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Is It Really That Complicated?

Unwritten Boating Rules

“No way am I leaving you the keys. You’ll never be able to figure it out anyway – gotta go,” he said, as he slipped on his flips and sauntered (or was it a swagger?) out the door to run a morning charter.

I was left to wait . . until he returned . . . to use the boat.

You see, having come from the city to live on this island, I had no idea that women, “couldn’t figure out how to drive motorboats.” In what was basically a non-conversation, my hippie drop-out (and yet inexplicably attractive at the time) boyfriend, made it cyrstal clear in his monosyllabic overly communicative way, “ Chicks . . . do . . . not. . . drive. . .boats”

I could only infer, from his total inability to defend this notion, that driving a boat really must be very complicated since he CERTAINLY wasn’t suggesting that women weren’t . . . smart enough? strong enough? able enough?

Enviable Job Title with Perks?

When we finally got off the dock that day, the second part of this little boating arrangement was revealed. The “captain” drives the boat, and the girlfriend/ passenger  gets to be the “mate.” This honor allows the mate to pretty much do everything on board EXCEPT drive the boat.

She fetches drinks (which can be a full time job depending on just how salty the captain is), she manages the anchor, she ties up dock lines, she retrieves anything the captain wants out of stuffed compartments. She is like a maid wearing a bikini.

But the job gets even better. The captain can blame the slaving mate for any boating mistakes he makes! So if the docking is sloppy, if the anchor gets stuck, if he runs into something or runs aground – the mate is to blame!

In a nutshell,  men are in charge of boats. Women wait around until the men agree to go boating. On board, the women are the passengers and maids and the men drive the boats! Under no circumstances does the captain give up the helm (or get his own beer).

This system had me baffled. As I look back at that time, I really can’t believe it took me so long to put my foot down – was it youth? Rum? Island infatuation? Was I really blinded by love for a guy with bleach blond hair who never questioned the absurdity of these unwritten rules?  Did I really believe that driving a boat was so hard that I couldn’t figure it out?

Know Thy Captain

This whole situation came to a screeching halt after being forced to spend a night hard aground on board, in the pouring rain. A fabulous day of diving and exploring turned into sheer misery right about the time the captain plowed his way to high ground on a seagrass bed. Oh silly me, the captain is never at fault. As the night wore on and the beer cooler was emptied, my sage leader made it very clear who was to blame in this navigational mess – me, of course – the mate.

If you ever want to know how someone is really wired, sit in the rain, hard aground, over an empty beer cooler for the entire night.

Needless to say, the romance with my island man and his crap island notions about boating ended that night.

And it is surely needless to say that no, driving a motor boat  isn’t complicated at all.  Forward makes it go forward, reverse makes it go reverse. There are no brakes.

My advice to island girls – get your own boat. Be your own captain.


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