For the last 4 years of my life I have been working on sailboats professionally. Most of that time has been spent working in the day charter industry in both the Virgin Islands and Hawaii. In that same time frame, Bravo came out with a TV Show called Below Deck. Now, just as The Real World didn’t actually portray what it’s like to have roommates, this “reality” TV show does not come close to summing up my life. Unlike the catty, bratty and pathetic girls on that show (which I’ve only seen two episodes of), I have been surrounded by nothing but badass women on all the boats I’ve worked. If you’d like a small glimpse into what life is REALLY like for us girls who work on day charter boats, here are some odd facts that seem totally unique to this profession.
- We are mechanically inclined. Girls who work on boats know a thing or two about mechanical issues and engines – we are very unlikely to be the damsel in distress that you find on the side of the road broken down. We have become attuned to the way engines should sound, we know how to check our own oil, we can troubleshoot basic issues and we make sure to do regular maintenance and oil changes.
- We have horrible tan lines. Whether it’s because we’re required to wear shorts all day or simply because we always opt to wear X-Back bikinis, we’re constantly walking around with funky tan lines. If you see a girl with a mean watch tan, she may be one of us.
- We never know where our day will take us. Going out on a sailboat all day for work ensures that no two days will be alike. Even if we have a set schedule and itinerary, the weather has the ultimate say. We learn to adapt and adjust. When people ask us about our destination for the day we’re able to say profound things like, “wherever the wind will take us!”
- We’re not afraid of puke. Just like new mothers, we see it daily. Unlike dealing with infants, this vomit comes from grownups. Bigger beast = bigger mess.
- We are problem solvers. If you think you work with a lot of moving parts, try working on a boat. Not only are we trying to care for and serve our guests, we also have to worry about their safety and the safety of the boat. A girl who works on a boat has a plan B, C and D thought up before plan A even comes close to failing.
- We don’t like sand. Sand is the enemy. We have spent days with sand caked into open wounds, in our drinks, and in our bathing suits. We spend all day on the boat attempting to get rid of sand, so when we see people sitting on the beach without a towel – it’s our own version of a nightmare.
- We unwittingly use nautical terms or signals in our daily lives. No, we don’t call the bathroom the head just to sound cool. The trick here is that we don’t do it on purpose – it just slips out at odd times. We may flash an “ARE YOU OK” hand signal at our friend across the bar to see if she needs to be saved from the guy she’s talking to. Let’s be honest though, when it comes to identifying a part on a car, referring to the forward starboard corner is much more effective than saying the front passenger side.
- We use salacious innuendos by accident. This happens all day long and most men we work with don’t even flinch. We’re always talking about spreaders, seacocks, spankers, breast lines, the cockpit or head. Whether it’s a remark on how firm the dinghy is or how hard we are getting thrusted on to the dock, the “that’s what she said” moments are endless. Guests often look at us like we’re crazy, but to an extent this dialogue is unavoidable.
- We support other women. There are many tough girls in the world who don’t like other girls. Female sailors are not these women. We see the value in other females and we want to share our knowledge to help one another, ultimately elevating our status in a male dominated industry. Sailor girls are usually secure with themselves and aren’t trying to prove anything. If you share a love for the ocean, you’ve already got one thing in common!
- We can let it go. Literally and figuratively. If something goes overboard while we’re sailing, it now belongs to Davy Jones. We often tell guests, “We won’t turn around for a hat unless you’re still in it!” At the end of the day, we can also drop all the bad things that went on. Sometimes we’ll have extremely unpleasant guests. Even if we’re surrounded by mean people all day, we’re also surrounded by unimaginable beauty. The good will always outweigh the bad.
- We can work absurdly long hours for absurdly small amounts of money. Sure, a 4:30 call time for a 6am trip followed by a dinner sail, no worries! Oh, and you’re going to pay me a fixed rate instead of hourly? No overtime, no problem! We are your tour guides, your lifeguards, your naturalists, your snorkel instructors, your photographers, your waitresses, your bartenders, your historians – we raise the sails, we haul the anchors, we save people from drowning, and we carry 5 drinks at a time in 6 foot seas…and at the end of the day people forget to tip us! This is NOT a job that will get us rich – passion has to play a role or we all would’ve walked away a long time ago.
No matter how you cut it, sailor girls are tough, independent and awesome. They are passionate about life, they are adventurous and they love being outdoors. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these women in your life, don’t let her go!
Please comment with anything I may have missed!