What Scares You While Sailing?

Teresa Carey Words 44 Comments

I had the opportunity to speak on the women sailors panel moderated by Pam Wall at the Chicago Boat Show. A question was asked of the panel,

“As a woman, what is it that scares you while sailing?”

I was thankful that I was the last to respond to the question. While everyone else shared their answers I wracked my brain for something, but I couldn’t come up with anything at all. As it got closer to my turn to answer, I began to worry how arrogant and foolish I would sound if I said that there was nothing – because truly the ocean can be a scary place. However, the best answer is always the truth, spoken from the heart. So, I said this:

There is nothing about sailing that scares me because I’m a woman. There are most certainly scary things out there, but they cause me anxiety because I’m a sailor, not because I’m a woman sailor. I know the dangers. If a hurricane is forecasted, I’m seeking harbor as far away as possible and hunkering down for the night. It would be no less worrisome if I were a man.


I’m teaching two women’s courses this summer. Ben and I usually co-instruct but he will be away for one of them so I’m asking a friend to fill in. I’ve done enough solo sailing and handled every problem that has come up on my own. Engine failure, sudden squalls, I’ve managed to work through them all without help. I don’t need a strong sailor to co-instruct with me. I want a good partner and a good person – male or female.

On one hand, I would like to have another female to co-instruct with me because then it would truly be an all-women’s environment. On the other hand, if something goes wrong then outsiders will blame it on the fact that it is an all-women’s crew. For example, the engine could die while docking and we could bump the dock. If I were a man at the helm then dock hands would shrug and say, “Bummer your engine died. Oh well, these things happen.” But, if a boat full of women do the same thing they say, “Leave it to the women to put a big scratch in the boat.”


How do I know this would happen? Because I’ve seen it happen time and time again. In fact, this example did happen to me. Word-for-word. So, I must admit, I’ve considered co-instructing with a man simply because I do not want harassment like that to happen with my students around because of how dispiriting it is. Blaming mistakes on gender implies that women are not capable of learning and being a great sailors.

Things can go wrong for a lot of reasons – – weather, equipment failure, poor planning, etc.

I’m not worried about things going wrong. But I am afraid of how people will blame my problems on my gender and not on the true cause of the situation.

That is the only fear I’ve ever experienced that is related to sailing and unique because I am a woman.

Aside from how I am treated, everything else in sailing is equal to that of a man’s experience. The storms are just as violent. The fog is equally thick. The sunsets burn just as orange. Therefore nothing that I experience that is more or less scary because I’m a woman.

Now its your turn. Tell me:
As a [man/woman], what is it that scares you while sailing?

P.S. I’m loving ALL the comments to this post. There are now several Facebook threads about this post. Please, lets consolidate! If you have a comment – please post it here!


Comments 44

  1. Daniel

    Good question and topic.

    I’ve had my sailboat for only a few years and haven’t sailed much with it either. Just sailed it a few times. I can’t say I’ve found anything that I’m scared of.

    I am starting work on a refit to get some things fixed up on the boat. While I’m not scared, some of the projects may seem intimidating. But, with good plans on how to do the projects, they may not seem all that bad.

    My wife, on the other hand, has no sailing experience. I’ve talked about going sailing, maybe to go somewhere (rather than a day sail) and that we could even overnight at anchor somewhere. Her reply “It’s too dangerous”. Not sure what she would expect, but I told her the drive she does to work every day is more dangerous. She finds it hard to believe people would live on boats or spend so much time on boats for either work or enjoyment. She just want’s to go along for the ride without any expectation of taking part in the care, maintenance, or handeling of the boat.

    The main thing, to me, is just knowing what to expect. Just like anything else in life, “stuff” happens. Knowing that it could happen and being prepared for a just-in-case scenario.

    There are plenty of women who own and sail their own boat and I would be happy to learn from any of them just as much. That’s what I like about the sailing community at large, many people are willing to help each other.

    1. Georgie

      Hi Daniel
      A few years ago I felt like your wife, little sailing experience, a bit scared. My husband has been around boats all his life. When we got together five years ago, we bought an old sailing yacht and husband single handedly renovated her. We then sailed from UK to Greece and now liveaboard and spend our days floating round the Greek Islands. I’m no longer scared, as I completely trust him, but I do still get a bit worried when things go wrong, but everything can be fixed. Tell your wife to give it a go, it can be fun living aboard, you get to see some wonderful places!

