Friday 26 July 2013

#Narrowboating: Not just for blokes!

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I recently wrote a couple of articles for my community boating blog that focussed on a female skipper; Lee Davies. I sometimes forget that narrowboating is still a very male-dominated world because I’ve made so many amazing friends on the Cut: many of them are women and many of them are mothers. (For example Alice, Melina and Claire have all brought up kids on the Cut and blogged about it! Amy blogs about fitting out and living on the 1935 Severn and Canal Carrying Company motor, Willow.)

Lee Davies feels passionately that women are under-represented on the canals. I hope that my interview with her might encourage other female boaters to consider becoming involved with community boating: it’s not just for blokes!

Do we need more women on the Cut?

Lee Davies is the only female Senior Trainer at NCBA.  I got to chat to her about how her interest in boats developed into a career as a skipper and NCBA trainer. She also runs FindaSkipper, providing skippers for all occasions, plus cooks, training courses and more.

You have a boat relocating service?

Yes, we also move boats for people. It might be someone who just bought a boat or someone who has gone on holiday and needed to rush back home: we can bring the boat home. We had a man recently, he had a stroke and his wife couldn’t move the boat. We were asked to go out there and bring the boat home for them.

It might be a liveaboard or a really posh boat broken down in a not very nice area. Perhaps the owners have had to go back to work, so we’ll go and boat-sit or move it on for them.

How did Find a Skipper start?

I’ve been involved with boats for many years and I was skippering all over the place. I was driving along one day and the name just popped into my head: Find a Skipper! I found out that the domain names were available and bought them straight away.

I suppose you could say we’re based in Wigan but we cover the whole system; I’ve got skippers all around the country. I’ve got people dotted around.

How under-represented are women among professional skippers in your opinion?

Women are very underrated on the canals. Men think we’re all stupid because we’re female. They think women can’t handle a big boat, but something needs to change.

Men will see you with your head in the engine and ask you what you are doing. I’ll say, Well the stern gland is leaking, I’m just sorting it out, and they’ll say Oh, I don’t think you should be doing that! But there’s plenty of women that live alone on board, or live on boats with children. How do they think we manage?  When you go to a boatyard the idea is that you stand and you watch and you learn.

How often do women apply for NCBA training?

There have been a few coming up lately, there’s one on the Wirral and one up at Skipton. But only men have approached me for training at Find a Skipper. I only know of three or four women that have qualified and are working as skippers, they are few and far between. There are lots of female volunteers though.

Get on board!

The NCBA and their member projects welcome women interested in boating. Why not get in touch with your local community boating project, or consider improving your skills by training with the NCBA? Find out more by following my other blog

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