Editorial November 2007 Issue

Where Have All the Bearded Sailors Gone?

Careful readers of Practical Sailor may note an obvious shortage of grumpy old men scratching their heads over sailing gear in this month’s issue. We have contributing editor David Gill brewing a variety of cleaning acids on page 27 ("Boat Bath"), but most of the articles are illustrated primarily with photos of boats, sailing gear, and perhaps most notably, women.

In John Spier’s power tools report on page 31, we have his wife, Kerri Spier, aloft and handling one of his recommended cordless tools, a Makita angle drill. And in our analysis of the new Torqeedo electric outboard on page 18, we have Associate Editor Ann Key enduring a South Florida bake-athon and waiting for the battery to peter out. And in our test of remote microphones on page 13, instead of the familiar mug of our electronics guru Al Herum, we have his more photogenic girlfriend, Patti Schrader demonstrating the function of the Standard Horizon unit.

This was not by design, but simply a matter of course. Like sailing itself, Practical Sailor, has been, and will always be, a family affair. Just as our voyages are arranged according to the tradewinds, our testers’ home lives often revolve around Practical Sailor’s projects. So, it is inevitable that spouses, chidren, cousins, and uncles (or if the need is dire, the nearest innocent passersby) get coaxed into holding a winch handle or boat hook so we can measure it, whack it with a hammer, or snap a picture.

To those who still cling to the idea that the ocean, boats and all things between—Practical Sailor included—belong only to men, I make no apologies. If the exploits of the 16th-century pirate Anne Bonney did not put seafaring male chauvinism to rest, the recent feats of solo-racing legends Ellen MacArthur and Isabelle Autissier surely have.

Today, women rank among the world’s best sailors. Yet, as any woman who attended this year’s Annapolis Boat Show will tell you, the sailing arena caters primarily to people such as myself—men under the delusion that we are either Jimmy Buffett, or a reincarnated Irish sea captain (depending upon our latitude at the time). Stroll the booths at Annapolis, one of the nation’s largest gatherings of sailboats and marine gear, and you’ll find no shortage of brass belt buckles, manly sea boots, and jaunty caps. Meanwhile, a search for a safety harnesses, sailing gloves, or a life jacket that fits a petite woman will send you zig-zagging vainly through the aisles.

Against these odds women still find their way on to boats, and it is a good thing they do. Otherwise the world’s reefs, atolls, and rockbound coasts would surely be populated by shipwrecked sailors drowning their sorrows in margaritas or Jameson (depending upon the latitude).

To those people who worry that Practical Sailor is being borne off to some palm-fringed, glossy-mag isle where fingernails are always clean, do not fear. I can assure you that there is no shortage of balding testers lurking around our workshop, and they will slink back into the photos soon enough.

In the meantime, this issue presents an opportunity to offer up this thought. In this month of Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to the friends and family who indulge in our maritime ambitions, making sure our good little ship steers clear of trouble . . . and ensuring that the world will never be short of Irish sea captains.

-Editor Darrell Nicholson

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In