      1. Daniel

        Thanks for the comment. I’ll of course take it slow until she’s comfortable with it but I’m sure I’ll eventually be able to get her out on the water once in a while.

        1. Keith Davie

          Daniel, may I respectfully offer that “I’m sure I’ll eventually be able to get her out on the water once in a while” contains – at least to me – the suggestion that you’ll have to twist her arm a little.
          And therein lies the danger. If she does it for any other reason than because she honestly wants to, the experience is quite likely to be unsatisfying for both of you.

          So ask yourself: “What can I do to create a situation where my wife/partner/friend ASKS to go sailing because she wants to?”

          Work to create that, and you’ve got a partner for your adventure. Anything less, at the most you’ll have is a passenger.

        2. Sarah

          What scares me about a situation like your’s is what happens if you go overboard?? That is what scares me as a woman. We just started learning last year, and one of the things I am going to work on this year is to be able to single-handedly, without an engine, go pick up a man overboard. Because if I don’t know how to do this any my husband goes overboard, he’s dead and I’m screwed.

  2. Steve

    I think it’s my inexperience. I haven’t yet gained sufficient sailing experience. I try to be safe for myself and everyone around me but in doing so I end up playing safe. If you don’t risk it slightly then you never learn. Does this make sense?
    A great post …very thoughtful. I would be horrified to think my wife or daughter would be treated like that. Both are so accomplished and so much better than me at so many things. I’m really proud and lucky to know them
    Keep the wonderful, thoughtful and reflective thinking coming
    Thank you

  3. Duncan

    It’s a sombre fear, for which I apologise;

    The thought that one day I might no longer be able to sail.

    My grandfather was on my boat a few days before he died encouraging me to cross oceans, as he had done during a lifetime of sailing.

    We’re currently just rounding new Zealand’s Northern Cape on our way to fjordland. Glad I took his advice!

  4. Douglas

    Ahoy “T” , nice explanation on what scares you .

    Two scary experiences for me while passage making were being directly approached by overtaking and unidentified foreign vessels , one in S E Asia , and another in the South China Sea .

    Oh, there was one other time still 20 miles out on approach to the Straits of Juan de Fuca in a v thick pea soup fog and a large ship was closing in fast on my position as seen on my radar .

    Douglas , S/V Calliste

    1. Post
      Teresa Carey

      Crazy! I hate it when that happens. I had a similar fog crossing experience in Penobscot Bay a few years ago. I had a giant row boat full of girl scouts and I was trying to hail the vessel approaching for a few minutes. Then suddenly it popped out of the fog towering above us. Crazy! Great learning experience though.

      1. Tasha

        Were those Mariner Girl Scouts?
        I wish GSUSA would support the Mariner program on a national level like they did in the old days. We lost a lot of Mariner to Sea Scouts due to lack of national program support.

  5. Ruth

    As you I’d take issue with the premise of the question. Do you want me to talk about periods or pregnancy?! I suspect not.

    Fear suggests something other than logical concern. I notice things that might become a problem but I’m not afraid of them.

    Hope you find the best PERSON for the job!

    1. Post
      Teresa Carey

      I didn’t take issue with the question at all. I don’t want people to think that. Men and women are different, and some people (who don’t have experience sailing) believe that women have different (or less) capabilities. I’m sure many of the women at the panel have little or no sailing experience and they were trying to learn from those of us with experience. Maybe they think physical build is an important factor in sailing a boat. I’ve come to learn that it matters little and that people, such as myself, who are in average physical condition are plenty strong enough. But, if they didn’t know this yet, that could lead them to believe that men and women have different challenges and fears – hence the question.

      But you bring up an interesting point! The entire topic gets more and more interesting. Thanks so much. And yes, the thought did cross my mind that I should think of periods to answer the question!

