Ladies-Summer Awaits!

Elizabeth Jolin- Island Jane Magazine


• “Are you kidding? I can’t pull up this anchor – it is way too heavy.”

• “I will never be able to back this trailer down the ramp and get the boat on it.”

• “I can’t dock this boat to save my soul.”

• “You drive, I can’t figure out the chart.”


• “Can you pull the anchor since I would really like to finish eating my sandwich?”

• “Can you back the trailer and pull the boat out? Thanks for the great day on the water but I’m ready to go home and take a shower.

• I am going to die of embarrassment if I have to dock this boat in front of all these people!

• I could figure out how to read this chart, but it is way easier for you to do it, and I would prefer to drink my beer.

Yup – guilty. I am totally guilty of saying (and thinking) all of these things!

But summer is right around the corner – and this kind of thinking means that WE are staying at the dock!

My love affair with boating started when I was a kid. Time would stand still for the family as we sported about the lake, laughing, swimming, and taking a break from our land lubbing existence. Dad was at the helm and somehow this “man in charge of the boat” notion became ingrained in my mind.

It didn’t dawn on me for years that I might question this role playing on board. I loved being a passenger on board – loved lounging about, being the first one to jump in the water, napping, fishing, and generally having zero responsibility other than to simply have fun – what’s not to love about that?

As I grew older it never dawned on me to question my own words when I exclaimed, “I can’t, I don’t know how, and I won’t.”

In almost every other area of my life I was independent and in charge, except when it came to my favorite way to recreate!

Three things happened that snapped me out of playing my role in the little script that I had written for myself.

I got completely annoyed with always having to wait for my significant other to take the boat out. I reached the end of my limit with orders being barked at me from the helm station. And the last straw was when I saw my life pass before my eyes during a blinding lightning storm as we endured it while hard aground after that same significant other couldn’t exactly figure out how to read the chart and promptly landed us high and dry on top of a flat for the night.

It was the lightening storm that made me realize a little soul searching might be in order – As the thunder reverberations were pounding in my heart, I realized that I likely would have no soul left to search if I continued to boat with my “hands off” attitude!

Soul searched, my only solution was to say, in terms of taking the helm, “Oh, just give me the helm. Just let me do this.” And slowly but surely, my “limitations” were thrown out the window.

Was the anchor too heavy? Of course not, the boat wasn’t the Titanic! It was a 25’ run-about. Someone along the way showed me how to use my engine to help lift it. Drive toward it, put the engine in neutral, walk forward and pull in excess line, cleat off the line and go back to the helm station. Do this until you are right above the anchor and the lift is easy. And if we were motoring about in the Titanic – well the winch system should be checked and double checked before exiting the harbor. Script – crumpled up and thrown out.

Trailering? I will probably never change my mind about how inconvenient I think backing a boat down a ramp is, BUT, it just takes practice. If the tradeoff is never going boating because I can’t back the darn thing down the ramp and people have to wait while I back it up? Well, I will choose to go to the ramp every time. Script – rip it in two.

Dying of embarrassment? Not going to happen. And if you ever sit at a waterfront restaurant and watch the entertainment of people docking, you will be cured of this notion. Seventy-five percent of “captains” would perish at the helm if docking embarrassment was a killer. Time on the water and practice will cure this limitation. Script – burn it.

Reading a chart? I can read a map in the car, so why wouldn’t I be able to read a chart of the water? And dare I say that a GPS is even easier? This is a matter of spending time with the charts and the GPS to get familiar with using them. Problems arise when boaters forget that they don’t need to use these tools. Script – delete.

I deleted about a thousand other self-imposed limitations as I took the helm more and more.


Captain Elizabeth Jolin owns She’s at Sea, a Boat Handling Course for Women. She has been chartering and teaching women to boat in Islamorada for the past 20 years. Contact her at to comment, ask boating questions or to suggest article topics. She would love to hear from you.

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