Ladies, does this sound familiar?

Guest perspective/Capt. Laura Tecce

Tired of mixed messages from the captain (her husband), Laura Tecce went out and got a 50-ton Captain’s License. Photo courtesy Laura Tecce

Surely, many long-suffering spouses have heard this: “No one talk to me while I’m docking.” (But, if you can’t talk to him, how are you supposed to know what he’s doing or where he’s going?) Or how about this: “Throw the lines.” “Where are the bumpers?” “Port side, not starboard.” “Put the dog in the cabin.” (These things are especially great to hear when it’s your first time out on a boat and you have no idea which line he’s talking about or what a bumper is, much less what “port” and “starboard” are. The dog order you can handle.)

I don’t know about all of you, but I am NOT a mind reader. Picture the following scenario – does it sound familiar? He’s at the helm and the radio as you’re pulling into a marina. You’re standing out on the bow with lines in both hands, bumpers at your feet, and there’s no one on the dock (because he has too much pride to ask for a helping hand). You have no idea which side he’s going for. Finally, he says “starboard.” OK, lines and bumpers are all set up. “Oh, no, I meant port.”

Really?!

One day I thought, “That’s it, I’m going to be in command. He can get the lines!” For all of these reasons, and more, I decided to learn how to dock the boat. If he could do it, I was confident that I could, too. And here’s what I learned: Before entering a marina, the approach plan should always be discussed. Especially if it’s a marina you aren’t familiar with. Call the marina – that’s why they have dockhands. They are more than happy to come down and lend a hand.

Having now been responsible for both throwing the lines and driving the boat during the procedure, I can honestly say it’s still a bit nerve-wracking, regardless of which end of the boat you’re on. That is, having a helping hand is always welcome! Don’t be afraid to ask for help – we’re all human.

Four years ago I made a decision that has changed my life. I sought out boat-handling instruction from a source other than my husband. (Couples often don’t do well trying to teach each other.) I wanted to learn how to navigate our Luhrs 40 Convertible sport fishing boat, Luhra’s Toy. Never before in my life did I think I’d be behind the wheel. Being a passenger and being the one driving are two very different things.

My instructor, Capt. Rick, came to the boat, took me up to the bridge and asked, “How do you start it?” He wasn’t testing my knowledge of the boat. He honestly didn’t know. All I could think was, “You’re the captain. I must be in trouble!” The last thing I wanted to do was call my husband. Unfortunately, I had no choice: I had to call him to find out how to start it. Capt. Rick had never dealt with the brand of electronic controls aboard Luhra’s Toy; even captains don’t know everything. Actually, this probably put me more at ease, as I wasn’t the only one learning that day. In a surprisingly short time, I was docking the boat. In fact, Capt. Rick put me at the controls right from the start. I became pretty comfortable after just a few minutes. We were in the Merrimac River, so the current was also a factor. I quickly learned that as the current and tide change, the techniques you use to dock often change, too. I took a couple more lessons, practiced, and continued to gain more confidence.

At the end of the lessons Capt. Rick suggested I take a USCG Captain’s License class. At first, I was hesitant. But then, after thinking about it for a while, I decided to go for it. Being one of two women in the class of 22 was a little intimidating, but with great determination I made it through. Getting up at 4 a.m. to study definitely paid off. I passed all four sections of the exam the first time. I now hold a 50 GRT USCG Master’s License, Near Coastal.

The next season we moved our slip to Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, N.H., where there isn’t as much current as in the Merrimac River, but the slips are tighter. This was a different kind of challenge. It felt great to be complimented in getting the boat in without any trouble.

Two years later I purchased my own boat, a 27-foot Cobalt called – quite appropriately – Spoiled Rotten. When we went for a test drive the broker said, “You have your Captain’s license, right?” “Absolutely,” I said, “Let me have that steering wheel!”

Ladies, remember: Everyone is human. No one knows everything. Once we got started I was pulling the boat in and out of the slip with ease. The first time I pulled the boat into our marina, everyone was saying, “Where’s Larry?” (my husband) “Laura’s up there by herself?” That’s right, by myself, yelling down, “Grab the spring line.” “Grab the bow line.” IT WAS SO GREAT. I felt a new sense of confidence and a rush of exhilaration.

Since receiving my CG license I began working for Boatwise, a marine training company that offers classroom and on-the-water training. I’m actually teaching others what was taught to me. We instruct hundreds of people each year. Hopefully, working there, I can serve as an example of what’s possible, and, in turn, other women will want to get their own Captain’s Licenses.

Just think how good it will feel when you pull the boat into the marina and your husband is the one throwing the lines.

You go girls!

Captain Laura Tecce, a resident of Newburyport, Mass., has been boating New England waters for 25 years. She enjoys traveling with her husband Larry and their four sons. Whether she’s driving her 27-foot Cobalt, 40 foot Luhrs, or speaking to women’s groups about advancing their boating skills, her passion is to get more women at the helm.

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