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I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been sailing since I was little. Although I didn’t get really into it until David did, I grew up having a family that supported me, like my mom, my stepdad, my dad, and my uncle. I was never short of opportunities to try out anything I wanted to, including sailing.
Read more about Amy’s family history on the water.
Sailing is, unfortunately, still a man’s world. I feel a fair share of frustration when I get mansplaining aimed at me or from people choosing to talk only to David instead of to both of us. We won’t even talk about trolls on the internet.
Thankfully, there are tons of places to find men and women that are supportive of women sailors and continue to support female sailors with the goal of equal representation for men and women in the field.
We’re lucky to be in a time where women have already made quite a lot of history in sailing. While visiting the Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane we learned about Jessica Watson‘s around the world sail. Jessica holds the record for youngest unassisted southern hemisphere circumnavigation*. She’s gone on to get a college degree in Marketing, speaks publicly, works for deckee.com, and has published two books.
Jessica’s boat, Pink Lady, is at the Queensland Maritime Museum.
In Sydney’s Australian National Maritime Museum lies another boat significant to women’s sailing history. Blackmores First Lady is the sailing yacht Kay Cottee captained when she became the first woman to circumnavigate* around the world unassisted and nonstop. Kay went on to write two books and sat as the chair of the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Kay’s boat, Blackmores First Lady, is inside the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Facebook groups are difficult. I belong to many, but none have been so valuable as Women Who Sail. There are many sailing groups out there, but none are as well moderated. I’ve posted several times in other groups and have gotten rude or snarky answers (all from men, unfortunately). Thankfully, when I’ve posted on Women Who Sail, the responses have always been respectful and helpful. I try to assist in the same way, answering questions to the best of my ability. The nearly 15,000 members are supportive and encouraging to all range of sailors.
While some of these women are racers, circumnavigators, and record breakers, most of them are simply women who love to sail, be it in their home waters or on exotic adventures. I have met women all over the world thanks to this group. I can’t say enough about how wonderful it is if you take advantage of it and get yourself out there.
WWS has several subgroups, including Women Who Sail Australia, with nearly 3,000 members, and Women Who Sail Who Write for women who write blogs, articles, or books.
An opportunity I found posted on Women Who Sail Australia was the chance to attend a networking breakfast hosted by Lisa Blair and The Magenta Project. At the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, I sat down with about 30 women sailors and racers to chat about local sailing. The event was targeted to help female sailors find crewing positions on boats who are open to taking female crew.
The Magenta Project regularly posts opportunities on their facebook page for women sailors to apply for crewing opportunities on all-female or mixed-crew boats in major events, such as the Volvo Ocean Race, the Rolex Sydney to Hobart, New Caledonia Groupama Race, and the Maiden Factor project.
Want to read an amazing story and a tear-jerker? Check out how the Maiden Project got started with the help of HM King Hussien I
This year marked the third annual Gathering on the Bay, a conference held at Port Stephens here in Australia. Not only was I thrilled to be able to attend, but I got the privilege of being able to present.
Through the group, I was able to coordinate a ride down from the Boat Works to Port Stephens – an 8-hour drive – with some lovely ladies who I’d never met in person before, Leanne and Judy. When we arrived in Port Stephens, Leanne and I stayed at an Airbnb with three other ladies; my friend Viki Moore that I met in Christchurch, and three other women I hadn’t met before. It was an absolute blast! A big thank you to Leanne for coordinating.
Charlotte opened the Gathering on the Bay. I was thrilled to be able to meet her. Charlotte founded Women Who Sail in 2011. She and her family were rescued from their sailboat in the Pacific Ocean when their youngest daughter got sick. The rescue was highly dramatic and controversial. Charlotte spoke for the first time publicly about the events leading up to the rescue and what it was like. She read excerpts from her book. The writing is excellent, and I’ve recently started supporting Charlotte on Patreon. Her story deserves to be told.
Charlotte had us laughing, had us in tears, and had us in awe. She’s also genuinely down to earth and a nice person. I think about a quote she gave us that inspired her; after a traumatic childhood, she spent her teens living in San Diego with her brother. The gay community gave her a motto that would serve her well in the future: “Kindness is Everything, but Take No Shit.”
I originally met Lisa at the Magenta Project networking event in Sydney, discussed above. All eyes were on Lisa in 2017 when she was in the news. While attempting to circumnavigate Antarctica solo, Lisa was dismasted. She limped into South Africa, made repairs, and set back out and finished her course. Lisa’s presentation solidly convinced me to never sail further south than I have to! This year, Lisa will attempt to set a record for a solo-circumnavigation of Australia.
I also got the chance to sit down with Lisa over lunch one day and hear more about her fundraising efforts and the work that it takes to fund and plan her trips. It’s an amazing amount of work and dedication to furthering the sport for women.
Please join me in supporting Lisa by preordering her book or by donating to support her efforts to provide opportunities to women in sailing.
All three mornings of the conference, my road trip buddy Leanne held a yoga session. Leanne has a program called Yoga 4 Yachties, where she leads yoga sessions during the season, primarily at Musket Cove in Fiji. For many of the women, it was their first time doing yoga, and Leanne was an excellent lead.
Leanne, along with her husband John, also organize the Down Under rallies. Leanne gave the last presentation of the conference about her history with sailing, coming across from the west coast of the states back to their home in Australia.
We first met Viki in Christchurch in 2017. Viki has a great blog called Astrolabe Sailing and presented about sailing the South Island of New Zealand. While certainly not a common destination, Viki’s presentation shared some fantastic photos and covered highlights of the best cruising grounds.
A lot of the presentations focused on extreme situations; rescues at sea, sailing the southern ocean, or severe damage to boats. My presentation was titled “30,000 NM to Australia: a Photographic Journey”. I selected photos of my 20 most favorite destinations and told a short story about each one. I’m very pleased with how the presentation went, and I’m very thankful for the feedback I received from attendees.
There were a lot of hands-on sessions I chose not to participate in, such as coastal navigation and splicing. Seeing as how I’m a licensed captain and had just spent a day splicing my new lifelines, I didn’t think it was beneficial to attend. There were also presentations on diesel engines, provisioning, Marine Rescue Services, and more.
At the WWSA Gathering on the Bay, the revival of the sailing magazine for women, Sistership Magazine, was officially launched. Many of the contributors to the new issue were in attendance. Also in attendance was one of the women who first published the magazine in the 1980s. While I’m not in the first issue, I hope to be in one soon!
Join me by subscribing to Sistership Magazine or buying the latest issue.
I could not be the sailor I am today without my amazingly supportive partner. David has always encouraged me to be his equal on Starry Horizons, whether it’s docking, fixing things, or route planning and sail managing. He’s always encouraged me to do anything I want and helps me when I need it.
If you are a female sailor, I hope you can find the resources helpful to make yourself exactly the sailor you want to be. See you on the water!
*There are requirements for defining a trip as a circumnavigation. The International Sailing Federation declares that the equator must be crossed and a distance of 21,600 miles must be achieved. Jessica didn’t have enough miles in her sail to qualify.