Barb Thomson (left) and her friends get set to sail. Photo submitted

BOATING WITH BARB: Boating is not a gender-specific activity

Imagine this scenario: you and your husband attend a boater’s education program.

Two posters with big arrows divide the class: men to the right, ladies to the left. The men’s poster shows a steely-eyed man at the helm of a beautiful sailboat, heeled over, white sails full against a blue sky. The women’s poster is a picture of a casserole. The men’s poster lists the courses: pleasure craft operators card (PCOC), and safe boating (navigation), and VHF marine radio licensing (ROC). The women’s poster: Recipes for the Sea! Imagine that. Imagine if your husband fell off the back of the boat, the only skill you have is a recipe for disaster.

Seamanship is not defined by gender, although traditionally, powerfully, it has been. Locally, a group of women in the Cape Lazo Power and Sail Squadron decided to offer educational courses for women, taught by women. Calling themselves Sirens of the Salish Sea, the group meets once a month, and is open to women of all ages, interest and skill level. Their intent is to offer a casual and open forum for questions and learning. Most of all, to celebrate the empowering benefits of knowledge and skill when you step onto a boat, with or without a man at the helm.

Last summer, I took our own sailboat out with three women friends, and for the first time, left my husband behind on the Comox dock. After a thorough safety drill with my non-sailing friends, we left the dock with my heart in my throat. We had a light wind crossing the Strait of Georgia, and to the everlasting thrill of my friends, we raised the sails and shut off the motor. After that, there was only the wind, the water, the boat and four women looking up, smiling. Imagine that.


Upcoming Cape Lazo Squadron Courses:

• Pleasure craft operator certificate (PCOC), date to be announced:

• VHF marine radio operators certificate ROC(M), March 28, April 5 (Register early, self-study prior to course date is required)

To register for these courses, email

For more information on the Cape Lazo Squadron, visit the Facebook page:

For more information on the Sirens of the Salish Sea, email

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