So there we were – 70-odd sailors, not counting partners and presenters – at the first Women Who Sail Australia ‘Gathering’ at Nelson Bay in New South Wales on April 2-3, 2016.
Many of us had met before over sundowners in tranquil anchorages and for coffee up the road from marinas; or had forged friendships online as we made passage through seas that dwarfed us under clouds whipped by fierce wind.
The weekend, structured to inform and entertain us, also served to strengthen those earlier bonds and to form fresh alliances.
Intrepid sailors Jill Henry, Ruth Boydell, Barbara Cole and Linda Frylink Anderson talked about their cruising experiences and passed on the tips and gadgets their experience had demonstrated useful. Record-breaking racer Kristi Foster shared her skill in sail trim and man-overboard procedures. Port Stephens Marine Rescue volunteer Sue Freeman talked about taking boats out in bad weather when things have gone awry.
A few men were invited for presentations – Cruising Helmsman editor Phillip Ross on writing for sailing magazines, Yanmar’s James Bradshaw on maintaining diesel engines, John Hembrow on cruising Pacific islands and NSW Roads and Maritime Services representative Gavin Beck to demonstrate how to choose and service life jackets.
There were presentations for Small Yacht Cruising Club of Pittwater and Caraboat, a caravan-boat hybrid.
Dinner was an opportunity for socialising – as one Dear Husband commented, like sundowners with shoes on. It was followed by a panel discussion, led by circumnavigator Jessica Watson and featuring Linda Frylink Anderson, Kristi Foster and Lisa Blair.
The 70 of us at the Gathering are connected to more than 1,000 women sailors around Australia through the group Women Who Sail Australia.
We are racers and cruisers, day sailors and circumnavigators, fair-weather novices and storm riders. We carry the legacy of those women sailors who inspired us or disappeared without trace into the histories that preceded us, and we look out for the women who will follow us – the young adventurers with salt on their tongue and a free wind stirring in their hearts.
Two young women at the Gathering – Lisa Blair, who plans to be the first woman to sail alone and unassisted around Antarctica (and hopes to break the existing record for the voyage in the process); and Jessica Watson, who sailed herself into Australia’s history by becoming the youngest sailor to circumnavigate solo and unassisted when she was 16 – demonstrated that the future of women and sailing is in good hands.
The Gathering raised $2,536.00 to be shared between Sailors with disAbilities and Marine Rescue Port Stephens.
… there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.- Ratty to Mole in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame