Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Virgin's new cruiseship captain

This is a straight lift of a Virgin article, 11 Jun 2019 (with just some sub-headings and pix by me, for readability). 

I think the article is really interesting because of the way this woman captain - yet another to join the ten-plus in the cruise ship industry -  is applying emotional intelligence to the once patriarchal business of leading the shipboard team. 

Fascinatingly, Wendy Williams has been in the very hard work of fishing - as few UK women have been at all. No other women cruiseship captains have come from this gruelling industry.

Her adults-only ship, the Scarlet Lady,  is Virgin's first cruise ship. You can take a virtual tour of the ship here  

A captain's calling


The only thing that is going to limit you is your own imagination. A piece of advice Captain Wendy Williams’ parents gave her when she was a child, that she’s always held close.
 “Their message was that you can do and be anything you imagine,” she adds, “and I've always believed in that.
"You don't have to be limited by anything.”


As it turns out, they were right. Her imagination was vast, focused and driven, guiding her through a successful dream career at sea, where only under three percent of the world's mariners are female. That journey has led her to this moment, as she takes on the first captain role for Virgin Voyages’ premier vessel, Scarlet Lady, making her the first Canadian woman in history to captain a ship for a major cruise brand.


“If you're the heart of the ship and your heart’s in the wrong place, then you're not going to have a good ship. I’ve always been known as the captain with a heart.” she says about her approach to her new role, “I intend to be the best captain I can be and love every moment of it.” 
Born in Sept-Iles Quebec, on the Northeastern Coast of Canada, Captain Wendy is certainly no newcomer to the sea. She has spent the larger part of the last three decades on the water, in different capacities.
“I’m pretty sure I have sea water in my veins,” she says about her upbringing.


Commercial fishing was her first career at sea, starting out as a deckhand, then an observer and eventually working in all capacities, for her own vessels. During that time she became enamored with the sailing of the ships themselves and began to move in that direction.
She credits that background with giving her the confidence she has today. “Fishing brings you very close to the weather and how it changes,” she said, “I’ve learned a lot about reading the weather from being on a fishing vessel.”
After battling that very grueling industry for about a decade, during which time she met her husband, they decided to go to school together at The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Pacific Marine Training Institute, located in North Vancouver.  (Pictured)

Soon after Captain Wendy began her cruise ship career, still only one of very few women in the industry at the time.
Though she has captained many vessels in her career and was a Staff Captain for 6 of her 15 years in this industry, this Virgin Voyages role will be her first time mastering her own cruise ship.


“I think we're making amazing strides now,” says Captain Wendy about women in mariner roles. “When you walk onto the bridge you don’t have a gender. You’re a mariner. You’re an officer, this is what you do.
"This is what we do together. There should be no bearing on what our gender is. And that's the kind of bridge that we are going to have. There's no space in our day to have gender bias.” 
Captain Wendy says her primary focus at Virgin Voyages will be on crew. “While structure is of utmost importance for safety and order on a ship,” she adds.
“I'm driven to embrace inclusivity and set an example that all people should be treated with respect and integrity.”
A deep love for the sea drives all she does, and she’s described a life at sea as her calling, “For me, the sea is my religion. It’s where I think. It’s where I have clarity. I’m not afraid of it and I’m respectful of it.”
When this position with Virgin Voyages arose, she had been looking for a fresh perspective on the sea travel industry, which is why this partnership feels so destined, both for Captain Wendy and for the team at Virgin Voyages.

 Virgin's doing it differently in every way. This sort of advert for seagoing labour is no more standard in the biz than is the ship's revolutionary design.



“The whole thing for me is that [at Virgin Voyages] we’re going to do it differently,” said Captain Wendy, noting that she was drawn to the brand because of a shared drive for treating the sea with care and respect.
“I’ve encountered people in my career who feel being kind and smiling is a sign of weakness, but I believe it’s my greatest strength,” she says about her thoughtful approach to all she does.
“I have to care about everyone and everything. I’m the Captain.”
To that, we can only say: Aye aye! Welcome aboard, Captain Wendy!

This article is at https://www.virginvoyages.com/ahoy/stories/captainwendy?utm_medium=email&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=captainwendy

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Bisexual Falklands sailor takes action against MOD

Joe Ousalice (right) receives medal from Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, later Chief of Defence Staff.

This is a straight lift of a Telegraph article by Dominic Nicholls. 'Military veterans stripped of medals and discharged from the armed forces for their sexuality could have their honours returned as a bisexual Falklands sailor launches legal bid' appeared 8 May 2019, at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/05/08/military-veteran-stripped-medals-discharged-sexuality-could/. 
You can see more pictures are there. I've added sub-headings here for readability.

'Military veterans stripped of medals and discharged from the armed forces for their sexuality could have their honours returned as a bisexual Falklands sailor launches legal bid. Joe Ousalice, 68, served for nearly 18 years in the Royal Navy but was discharged in 1993 prior to the lifting of the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces.
The Falklands veteran is taking action against the Ministry of Defence to have his Long Service and Good Conduct (LS&GC) medal returned after it was cut off his uniform following a Court Martial.

Northern Ireland and Middle East duties

An MoD spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment as legal proceedings are ongoing, but added, “we are currently looking at how personnel discharged from service because of their sexuality, or now abolished sexual offences, can have their medals returned.”
Mr Ousalice, a former radio operator, served in the Falklands War in which he lost two comrades, did six tours of duty in Northern Ireland and was also posted to conflict zones in the Middle East.
"I loved life in the navy, because of the comradeship," he told the BBC. "It was my life."
His work was praised by his seniors and he was awarded the LS&GC medal in 1991. Royal Navy regulations stipulate that LS&GC recipients must have served a minimum of 15 years continuous good conduct. It can be removed for later poor conduct.