      1. michael

        the March issue of Flying magazine has an article entitled Learning to Fly Like a Girl.

        the article cites some interesting statistics regarding female pilots, whether recreational or military

        one quote is that in the U.S., “ten out of every 100 helicopter pilots are women, but they account for only 3 percent of the accidents”

        of course there are many theories why this is so, but one of them is that females appear to be better ‘risk managers’

  6. Ada

    I am so afraid that i am going to make a mistake that is going to hurt someone while i am in captaining the boat or to a lesser extent that i am going to significantly damage the boat. I’m so looking forward to learning from you on our trip in june on how to manage my fears and build confidence in my skills.

    1. Post
  7. Claire

    I sail singlehanded, and my biggest fear by far is falling overboard. But like you say, that has absolutely nothing to do with being a woman and like you I can’t really think of anything that frightens me specifically because of my gender…

    I don’t care if my mistakes get blamed on my gender and not on the true cause ;o)

    (And besides, at sea on your own nobody gets to see your mistakes!)

    Having said that though, there is little extra sense of achievement when you efficiently dock your boat singlehanded in front of a load of men!

    1. Post
      Teresa Carey

      Do you wear a tether or PFD? Falling overboard is a real and serious threat. I didn’t used to wear a PFD all the time when I first started sailing solo, and I wore a tether only at night and it rough weather. However, now Ben and I wear a type V PFD at all times, a tether at all times when we are alone, and at all times (alone or not) when the sun has set. Our skill and ability to handle the boat safely has increased. However, the more I learn, the more I increase my safety precautions because I’m also learning that bad things can and do happen out there. I honestly can’t believe I sailed so much solo without wearing a PFD (and tether). It is our standard now. Its just like I can’t believe I great up not having to wear my car seat-belt all the time, or rode my bike without a helmet. I’m surprised I thought that was ok and safe enough.

      I do care if my mistakes get blamed on my gender. Mostly because of the message it sends to all women and all people in the sailing community. It reinforces that women don’t belong there, that they can’t become great sailors or leaders. As someone trying to be a professional sailor, I am faced with significant challenges that I see men (many with less experience that I have) breeze right though. It is exhausting. It is not something I want to keep fighting. I simply want to continue to grow as a professional and be allowed to grow. However, that is not the case. As an educator who’s mission is to empower women and make them see that they can be strong, capable sailors, I also have to fight those stereotypes and biases for them as well. This is not a fight I want take on, but I have no choice. That is why I do care if my mistakes (or any woman’s mistakes) get blamed on their gender.

      I’m glad this bias isn’t effecting you as much as it is me. I wish it didn’t bother me!

      1. Maria Hood

        I live and sail in France, where women skippers are a rare breed, despite great sailors like Isabelle Autissier and the newly-late Florence Arthaud. I’m the skipper of our boat on the water, but when we fill out the paperwork in the ports we visit, we list my husband as the skipper to avoid the kind of harassment and negative attitudes described in this post. We’re now selling our boat (to buy a larger one !) and I’ve been told by well-meaning friends that my husband needs to lead the visits with prospective buyers, even if he doesn’t know the technical details about the boat as well as I do. No one wants to buy a boat from a woman. Like you, this is not a battle I want to take on. What scares me most as a woman sailor? Men’s attitudes towards me.

        1. Wayne Geizer

          Wow, im so sorry to hear that. Im a new sailer, and part of the draw is going to be taking my 3 daughters out and sailing with them. Ill have to make sure im concious of this. Thanks for sharing 🙂

          1. Post
  8. Keith Davie

    I’m fascinated (and a little disappointed) that of all the comments so far, only one was a woman!
    Fear if messing up and damaging the boat, of course – I never feel quite completely comfortable maneuvering to the dock, but I hope to remedy that this season by PRACTICING just that for a few hours!
    I do take issue with one assumption I hear in the original question, however. Perhaps it’s only my perception, but did the question make the assumption that fear is a negative? I need not be.
    Certainly paralyzing fear – the kind that makes you unable to function – is a negative. But general “fear” – that sense of heightened awareness, of being hyper observant (time seems to slow down…) can be an enormous boon in challenging situations. It is only when fear takes control that it becomes a problem.
    So, do I experience fear aboard my boat? Yes. Does my wife/partner/co-sailor also experience fear? Of course. And she and I have very different thresholds of functionality – meaning her fear becomes an impediment to clear functioning sooner than mine – but she has much less experience aboard than I , so we have a stated agreement that when she feels her fear is approaching the threshold, she speaks up, and we work to reduce her discomfort. We reef, we change point-of-sail, we head for home or an anchorage, we heave-to…
    And because she knows that I will honor that, without judgement or argument, her fear is less, and growing less each time we sail. She’s learning to trust the boat, and to trust me, and her threshold of fear is expanding gradually with her knowledge and experience. I think an awful lot of MEN alienate their potential sailing partners by refusing to respect their need to take the time to get comfortable. Men and women often seem to process a perceived risk differently.
    As for the experience of women being held to a different standard (your experience of docking “bumps”) I acknowledge that it happens – far too often. And when I witness it, I guarantee I’ll ask the dock man that pointed question; “What’s her gender got to do with it?” I’ve seen an awful lot of broken boats with men at the helm!

