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Vancouver Island Fleet: Women's Offshore Seminar

Connie Morahan, VI Fleet Coordinator

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Peterson 36 Cutter
March 25th, 2017

The number of women who have strong sailing skills and hands-on experience with maintaining and repairing boats is growing. Still, many women who are preparing to go offshore feel they are running as fast as they can to catch up to their partners’ sailing skills and to become less dependent on their partners for technical know-how.

These were some of the concerns shared by the women of VI Fleet who expressed interest in an offshore seminar for women only. We asked a few of BCA’s more experienced female sailors for ideas on what to cover in such a seminar. They suggested that even though it’s comforting to learn about practical aspects of boats and offshore voyaging in a women-only environment, it might be more powerful to focus on expanding personal comfort levels and addressing personal challenges regarding sailing.

We were particularly fortunate this year to have three experienced facilitators as members of VI Fleet – Georgette Duhaime, Agathe Gaulin and Stefa Katamay – who worked with me to develop a seminar that would explore the strengths women bring to the offshore dream and how to overcome the challenges. Through a mix of short presentations and small and large group work, the facilitators and participants would share ideas and information which would lead to individual action plans and a support network to prepare them for offshore voyaging.

In addition to the facilitators, eight women from VI Fleet participated in the six-hour seminar on February 4, 2017. They identified what they were comfortable with regarding sailing, and also what they were concerned about when sailing in local waters and offshore. The areas of greatest concern were docking, sail handling/reefing, engine maintenance/mechanical failures, anchoring, lack of sleep and fears of medical mishaps. Participants were introduced to a model of comfort zones, in which some areas of discomfort offer a challenge and learning opportunity while recognizing that others are seen as excessively risky. A reluctance to venture into the challenge/learning zone will lead to our individual comfort zones becoming progressively smaller, a process which already happens naturally with aging. The participating women then brainstormed ideas for overcoming the challenges they had identified.

Voyaging is not only about sailing and boats, but also about opportunities to pursue personal interests like photography, music, writing, languages and so many more. Participants spent some time identifying the skills and interests that they can contribute to enriching their own offshore sailing experience. There was discussion of learning styles as a lead-in to developing individual action plans, and participants recognized themselves and their partners among the approaches presented. Some of us prefer to watch before we do, and others do before too much thinking about it! Recognize yourself? If you are interested, you can read more about learning styles on the Business.com website.

A model of learning styles.

As part of their individual action plans, some Fleet women will attend the WOW Boating Seminar on April 8, 2017 or other BCA courses to enhance their knowledge and get hands-on learning in some of their identified challenge areas. A list of resources for women was developed by the facilitators and shared with all the women of the VI Fleet.

The opportunity to talk and share experiences with each other in a supportive environment was as valuable for the participants as the more structured small and large group sessions. There was time for this during lunch and the happy hour after the seminar, to which the women brought food typical of what they would prepare on their sailboats. Great food, great company, an exhilarating day!

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