Against The Tide

Catarina Viegas, Portugal

July 23, 2021

I am in charge of navigational watch, voyage planning, maintenance of all our charts and publications, ensuring that the bridge is fully operational and also in charge of the hospital. My ship has an open bridge policy so it also involves entertaining guests and showing them how we sail the ship. 

What I enjoy the most is that I am able to have a routine but at the same time everyday is different. What I mean is that I wake up at the same time almost everyday but once I get on deck the view is always different. Even though as a deck officer you don’t get to explore the shore side as often as I would like I still get to sail all around the world, which I love.

When  you are new to a ship “The first week challenge” as I call it is that you come on board as a woman to a ship full of men where in the first week you have to set the boundaries that will dictate all your contract. My very first day onboard as a deck cadet/deck hand was on board a passenger sailing vessel which had not had a woman on deck for quite a while, so one of the very first comments I heard was “great now we will double our work because she cannot do it by herself”.The first time I went aloft I went with all my power and gave it all and oh dear I did prove them wrong, the next month I was already going all the way to furl sky. 

Unfortunately this is still a “man’s world”, according to IMO women represent only 2% of the world’s seafarers.  I am lucky enough to be working at sea during a time where change is visible, specially around the cruise industry. I would like to see this change around other sectors of the maritime industry which I believe that through supporting gender equality programs and associations is possible.

My advice is that no matter what everyone else around you might think if you do your job and work hard there is nothing they can say against you. We have more fiber in our bones than most men on board. We chose this life even though we knew it would be hard.

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