    1. Post
    2. Barbara

      I appreciate your comment Douglas. Just the other day I had a conversation with a woman friend of mine who said she was afraid of sailing. She was on a boat with her husband who was the captain. My comment to her was if crew doesn’t feel comfortable onboard then the captain is not doing their job well. It is important that your crew feels safe onboard as well as the captain feeling the crew will go to them with their fears/ concerns.
      I also heard some where once which has stuck with me…..FEAR = F- false E- evidence A-about R-reality.
      Teresa thank you for the thought pondering post!!

  9. Bart Blankenship

    Because I sail engineless it seems that I wind up seeking an anchorage off the beaten path and on small scale charts fairly often. Heading through the Andros Barrier reef with the sun setting in my eyes and a following sea made me feel sick to my stomach on the bow with the lead line. The pass was plenty wide, but the scale of the chart made me uncomfortable.

    Falling over with or without harness. I’ve let go of the tiller just to see what will happen and almost always with the head sail up, we tack and then with the jib backwinded, reach off slowly but at a speed I can’t swim. So I harness up. But I have yet to go overboard from every point on the jack line and see how it will be to get back on and especially at any kind of sea state or with way on.

    Dealing with heavy sea when I’m really tired. Fatigue makes me make poorer decisions. When I had difficulty heaving to once by myself, I put out the anchor with no scope. We pointed into the wind, but by morning I had 3 lobster traps on my anchor making it hard to raise.

    I don’t think gender has anything to do with being a good sailor. All the gals who have sailed around the world on their own have long since proven that. But when Reliance went up on the rocks on Burnt because the mooring failed, I remember fishermen commenting that the captain was a woman. It’s funny how we are cultured to assign gender which often implies the question of would this have happened with the opposite gender. As men we get this too with statistics like, “Most snake bite victims are men of such and such an age and it’s on the hand”, or other things that it’s implied that only men are dumb enough to do, which frustrates me since I do pick up rattlesnakes almost every time I can.

  10. Cheryl @ Mid-Life Cruising!

    Great post that gives me hope! As a beginner sailor, I’m scared of a lot, but not because I’m a woman .. just inexperienced.

    You have been such an inspiration to me for quite a while now. If a small- framed PERSON like you can do it alone, than surely I can with my husband.

    1. Keith Davie

      Cheryl, one of the things my wife and I have discovered is that it doesn’t have to be hard! Yes, there are some physical demands, but there are also modifications one can make in equipment that can easy the burden.
      The first – and seldom mentioned – is having a boat small enough that you can manage it. The trend these days seems to be bigger and bigger, but the cost, maintenance time and forces involved all increase exponentially with boat size! We’ve been cruising the coast of Maine for four years in a 25′ Tanzer, and just this year we’ll be moving into a 32′ Triangle ketch. Ketch rigged, because the mainsail is smaller, and therefore easier for a smaller or single person to handle. Both boats are plenty big enough for two people of reasonably simple tastes and habits, reasonably inexpensive to buy and maintain, and can be sailed, docked and maintained without super-human strength.
      Anchor windlass, two-speed winches, multi-purchase sheet blocks… All designed to make it easier to do the work. And more fun, too!

  11. David

    I find this topic extremely interesting as we ( my wife and I) embark on our fourth year back sailing again after a 15 year break. My greatest fear is not performing when things go seriously wrong. This fear manifests a greater fear that my wife may get hurt as a result of my inaction or incorrect actions. This fear was tested last season.

