Wednesday 17 April 2013

Book Reviewsday Tuesday: "The Perfect First Mate" - Bad Title, Better Book

   "Ain't nobody else can do it like we can."
                                      -Jordin Sparks

       It's time to discuss the elephant in the room:

       Boating is a pretty damn sexist pastime.

       Okay, maybe not as sexist as Augusta National.

       Or Bohemian Grove.

       Or the Vatican.

       But sexist nonetheless...

       ...and it is a kinda sneaky sorta sexism.

       Okay, look, put down the pitchforks and flaming torches and hear me out, then try to tell me I am wrong.

        Look around your  mooring field or marina-  what do you see?

        Lots of boats, owned by couples.


        Who's usually at the helm?  The Captain.

        Who plots the course?  The Captain.

        Who makes the new gear choices?  The Captain.

         Who is always shopping for the next boat?  The Captain.

         Who's yelling?  The Captain.

          Meanwhile, who's hanging fenders, throwing docklines, winching halyards,  fending off the dock when somebody plows into the slip too hot (again), ignoring the yelling, shopping for provisions, stowing the provisions,  packing clothes, unpacking clothes, hanging towels and bathing suits to dry, managing laundry, cooking, passing tools, scrubbing decks, sanding hulls and, most importantly.... tending bar?


         The First Mate.

          It just doesn't sound like a real fifty-fifty partnership, does it?

             The title of this week's Reviewsday Tuesday book doesn't help the cause...

          The Perfect First Mate

                                                                  - image courtesy of

       The subtitle, "A woman's guide to recreational boating," sorta soothes the sting, but, as SWMBO pointed out, when I asked her to help me review this book,
     "If I was in a bookstore looking at a choice of books on boating fundamentals, I'd probably pass on this one, just on basic principle."

      So I picked it up and read it instead.

    (I'm not sure what this says about the equality, or lack thereof, in our personal and boating relationship, but I am sure it says something.)

    It's too bad about the unfortunate title, because,  if you can get past the cover, you discover there's a lot of solid information  packed inside.

    Joy Smith brings some solid credentials to the party.  A long time boater, Ms. Smith now serves as first mate on a Farr 50, Joy For All, and is a Salty Dawg Rally veteran, with a variety of fiction and non-fiction works under her belt.  It quickly becomes obvious she knows her stuff.

Originally published in 1999, The Perfect First Mate is now in it's second edition.  Logically laid out, "...First Mate" is loaded wiht good info for  the novice boater- The introduction is titled "So You've Bought a Boat."   Subsequent chapters demonstrate an exhaustive approach to boating that provides value to more experienced boaters as well, cover everything from stowage to storage to provisioning to pets to hygiene to

   First mate Smith's writing style is breezy, conversational, comprehensible, and deceptively in-depth; there is little jargon, and the information is clearly presented and easy to understand.  For example, want to know how to get rid of mold and mildew and prevent it from coming back?  It's in here, and the author explains not just how to deal with it, but what causes it.

    The author is a sailor, but the information presented is largely applicable to both sail and power boats.

  That breezy writing style is subversive- without directly spelling it out, First Mate Smith makes it clear who really  runs a boat... which maybe why a First Mate is often more correctly known as The Admiral

    If you've just bought a boat or are considering a boat purchase, this is a good place for new boaters of both sexes to start.

    Just get past the cover.

   "Talk the Dock!"







  1. I applaud you for talking about gender and sexism. Maybe another way to accurately describe boating as sexist is that because men make more money than women (often for the same job), that men are able to own more luxury goods like sailboats than women. We live in a sexist world (think about who has power, on average, in situations of rape, political representation, domestic violence, the workplace). Are there men out there reading this that are "man enough" to work more diligently towards gender justice?

  2. Ultimately the relationship dynamics governs wjat happens on a boat. On our boat, I am the captain of record, decisions are 50-50 and my husband is more likely to do dishes, hang towels and bathing suits than I am. I run things on deck because I am physically more capable than my husband. Speaking of sexism, you keep referring to the man as captain and the woman as first mate...or worse ADMIRAL?