Tell us about your individual journey into boating.
My grandfather introduced me to boating when I was very young. He had a home in Sanibel Island and his boat was docked behind his house. My cousins and I would bait fishing rods with hot dogs and catch catfish off the back. Boating was a family affair to him as each grandchild was represented as a music note on the side of the boat. Just before he passed away, he was left with no voice but held up a photo of me after catching a large snook and gave me a thumb's up.
How has the industry changed when it comes to women since you got started?
I remember very early on that I would wear boys' boardshorts because there wasn't much apparel for women who enjoyed watersports. I think that was certainly reflective of the culture back then and now as an adult and mother of five daughters, I love to see female captains and women anglers. I have female friends who take the boat out with their kids which I don't remember even seeing as a child.
Why is it still an issue to get women into boating?
I think it's because the thought of operating a large watercraft on the open water can be intimidating. Fortunately, there are so many organizations, marinas and captains that are willing to help and teach. Although most of us grow up in and around cars, not as many grow up around boats so it's a new territory for a lot of women. Thankfully, there are user friendly vessels, like pontoon boats, that are great for first time boaters.
What, from your unique vantage point, is the single most important gesture that can be made to make women feel more welcome in boating?
To make women feel more comfortable boating, INCLUDE THEM IN THE CONVERSATION! Include them in the advertising, include them in educational classes and include them in the conversations in marinas and boat shows. All too often, when standing right next to my husband, people speak directly to him about anything boat related when I am the one with more knowledge and a boating license. I grew up on the water in Florida, my husband grew up in Western Pennsylvania. In our family, I am the one who was familiar with boat brands, I'm the one who knew what boat would best suit our family and I am the one who handled the sale. To welcome women into boating, the industry needs to assume that we are capable and that we can!