    Where we sail in Georgian Bay Ontario weather can be very harsh and change in an instant. Anchored at an island group in the North Channel last summer in a very tight bay with too many boats around and a sketchy anchor set, the anchor let go in a blow that was 50 knots gusting 60. At 3am. Pitch black no moon. We were both up as the conditions were so bad there was of course no sleeping. I won’t bore with all the details but suffice to say in a very long 15 minutes, the boat was saved, no neighbors hit and both myself and my wife performed almost robotically but as close to perfectly as we could have ever wished for. And yes, I was terrified but absolutely don’t remember being scared at all. In that fifteen minutes we almost lost the boat and worse in my mind at least almost dragged another innocent neighbor to their possible demise. But it didn’t happen. Biggest fear faced and beat down. For both of us.

    I will never doubt her ability to deal with a serious problem again, nor my own. Fear is part of this hobby/sport/life we’ve chosen. It was an amazing experience and I believe each time you deal with something like this it makes you that much better a sailor and a person.

  12. Melissa White

    Interesting question. I’ve been sailing with my husband for 11 years, mostly coastal cruising with one trip to the outside of Vancouver Island with our Cal 34. I would say that I have never been ‘afraid’ while sailing. My husband, who is a much more competent sailor than I am, gets dead scared in fog, for instance. I take that in stride. I have a healthy respect for fog, but it doesn’t actually frighten me. On the other hand, I get almost paralyzed with fear trying to dock our big boat. It’s the fear that I will hit someone else, which I have done twice in this boat due to not being used to it yet. No harm done, but that fear lives in my body pretty badly. I do think that overall women are more sensitive to things like that, perhaps because of feeling we have to ‘prove’ ourselves over and over in order to be taken seriously at the helm (or in the auto mechanic class, or math class, or engineering school,,, you get my point). So men can hit another boat, or a dock, and settle it over a couple of beers and have a laugh. Or they can at least negotiate a settlement and no one says ‘Trust a man to hit another boat’. This is so true that we have things like sailing classes for women. With female instructors. Why? Not because we can’t be good sailors, because clearly that’s just ridiculous. It is just because that way we don’t have to deal with the stereotypes and can focus on the learning. I’m with you, Teresa. I’m pretty tired of fighting that fight. And yet we go on. Guess I’ll get a woman instructor to help me learn to dock my big-assed boat.

  13. Sarah

    Thanks Teresa, for the words you have written here. I understand the exhaustion you write about. Truely my biggest fear as a professional sailor is how to calmly stand up to preconceptions folks might have based on my age and gender. Ultimately, doing my best at my job is my way of standing up to that fear – and hoping I can set a good example for young women becoming sailors themselves.

  14. Kathy

    Fear of damaging my boat. Fear of looking stupid. Fear that I won’t be able to sail to all the places I dream about as I get older. I am the captain of our boat as my husband is just learning so in my case a big fear is that I have to ‘know’ everything to keep us safe.

  15. Chris Yoho

    I feel you are right. I’m also an instructor and love it very much. I feel I’ve seen women do better at points of sail and have a better feel for the helm. Right now I’m teaching a blind friend. He amazes me with his senses of the boat the trim and the way it should feel. Sure he needs a friend to go out with but it’s inspiring to be witnessing this.
    Cheers. Captain Yoho ASA and U.S sailing certified instructor.

  16. Vanessa

    I thought I was a pillar of calmness for most situations. That is until I almost lost my crew in a very bad broach on a day that the coast guard was looking for two missing people. During the broach, I watched my two male crew members go flying through the air and then yanked back to safety by their tethers. I gained control of the boat while the crew gathered the spinnaker. Once safe and stable, The three of us just sat in silence. I would say that for sailors fear has no gender preference. I love your response.

  17. Graeme

    I get scared in storms.
    I am scared of big breaking waves.
    I get scared when the boat broaches, running down a wave and I lose control.
    I am scared of running into things, particularly at night.
    I have almost soiled my pants during a thunderstorm when lightning struck so close there was no difference in time from the blinding flash and the BANG !.
    I am scared when I have to crawl up the pointy end to pull down the jib while the bow goes up and down 2m.
    I get scared while trying to sleep that the anchor won’t hold and I will drift into the rocks.

    I am scared that I will enjoy myself so much that I will have to leave my full-time job to sail more often.

