Boating With Brenda – Switching Hats

brenda-at-the-wheel“He” is the Captain and “She” is the First Mate. At least, that’s the way it seems most of the time, as we seldom see women at the wheel—especially when docking or anchoring. But, it doesn’t have to be that way!


When Doug introduced me to boating in my teens, he was always the Captain and I was always the First Mate, probably because that’s the way it was done back then. The man assumed the responsibilities of the helm and the woman was left with the responsibilities of the rest of the boat and the kids.

Over time, all that has changed, and Doug and I switch hats regularly. When I take the wheel, I am the Captain and Doug becomes my First Mate. This is particularly advantageous when anchoring. I used to be the one negotiating the side decks and taking my anchoring position on the bow ready to lower or raise the anchor. In rough water, this task is more difficult with the boat pitching and rolling in the waves. Now, it’s easy! I take the helm and Doug does the difficult stuff.

We also switch hats while underway. As Captain, using the GPS, I drive the boat from way point to way point. This gives Doug time to coil the lines and put away the fenders, etc. as First Mate.

When it comes to docking, switching hats works well, but what works even better, is Doug’s docking procedure and my FLIPP Line™ step-off method to secure the line. For a First Mate with small children aboard or an injury or illness making it difficult to step off the boat to handle dock lines, the stay-aboard method works best.

Since the heart attack, Doug prefers me to use the stay-aboard docking procedure. I simply flip the FLIPP Line™ over the cleat from the safety of the cockpit. Then, he can do all the rest including the other lines.

Of course, there are hidden benefits in switching hats. You not only get to enjoy it, but you will also be prepared to take the helm in the event of an emergency, or give the Captain a break on long trips. When it comes to the greasy engine room jobs, I don’t like being the Captain, so I leave that for him.

In my book “First Mate 101”, I encourage all First Mates to participate more in boating and switch hats often. Sharing the fun and the work, makes boating a much more enjoyable experience for both parties.

Published in Power Boating Canada Volume 24 Number 3 – Summer 2009

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