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The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Women and the Realities of Voyaging

Tara Donley

Solstice Tide
Van de Stadt 36'
May 8th, 2018

On April 21, 2018, a group of about 20 like-minded women of various ranges of experience gathered in Nanoose for the Women and the Realities of Voyaging Seminar.  The seminar was organized by BCA members Kathy Swangard and Agathe Gaulin, with the intent to encourage women to become actively involved in the voyaging lifestyle.

The morning was a presentation by Liza Copeland, who spoke on the topic of the realities and routines of voyaging.  Always a wonderful presenter, Liza used tales from her and her husband’s circumnavigation to illustrate the realities that must be considered before heading to sea.  Topics included planning, provisioning, weather, safety, seasickness, meal preparation while underway, clearance into new ports, on-board storage and, perhaps most importantly, recognizing the necessity of a mutually respectful relationship with all crew while together 24 hours a day in a small space.  We discussed the importance of having proper paperwork for all crew, knowing what is required to check into a new port and completing a final safety check before leaving the last one. Liza stressed the adventure of shopping in new places, discovering how to use the local produce and recognizing that often you will not be walking into one big store to find everything you want, in brands that you recognize.  You may be travelling from store to store to find everything you need – and don’t get me started on how the meat might be presented! Her presentation raised a number of questions and ideas that would be discussed later in the day.

Lunch break was an opportunity for each participant to suggest useful passage lunches and snacks; leading to discussions about the best foods to avoid sea-sickness, the importance of grab and go snacks in the case of rough weather and even ideas as to what were the best bowls to eat out of while underway.

After lunch, Agathe Gaulin led the group in exercises meant to encourage each of us to consider what strengths we might be bringing to the crew for long-distance cruising.  After this exercise, the group was split into three smaller groups, where the participants were encouraged to discuss the fears that we had about going offshore, and to further work to determine what steps we might take now to make a future trip easier.  Topics raised included lack of confidence in fellow crew, lack of confidence in ourselves, pirates, weather, docking, and the fear of having our partner take ill and be unable to assist in getting the boat to a safe port. The smaller groups joined back together to finish the day, and discussed how to prepare for storms – having a good source for weather information and knowing how to interpret it, knowing what sail plan works for your boat and watching for squalls on radar.

We wrapped up the day with some wine and appies and further conversation.

The participants for the day ranged from “Doners” to those who were actively planning to leave in the next few months, to those who were working on a 3-5 year plan and those who were very new to sailing and were looking to gain some ownership of their experience on board.  It was that broad range of experience that led to the most dynamic conversations. I don’t think anyone left believing that they had not learned anything from the day, and many of us left realizing how much work was truly involved in prepping for a passage.


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