  18. Post
    Teresa Carey

    There was a lot of wonderful conversation about this post on two Facebook threads. One was on the SSPH Facebook page, the other was on Kim Karver’s personal profile. Great conversation! In an effort to preserve it, I copied and pasted it here:

    • Gretchen Hannsz Witzgall Well executed response Teresa! Same environment, different perspectives from ‘any’ one….whether man or woman…and different responses based on years of experience, situation, training…Brilliant and thought provoking!
    • Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 27 at 11:12am
    • ?

    • Mike Anderson Well put Teresa!

    • Kyra Crouzat I knew something bothered me about that question… Your answer is spot on.
    • Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 27 at 3:57am

    Catrina Lankford Funny how most replies are by men. And a couple replies about how silly fear is! Lord help us from a captain who doesn’t know enough to be afraid. But really, as a woman, criticism, sneering and dismissive, is what is most feared. Any career across the board.

    Mary Hunt We can’t fear discrimination, or avoid it because we know it’s out there. If it happens, rise above it. Prove them wrong. That can be a lesson for both teams, on the boat and at the dock. Plus, not every strong, capable crew needs a man:?
    Sailing, Simplicity, and the Pursuit of Happiness No need to prove them wrong! It already has been proven. That is why it is a prejudice (preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience) and not a fact. The point with prejudices is that because they aren’t based on facts they can’t really be proven. They continue to exist despite the plethora of amazing women sailors out there – like the link you posted. But, you are right, we can’t avoid discrimination at all! Sometimes I’m amazed by how far we’ve come, and sometimes I’m shocked by how far we still have to go.
    Like · Commented on by Teresa Carey · February 27 at 3:12pm

    Mary Hunt Yes – so much of how far we’ve come stems from a refusal to shelter ourselves or others from the prejudicial attitudes that exist. We shouldn’t have to think twice about our abilities, because we do know the facts. We SHOULD be troubled by “As a woman, what is it that scares you about sailing,” rather than “as a sailor.” The question itself feeds the prejudicial beast, and leads women to ask themselves, “should I, as a woman, because I’m a woman, be afraid?” An instinct to have a male co-instructor onboard solely to avoid harassment, even as a passing thought, may reinforce such questions and insecurities. “Prove them wrong” may be a poor choice of phrase, but learning to face dispiriting harassment head on rather than hide from it is unfortunately a necessary part of the education. We never want ourselves or others to be put up against people who unjustly question our confidence or abilities, but exposure doesn’t mean acceptance, quite the contrary. Knowing it is out there and being equipped to handle it is empowering, and it is a strength that women, or any group that faces prejudice, can collectively support.
    Like · February 27 at 4:14pm

    Sailing, Simplicity, and the Pursuit of Happiness I actually wasn’t troubled by the question at all. I saw it a different way. Men and women are different, and have different capabilities. Maybe people with little sailing experience could believe that those different capabilities lead to differing fears. For example, maybe they think physical build is an important factor in sailing a boat. I’ve come to learn that it matters little and that people, such as myself, who are in average physical condition are plenty strong enough. But, if they didn’t know this yet, that could lead them to believe that men and women have different challenges and fears — hence the question. However, it may have come from a deep seeded believe that women are less capable – deeply seeded from stupid biases, and then that is very unfortunate. But the woman who asked it did so with an honest inquiry. Wow – such a complicated issues, isn’t it!?

    I’m also not suggesting people hide, but its ok to be nervous about being harassed, afraid of what it might do to our spirit and the community as a whole, and worried that the women I’m with will take it to heart. Yes – learn to face it so we can persevere and successfully co-exist. OR No – don’t learn to face it, keep getting angry and upset so that we don’t become complacent about it. Who knows what the right answer is? Probably a balance of both.

    I also don’t think the vast majority of people are equipped to handle that harassment repeatedly. That is why there ARE less women sailors (relationally and professionally). They decide it isn’t for them for a variety of reasons, but underlying it all is the vague (or clear) perception that they don’t belong. In fact, “professional role confidence” is the major reason that women students (in typically make fields such as engineering) drop out at a higher rate – their grades aren’t less, and they don’t enjoy the program less. Its because they perceive the industry as a whole thinks that that profession doesn’t fit a woman’s abilities and interests. Never mind what the woman thinks! Anyway…I digress….

    Thanks so much for the awesome conversation. It really gets us thinking. I love your comments. (I might share some of the them on the blog because I think they are great, but they get lost in FB).

    Karen Meyers Haver The question was certainly valid since you were on a panel for women sailors, likely different comfort levels, your answer was also spot on. It was a teaching experience and hopefully it gave the person a little more understanding of being a sailor.
    Many women have a lack of self confidence based on ingrained stereotypes that are often reinforced.

    Carolyn Moon It always takes me off guard when others see me through a gender lens. It makes me question why they are biased.
    Like · Reply · February 27 at 1:54pm

    Steve Pointon I think a good sailor is a good sailor, irrespective of gender. Two great solo sailors that spring to my mind are Jeanne Socrates and Ellen McArthur. Foremost, they are great sailors. Incidentally their gender is female.
    We can all learn from mistakes too. It is a mistake to criticise another person’s misfortune and blame it on their gender.
    Like · Reply · February 27 at 1:15am

    Anita Skarsbø Bad weather I can not handle and that my boat has weaknessess and damages I do not know about. My boat has beautiful lines, but geee some of them are stupid, close to dangerous too, The boat is very narrow. ;-/ And ofcours I might be stupid too ;-/ But if all this was to scare me too much – I would not be sailing -I guess? I love to sail, and sail to learn.
    Like · Reply · March 1 at 1:58pm · Edited

    Suzan Wallace My imagination is to be feared….I can alwaus count on it making up worst case scenarios..

    Kim Carver
    February 27 at 6:50pm · Edited ·

    THANK YOU to Teresa for this post. Lately I’ve been feeling sorry for a close friend who is CONSTANTLY being asked this question, and constantly being asked if she is scared, period. (Hot tip if you’re talking to a sailor/adventurer – find a more original question!).
    Jessica Hewitt Excellent question. I am constantly having to prove myself and any mistake I make is pointed out or blamed on my gender. Not all the time, but more than not. I drop something cuz it’s oddly weighted inside a box, when coming alongside in our small boat the wind catches my bow and I have to come around again…it’s all “because she’s a girl”
    February 27 at 6:56pm · Like

    Kim Carver Jessica I don’t want you to have to prove yourself (as a female). I want you to ignore those dumb assholes. I’m sure they are half-joking and it’s all good old boys attitude down there in the Gulf but I hope you don’t feel forced to laugh along too much.
    February 27 at 6:59pm · Like · 4

    Jesse A. Briggs Great post!
    February 27 at 7:19pm · Like

    Jasmine Amigud One of the highest compliments i got my at my work (Longshore work at Port of Tacoma) is you work like a man. I about died laughing, I said thank you but I am definitely not a man!
    February 27 at 7:20pm · Like · 2

    Kim Carver I would have said “What does that mean to you…to ‘work like a man?'” And then there’d be some eye rolling and stuttering and everyone would think I was a bitch.
    February 27 at 7:26pm · Like · 1

    Jasmine Amigud Oh no, I sure they wouldn’t I love most the men and women I work work
    February 27 at 7:29pm · Like

    Mariah Selene Clark My sweetheart, a captain and professional musician, has an intro to a song where he points out how many women are sailors, and just how great they are to work alongside.

    It’s great to have this question called out and answered so well.
    February 27 at 7:31pm · Like · 3

    Dave McGinnis I’d like to know if it was a woman who asked that asinine question. It’s bad enough that for years I’ve watched my female crew have to put up with ignorant and offensive comments or questions from men, but it really floors me when I hear this stuff comes from women!

