First Mate - A Woman's Perspective

By: Marinetrader

My wife Mary is the First Mate of the trawler, the Patricia Ann. I jokingly call her the Admiral because any decision by me, the Captain, can be overruled by her but we are usually a good team and in agreement.

A yacht is a small city afloat. There are at least two power generation systems, both alternating and direct currents and maybe a wind and solar system on some boats, a waste treatment system, hotel accommodations to allow the crew to sleep and rest, food preparation systems (electrical or propane), food storage systems (freezers and refrigeration), water systems to allow for bathing and cooking, navigational systems to allow the yacht to move about and even entertainment systems with movies and concerts.

Yes, a yacht is a rather complex system. And running a boat is a team effort it would be very difficult for one person to handle and monitor everything.

A First Mates role is to do anything that the Captain cannot, either determined by skill, preference, availability or all three. The First Mate's role is absolutely critical for safe and enjoyable cruising.

As First Mate, Mary stows everything down below when we are getting ready to cruise (anything that can fall and break while underway). She also handles the lines when leaving the dock. She makes sure to hang those lines in their proper place once we get underway. Our trawler, the Patricia Ann is always ship shape and clutter is NOT an option. While we are cruising to our destination, she is tasked with reading paper charts while I am operating the boat and navigating with the electronic chart plotter and radar. Her role is to navigate and confirm the paper charts data for the Captain whos using the electronic version; call it a backup system. We rarely go without both paper and electronic charts.

When we reach our destination, she handles the anchor, allowing the Captain to set the hook (anchor) at which time she fastens the bridle. If we take our dinghy ashore, the Captain runs that the same as he does Patricia Ann and the First Mate handle the lines. Its just a lot easier on a 10 boat than a 44 boat! When we are ready to leave our anchorage, she again handles the hook, washes the chain and anchor off and secures the security pin. When we arrive back at our slip, she again handles the lines while the Captain guides Patricia Ann right where she should be.

I guess another way to look at it is the First mate is actually the Captains assistant. Some women might have a problem with that but my First mate doesnt. We know couples whose roles are reversed whatever works!

Another very important first mate duty is to plan meals and provision as small yachts dont have dedicated chefs. We both do the actual shopping but my First Mate gets to plan everything. She does enjoy that part and loves the shopping even more! We both enjoy cooking I am the grill-king and Mary is the galley slave, just kidding. She plans healthy, tasty and easy meals as we dont want to spend hours in the galley when there are islands to explore! You can read some of our favorite recipes on the website.

In a clam shell, the Captain on our boat is responsible for maintaining and operating the boat; the First Mate is responsible for keeping a clean living environment and for the welfare of the crew.

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Mike is President of Paradise Yachts, located in Florida USA and Mary is First Mate of the motor vessel Patricia Ann Boat website Cruising Center -

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