I have found that women in protest meetings can feel somewhat disadvantaged, in much the same manner as youngsters or beginners do. Protest committees traditionally consist of sailors who are generally considered to be among the more knowledgeable, and frankly, many are prone to put more stock in the testimony of a man of experience than that of a woman, child or beginner. Female sailors therefore need to work even more diligently to learn, know and understand the rules AND the appeals, and to be well-versed in how to testify and present her case if she’s asked to appear before a protest committee. Get the facts straight in your mind before you appear and stick to the facts. Watch your body language, and phrase your statements and answers to questions carefully. Conduct yourself as a credible respectful witness who knows what she’s talking about. [Sidebar: Be aware that protest hearings can last hours; assure your post-race plans are flexible.]

And lastly, a few thoughts on some extras a woman should learn to become a valued crewmember and real asset aboard a boat:

OFFER TO HELP WITH PREPARATIONS. Offer to help find out what food and drink the crew prefer and what will work best, especially if rough weather or seas are liable to be encountered. Many top competitors will often bypass cold beer and prefer just water, or Gatorade. Limit sandwiches to the kind that don’t have sloppy fillings or will fall apart unless held with both hands. Skip messy foods like breaded chicken, crackers, chips and other things that crumble. Cookies are always popular (chewy, not crumbly) as are small foods that can be eaten quickly with one hand. Pack foods so they’re water tight (think ziploc bags).

LEARN THE PARTS OF THE BOAT AND PROPER TERMINOLOGY. Learn how to tie knots properly, and the way the skipper likes his lines coiled, secured and stowed. You’re of infinitely more value if you can do a job right in the first place so someone else doesn’t have to come along behind you and do it over.

LEARN TO HANDLE THE HELM. Many times this could be the place you’ll be needed the most. Also learn how to read the GPS and other electronic and navigational aids, the knotmeter and depth gauge. If you know how to read charts, you could even be called on to help navigate a change of course.

LEARN SAIL REPAIR. Knowledge can be of considerable value, and someday yours may be the only extra pair of hands to execute an emergency sail repair. Many repairs can also be accomplished by using special sail mending tape—find out how that is applied, too.

THINK SAFETY AT ALL TIMES. If you get the reputation of taking chances or being slipshod or careless, skipper and crew alike will soon discover it and you’ll find yourself hearing, “Just get down below out of the way,” which can be unnecessarily demoralizing. (Plus you’ll jeopardize your chances of being asked back again.)

LEARN OVERBOARD RECOVERY TECHNIQUES. It’s often possible that you could be the sole person left aboard if someone goes over, with both the boat to maneuver and the rescue attempt to undertake. Learn where the overboard retrieval gear is stowed and how to use it. Is there a manoverboard pole or life ring? Is there a line attached? Is it so well secured that it takes a special knack to free it up? Is there a manoverboard signal or button on the GPS that needs to be set off? If you’re alone, the hardest part is going to be getting the sailor in the water back aboard, especially if he’s injured or unconscious. Do you know what steps to take to get a dead weight up the side and back aboard? What do you know about resuscitation techniques? And if you’re the one who goes over, do you know what to do to assist in your recovery? These are the types of things that are invaluable to know ahead of time.

LEARN FIRST AID. Women seem to be particularly well-suited to the nursing role. The mothering instinct is inbred in us whether we own up to it or not, and most men admit to preferring a woman’s gentle soothing touch even when it’s only having a bandaid applied.

I don’t know when the first woman cracked the “glass ceiling” in yacht racing, but women on boats are here to stay. We revel in discovering this wonderful sport, and being able to go on to introduce it to others, watching new sailors take it up and enjoy it too – especially family, friends and other women. We’ve come a long way, gals, and we’ve made a real difference. And the best part?

It’s a lifetime thing!