Last weekend, I was part of a fun Blue Water Seminar held at the Essex, CT Yacht Club. The event was put on by Essex native Bob Osborn and was co-supported by the Seven Seas Cruising Association, the Ocean Cruising Club and the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, all of which Bob belongs to. The panel that I moderated had four couples, all very experienced, and the topic was on fitting out a boat and crew for blue water cruising. The panel had many good and useful ideas that all of us appreciated.
What caught my attention in this group, that we selected somewhat at random, was that of the four couples, two of the boats were skippered by the women in the couple, while two men skippered the other two boats. There have always been women who skippered their boats while their partners sailed as mate. And not all couples sailing far and wide actually designate a skipper, although I do contend that there are times aboard when one person has to make critical decisions and the rest of the crew needs to know who that person is and respect their experience and judgement. Even maritime law has a special requirement for vessels to have a master and commander who is responsible for the safety of the ship and crew.
On our boats, Rosie (in the picture) and I share responsibility for all general decisions, while she takes the lead on where and when we go places and communications. But, she defers to me on navigation, boat handling, sail trim, seamanship, the carrying of heavy items and most repairs, especially the repair of engines and heads. In the end, and in a formal or legal sense, I am the skipper and she is the mate. This seems a fairly traditional division of labor. But, obviously, given our experience in Essex, there are plenty of couples who reverse the roles.
How do you and your mate handle the skipper issue? And, have your roles evolved or changed over the years? You can email me at email@example.com.