    I don’t even know what, “as a women, what scares you the most?” means? Like climbing up the big scary mast? The only person I ever had to fire for being too scared to climb was a man. I can remember to women who had a strong fear of climbing, but guess what happened. They “manned up” and kept climbing until they got past their fear, and even like going aloft.
    February 27 at 7:40pm · Like · 2

    Kim Carver The thing is, it’s not a compliment to say “You work like a man.” It’s a derogatory joke targeting your gender. There are too many women out there who consider it a personal achievement to be thought of “as good as a man” by other men. Women are different than men, and that’s great! But they aren’t worse or better. The only people I want to be like are the individuals who have succeeded at things I want to succeed at.
    February 27 at 7:41pm · Like · 7

    Strozyk Hayes Working in the gulf was hard. It made me so angry. They treat you so bad. They treat you as if your dumb and know nothing, and totaly blow up when you point out something that is wrong. Working in Alaska was awesome. My crew and I got along great…at least the ones that mattered. I got stared at and watched a lot. But thats how it goes when your the only female withing 100+- miles. I laughed it off and at them I loved my job. Tall ships are a blast. I loved being in an environment where regardless of gender you are expected to work. Only a couple times did I have something weird happen. Once I was hauling a hallard and a guy took the line from me! I was baffeled and the cook came up to me and gave me a good chewing for letting him do that. “NEVER let a man do that to you, do you understand?” I can still see her giving me that talk. Lots of flack from old Navy guys. The old Navy cooks are awesome though. Once wMark Griffen was capt. On the LW with an all woman crew. A navy guy with his chest all puffed out came on board demanding to know why “those women” were aloft. “Well sir,” said Mark ” they are the crew”. This happened another time when the cook was a male and the rest of us were females. Old navy guy comes on board demanding to know what these women are doing on board…again well sir they are the crew. Baffeled the old guy demanded to know what he did. Well sir Im the cook he said with a sly grin…that went over very well with the old fart. Where is the captain he demanded getting louder. Aaannnnd the cook pointed up at our lovely female capt and mate hehehehehehehee he was pissed.
    February 27 at 9:06pm · Like · 3

    Teresa Carey I LOVE everyone’s comments. I would really appreciate it if you wrote them in the blog post too. Because now this post has been shared so many times and there are so many different threads with great comments that it would be beautiful to have them all in one place. Would you mind copying and pasting your comment in the blog comment.
    February 27 at 9:24pm · Like · 1

    Teresa Carey Dave McGinnis, I actually wasn’t troubled by the question at all. I saw it a different way. Men and women are different, and have different capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Maybe people with little sailing experience could believe that those different capabilities lead to differing fears. For example, maybe they think physical build is an important factor in sailing a boat. I’ve come to learn that it matters little and that people, such as myself, who are in average physical condition are plenty strong enough. But, if they didn’t know this yet, that could lead them to believe that men and women have different challenges and fears — hence the question. I think the woman who asked it did so from a great place where she was just trying to learn from sailors who are more experienced than she is. I mean – it was a “woman’s” panel afterall – therefore implying that we are unique – which we are!!!
    February 27 at 9:27pm · Like · 1

    Devon Carrera I really enjoyed working in the gulf. The companies I was with treated me well, the crews were mostly pleasant and when others came on board and mistook me for ‘the girlfriend’ my crew corrected them and their where no issues. The other captains said they enjoyed working with me because it wasn’t a pissing contest. But I think that’s more attitude than gender. At the yard I currently work out of a couple of the guys have said they want their daughters to be like me when they grow up. That is the biggest compliment I have ever received.
    February 27 at 9:32pm · Edited · Like · 1

    Gary Stugard Kim Carver you nailed it, ” The only people I want to be like are the individuals who have succeeded at things I want.”
    February 27 at 10:05pm · Like · 2

    Doug McKay what scares me while I’m sailing?…….Land
    February 27 at 10:28pm · Like · 2

    Jessica Newley Funny.. I just got this question tonight in La Cruz. Didn’t have an answer.. !

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  20. Marc

    Hi Teresa,

    usually I really dislike to comment articles… but this one is an impressive and eye-opening article! Your answer is the best you can give, and the only one, that can be seen as the right answer. Besides it made me think of myself.

    I’d call me a professional sailor, and the only thing I really fear when sailing is not beeing able to handle a suddenly upcoming problem. No fear about wind, waves, weather or other conditions. The only thing I will fear out there, is me.

    Today I do sail cruises with young adults having or having had cancer. I had cancer myself, and I feared it like hell. Today it’s a part of my young 33 years life. And when going out on sea with my “cancer crew” I feel safe at all. You know why? They also don’t fear the conditions, they know that they can’t change conditions but have to deal with them, do the best they can. So we say: f*ck cancer, go sailing.

    Enjoy your time on sea!

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