Sexism Afloat

One day I called in at the local yacht club on the Gold Coast to see if any yachts were looking for crew. I soon had an invitation to sail for Captain John, on his sleek 35-foot racing boat called Nice One.

Excited about my first yacht race in decades, I turned up early on race night to help prepare the boat. Since the races only lasted about 90 minutes, I was surprised to see some of the crew members loading boxes of beer on board.

I put my concerns aside as we headed out into a moderate breeze. I was so happy to be sailing again.

The gun went off and we were racing. Nice One healed over and sliced through the waves with a pleasant turn of speed.

Before long the crewmembers were handing out the beer. Almost immediately the conversation turned to women and quickly went downhill from there. The way women were portrayed in groups of men was not new to me. I am no saint, but it always turned my stomach.

Unlike my Sexism on the River experience in America, I was not in charge, so I did not challenge the men on their female degrading language. Nevertheless, the race was tainted by the experience, and I decided I would not sail with them again.

Again, this type of incident created conflict in me because Captain John had been friendly and kind, an action inconsistent with his tolerating the crew degrading of women. Here was a further example of the masculinity paradox.

I was over 70 years old at the time and despite societal shifts in attitude about women’s equity, I was annoyed that the degrading of women by men had changed so little.

After a few weeks, I signed on with a new boat, but not before I had discussed the misogyny incident with the captain and gained his assurance he would never allow anything like that to happen on his yacht. His name was also John, he was an eye doctor, and his boat was jokingly called Aqueous Humour.  I had many great races with him and his crew.

Some years later, I became friends with a retired doctor who lived on our island. He helped me build an outrigger canoe that we called the Survivor Ship. Captain Pip and the Survivor Ship was used for promoting our cancer patient advocacy services.

For a while Dr Greg and I would sail in the Wednesday night club races on his beautiful wooden classic sailboat. We had many enjoyable races together until he moved away.