Ever wanted to drive a boat? Who cares whether it’s summer or not. Just find some water and get yourself aboard. Driving a boat is some kind of power and we women should be at the helm. Full stop.
Watching Jason Bateman leave a wake of trouble behind him as he drives his boat across the lake in Netflix’s Ozark got me thinking. Along with the half-wits and flesh-eating buzzards that populate the backwoods where Bateman’s character and family have fled Chicago to launder drug money, the other stars of this show are, believe it or not, the boats.
Boats are beautiful beings. They symbolize power, escape, and communion with nature and spirituality. Ozark made this island girl (okay, Manhattan Island) want to make some waves, and I can tell you it’s an experience that every brazen woman should do at least once in her life.
Launching from Chelsea Piers, the hanger-sized sports complex by the Hudson river, I boarded a Sea Ray with dual 250 HP (horse power) Mercury Verado outboard engines attached to the stern like two gas-fuelled cojones. Captain Travis headed us toward Lady Liberty, carefully avoiding Circle Lines and ferries on New York’s busy coastal highway. As the engines hummed quietly behind us, we flew across water in what felt like a convertible race car—my hair whipping and neh-nehing in the wind.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, nearly half of all Canadians went boating in 2016, but just one third of them were women. Why the gender water gap? Self-styled “Botanista” Lisa Almeida, who owns the Freedom Boat Clubs in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, says we need to throw antiquated stereotypes overboard.
It’s time to retire the myth that boating is not a woman’s game. She tells women: You can do this! You can get behind the helm! When they do, they immediately feel empowered and they take their girlfriends out for boat trips instead of waiting for some man to drive them.
Lisa bought her first boat when she was 24 after breaking up with her boyfriend. They used to go boating together all the time and he wanted to sell his boat, but she didn’t want to give it up going out on the water just because they were splitting up. Makes sense. She was a boater.
Jen Stacy, 40, who has been captaining boats since she was seven years old, learned how to drive on her father’s lap while growing up in Cleveland near Lake Erie. He taught her the principles and that there’s a lot of technique to it, like adjusting to the winds and the current. She bought her first boat, a 19’ Wallcraft, at age 14 using the tip money she made as a waitress during the summer. When she was 25, she bought a 37’ Flybridge Silverton, and spent every weekend island hopping. Fun, huh?
Unfortunately, the old wives’ tale that women aren’t good drivers still sticks to some old-school salts. Jen was pulling into an island dock with her Silverton and all the men came running in a panic to protect their boats. She pulled in perfectly. Afterwards, all the women clapped—they had faith in her.
In addition to the powerful feeling that women get when taking the helm, couples who are able to take on the roles of both captain and first-mate are better able to navigate the inevitable ebb and flow of a marriage or relationship, it turns out. Jen says that being a captain makes her a better mate. When her husband is driving or docking, she knows exactly what he needs at that moment as a member of the crew, and vice versa. It makes you work better as a team.
When asked what she found most exciting about playing Bateman’s moll wife in Ozark, actress Laura Linney told Collider.com: All the stuff on the water, driving boats, and the real outdoor life that these people now have after living in a place like Chicago—it’s liberating in way. I’m a New York City kid, so I haven’t spent a lot of time on large bodies of water. I found it really exhilarating.
Tips to Remember When Driving a Boat
1. Take a boating course.
It’ll help you learn the rules and feel confident that you know what you’re doing.
2. Find someone who can give you some training time on the water.
One thing you want to learn is how to dock. Joy Sticks, similar to the kind a 7-year-old uses to play video games, apparently make docking a sea breeze.
3. Rent different kinds of boats before buying.
The biggest mistake newbies make is buying the wrong type of boat or a used one that breaks down.
4. Join a boat club.
Unless you enjoy swabbing the decks, there is no maintenance or cleaning if you are a member of a boat club. Plus, there’s always people on call for you, should you need them.
Click here for more boating tips.
Jodie Gould is an award-winning writer and author of 10 books, including HIGH: Six Principles for Guilt-Free Pleasure and Escape (Hazelden). She is a frequent contributor to Brazen Woman.