It’s Your Boat Too, (Paradise Cay Publications, Inc, 234pp, $14.95) by Suzanne Geisemann is a practical guide for becoming a savvy and safe participant in the sailing experience instead of ballast or at best a line handler/galley slave. The author is a positive-thinking ex-Navy officer who cruises—and alternates captaincy of their 46-foot sloop—with her husband. On land she teaches sailing and presents motivational seminars. It’s easy to picture her on the podium—athletic and worldly, blessed with a go-getter-attitude and a great sense of humor.
These attributes come through loud and clear in her book. In the early chapters she makes a thoroughly rational argument that women can do—virtually everything that needs doing on a boat and further that participation increases enjoyment and ups the safety factor by 100 percent. (Needless to say, she is preaching to the choir in my case even though I have yet to make the transition—ask my husband why.)
In the first section of the book, Giesemann addresses attitude, various expectation levels, fear and safety (“Mother Nature…She’s a tough old broad…”) and the fact that “many parts of the sport are too intimidating to practice in public.” Like docking in a marina, maybe? Using examples from her own and fellow female cruisers’ experiences, Giesemann illustrates over and over again the difference in gratification level between being a lump and a participant. “The wind picked up to 15 knots and the boat heeled with toe rail in the water—all with Dahleen at the helm…She thoroughly enjoyed herself and experienced the intense pride of being a real part of the crew.” (Dahleen, a former lump had taken sailing and boat handling lessons from Giesemann.)
Part II addresses “the basics” including weather, rules of the road and the practical day to day care and feeding of a motor-sailor. Without burdensome detail she covers the necessary survival skills from being intimately familiar with the boat's internal systems (like head maintenance) to knot tying and anchoring. The breezy overview demystifies just about every hose and clamp, block and line, electrical and mechanical boogie-object on a boat. Giesemann’s can-do attitude prevails in all the practical examples, as when she decides, knowing next to nothing, to replace the electric motor on the head pump while her husband is away on business for the day.
Part III, “Under Way” discusses the aspect of teamwork. Acknowledging the fact that only one person can be “in charge” at a time, she suggests alternating tasks to keep skills honed through practice. She insists that “to be a contributing member of the team, you first have to know what you’re doing.” But communication is the basis of teamwork and the bugaboo there is “that if your partner is male, he may not speak the same language as you do to begin with.” She suggests being specific, using hand signals when hearing is compromised (“don’t yell at me, Joe Smith,” my mother yelled back when she crewed in the first and only sailboat race of her life in the 1960s… “You’re not my husband!”) And equally important, says Giesemann, discuss the steps of the upcoming task before hand. Then, “there’s no confusion, no quibbling and no surprises.”
Appendices provide a variety of resources for women to improve their skills, attitudes and opportunities to sail (and or motor) and enjoy. Giesemann has done a great service to all the water-loving women who harbor a (not-so) secret envy or resentment toward their male boating partners. She shows you how to get out and do it!