Against The Tide

Elizabeth Simenstad, USA.

April 26, 2017

I’ve dealt with some sexual harassment over the years, like lewd jokes and comments directed at me, but these incidents were rare. I’ve also been told literally that I didn’t belong, and faced hostility from men who didn’t want me on their boat because I was a woman, but I knew so deeply that I did belong that none of these comments ever really made their mark….” 

On bad days I tell myself “this is what you want, this is what you love to do”, and no one can discourage me. It’s difficult to fight that negativity every day, and I know many women at sea who have to do that, but if we can support each other, maybe someday it will be easier to just be ourselves and do our job! And with more women coming into the industry and feeling welcome, the tide is bound to turn in our favor….”

I think that what really needs to change is the way we raise women around the world. From a young age, girls are taught not to do things that may make them less attractive to men. Don’t be aggressive, don’t be ambitious, and don’t go for what you want, because that is perceived as threatening. Don’t fix things, don’t get dirty, don’t drive boats or go on adventures because those things are reserved for men. Boys are told they can do anything, they can be doctors or firefighters, they can go to sea, to the moon, anywhere they want. Girls are taught to find the perfect man and pick out the perfect wedding dress, put on makeup and do their nails. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but they can also go to sea while being as feminine and womanly as they want – and they should be encouraged to do so…

This is my seventh year of sailing on tugboats. I’ve worked for a few different companies towing cargo barges, from the Caribbean and the U.S. East Coast, to all over Alaska and as far north as the Chukchi Sea. Now I am finally where I want to be: in my homeport of San Francisco Bay, working on a ship assist tugboat…. I’ve always been in the deck/navigation department, but tugs are a small world, so I’ve done some work in the engine room too, but I’m not a licensed engineer. I hold a 1600-ton masters license and I’ve worked as a mate for several years, but I am currently a deck hand – I had to start from the bottom to get this job as the job market here is competitive!

I am from the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA. I’ve been living in Seattle for quite a few years but sometimes I feel like I don’t have a permanent home, because I’ve always traveled a lot for work.

I am trying to do my part to encourage women to tell their stories and inspire other women to follow their dreams at @seasistersorg  and I’m so excited to find women around the world who are doing the same thing! Let’s all encourage each other… Thank you Against the Tide for letting me be part of your conversation!

Elizabeth Simenstad – USA.

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