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Boating—The Last Bastion of Manhood!

I am somewhat scared to begin this article–but I feel–as a manly man–that this needs to be set down on paper (or in this case electronic pulses) for the sake of posterity. I want it to be noted that these are my thoughts only, I do not speak for all men and I want to start by posing a question.

Is boating the last bastion of manhood–true manhood?

Let’s start with a little background as I examine this question. My writing hero for boaters is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon named Dick Bradley. He wrote a column for Motor Boating and Sailing magazine from 1977 to 1983, and his articles are collected and available in “On Board With Bradley,” a Hearst Marine book, published in 1983. I highly recommend this book as required reading if you are the captain of a boat of any size. If you are already a Bradley fan (he really did change my views on boating and life) you will know that he angered a few feminists and others along the way. He had a different way of looking at things and I think I may be channeling his views. My goal here is not to make anyone mad– just to get people thinking. I will tell you right now my wife is already counseling me (heavily) on this effort.

Let’s go back to my question—Is boating the last bastion of manhood? If you are a cruiser, I want you to take notice of what is going on as a boat comes into port to dock or if it is in the process of setting an anchor. These are two very different situations with two very different results.

Let’s start first with coming into port and docking! Who is running the boat and who is working with the lines? I don’t care if it is a 21-foot cuddy cabin or a 50-foot trawler where the couple is wearing headsets (by the way my wife and I make fun of those people–they should shout at each other out in the open like we do) the man is running the boat and the woman is handling the lines. Life is as it should be.

I will admit that usually I am sitting on the sundeck of Parrot Dice, our 43-foot Albin Trawler, as I am examining occurrences of this type. I may be enjoying a refreshing adult beverage. I will also admit that I am essentially focusing on the individual handling the lines more closely than the captain. I keep this focus until the captain runs into the dock or the shouting becomes embarrassing. (I guess headsets would be helpful here!) Here are the key points of this observation–the man is running the boat and the woman is handling the lines! Life is as it should be.

I know there are people who will immediately disagree with me that boating is the last bastion of manhood. Let’s handle these objections–yes there are some exceptions, sometimes I see the woman running the boat and the man handling the lines at the dock. With all my heart I want to justify this but I just don’t understand it–what is going on here? I don’t want to watch the man handling the lines.

Everything, at first, seems normal but the universe is reversed–the first thing I do is check how many refreshing adult beverages I have had. If it is more than one, I stop drinking and attribute the sighting to that. If I am only on my first beverage, then a closer observation is called for. Here is my conclusion: I have no explanation! Help me! I would look at age, but I am 59, so I know age is not a factor! The good news is how often does this really happen? (For those of you who disagree with me or now don’t like me, what, one out of a hundred?) I did not say the man was handling the boat in a competent manner, I did not say he did a good job–my point is he is running the boat.

Let me face the next personal onslaught–women boaters are great–I see them all the time. Women can definitely and expertly handle both a boat and a docking situation. There’s no doubt about it. It’s the absolute truth! What I am saying, is that 99 times out of 100–when a man is involved–he demands to run the boat. Yes, he may be awful at it, but he demands to run the boat! You have to admit this is something that isn’t difficult to agree on.

Here is a little self-disclosure. My wife taught me how to boat. She grew up boating, and when we got our first 19-foot boat she was essential in helping me learn to boat in a safe and competent manner. But I must tell you, I immediately went for the throttles, not the lines. I could not help myself.

Let’s now look at the second situation. The examination and analysis of anchoring is a much tougher situation. What holds true for docking does not immediately hold true for anchoring. Often I see the woman running the boat and the man handling the anchor. That is the case with Parrot Dice. My wife runs the boat and I set the anchor. What factors can explain this reversal of nature?

I think the size of the boat plays a major factor and I have decided that 35 feet may be the basis of change. I postulate that if the boat is 35 feet or less, the man will be running the boat with the woman setting the anchor. I also postulate that headsets appear when the boat goes over 50 feet! For a boat that is more than 35 feet, I often see the woman running the boat and the man working on setting the anchor. As I mentioned earlier, that is the way it works in my case. The deciding factor here is brute strength–we have a very heavy anchor and it really is my job to work it.

For those of you who now hate me, I will now attempt to redeem myself. As I have written this article, I have continually asked my wife to proof it and tell me what she thinks. I don’t want to say she can be brutal but she is ready to point out if I am incorrect on things. A manly man should always be attached to a strong and intelligent woman and both request and welcome constructive criticism.

After reading this article she has asked me to point out– yes, I am the captain but she is the Admiral. For proof of this fact she has requested that we seek concurrence from our friends on the dock. They concur. I will admit that is the case. What do you all think?

J. Ryker Hughes is an Assistant Professor of Business at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland. He has been cruising on the Chesapeake Bay for the past 32 years since being introduced to boating by his wife Barbara. They cruise out of Havre de Grace, Maryland on their 43-foot Albin Trawler, Parrot Dice.