Double life necessary

 However, Mr Ousalice said he knew when he joined up that he would have to hide the fact that he was bisexual.
"It was a double life I was living,” he said. “I was watching every day what I was saying, what I was doing."
He says that when ashore he never visited gay pubs and on board ship he didn't associate with sailors who he knew were gay.
"I knew if I did I would have the SIB (Special Investigation Branch) on my back doing covert operations, shadowing me with cameras, taking photographs of what I was getting up to."

Medal cut off uniform

Cleared at Court Martial of assaulting another sailor in the early 1990s, he was found guilty of being in bed with the other man - something he has always denied - and was dismissed on the grounds that his conduct was prejudicial to good order and naval discipline.
An officer wrote: "He may attempt to corrupt others in the future", adding that "the needs of the service must come first".
Although not official policy at the time, but not unheard of, Mr Ousalice had his LS&GC medal cut off his uniform following the verdict and hopes that the lifting of the ban on LGBT people in the armed forces in 2000 would help him to have his medal returned.

How many more?

The Telegraph understands that the MoD does not know how many individuals may be in the same situation as Mr Ousalice as it does not keep records of such matters, each one dealt with on a case-by- case basis by the respective service.
Amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill for England and Wales in 2017 allowed thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of now abolished sexual offences to be posthumously pardoned.
The new ruling became widely known as the Turing Law, after Alan Turing, the World War II codebreaker and computing pioneer, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952. Turing received a royal pardon (posthumously) in 2013.
The Turing Law could see military veterans who were previously denied medals have them awarded. The Telegraph understands that no medals have been returned yet or awarded in the wake of the government’s implementation of the Turing Law and that work is still ongoing in the MoD.
Any military veteran is able to apply to the MoD Medals Office, the department based at Imjin Barracks in Gloucester responsible for issuing medals to currently serving members of the armed forces, veterans and MOD employees.

Mod Medal Office, Innsworth, Building 250 Raf Innsworth.27 Nov 2018
Address: Building 250 Raf Innsworth
E-mail: dbs-medals@mod.gov.uk

Next steps

The Medals Office says that individuals should only wear official decorations, medals or emblems to which they are entitled and which have been approved for acceptance and wear. Unofficial medals should not be worn with official orders, decorations and other medals.
It is common practice for the next of kin of a deceased service person to wear their relative’s decorations and medals as a mark of remembrance. It is custom to wear such medals on the right breast in civilian dress only.
The MoD says official approval is not required to wear a relative’s medals, although current serving personnel should not wear relative’s medals or unofficial medals whilst in uniform.
The Telegraph understands that Liberty is setting up a helpline to help other LGBT veterans stripped of their medals to come forward.

See Feb 1919 article about Liberty's general support for service personnel. https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/news/press-releases-and-statements/liberty-launches-helpline-troops-new-report-highlights-failings

At that point the helpline number was 020 3102 9313. It was open 10 am to 4pm Mon to Fri. Sorry I can't confirm if this is still the correct number. I couldn't get any reply from the Press Office.

Readers may like to also see an article I wrote about the hidden queer history aboard the ships going to and from the  Falklands Conflict, in Polari Magazine, 31.5.2012:  

Pictured: Crew enjoying a camp version of the Neptune Ceremony, 1982, aboard the Norland en route to the Falklands. Picture courtesy of Frank Green

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Ships as she: anthropomorphism, linguistics and girly vessels

‘Stark staring bonkers...  political correctness gone mad… an insult to a generation of sailors, the ships are seen almost as a mother to preserve us from the dangers of the sea and also from the violence of the enemy”.

If you think these words about officially referring to ships as gender neutral were roared by dinosaurs a century ago, you’re in for a surprise. The comments were made just last week by a fairly progressive retired Admiral, Lord Alan West; see https://tinyurl.com/West-ship-mother

The hoary ‘Is a ship a “she”, not an “it”?’ debate re-emerged when Glasgow Maritime Museum said it would now be referring to ships as gender neutral. Director David Mann said the museum ‘recognise[d] the changes in society’: https://tinyurl.com/glasgow-museum

Lloyds List made a similar decision in 2002: these floating bits of real estate are to be called ‘it’. That arbitrating decision brought a huge postbag too. Then thing settled down, although the Royal Navy carried on 'she-ing'.

Silly or?

The usual protesters are naval, not maritime, people – and mostly older males. They’re not anti-women. They just don’t understand that they’re perpetuating old and destructive attitudes that positioned women as - at worst - Jack Tar's totty, incompetent outsiders, sex-providers, objects of up-skirting, and protectees (see images).

And it’s rather silly, ostensibly. Or is it? BBC Radio 4 News Quiz comedian Andy Zaltzman joked that a ship’s determining genitals were usually hidden. So you could only tell and mummy and daddy ships apart when the lady had little baby ships - called ‘submarines’

Behind it

In the last week of April 2019  the matter became transformed into a fuzzy and sentiment-led debate. The words ‘cultural imperialism’ and ‘anthropomorphism’ were not used. But in essence they lay behind the argument: ‘Why shouldn’t we be allowed to call our inanimate things whatever we want?’
The answer is a complex one.  I write about it here now because for years I’ve been collecting stories, funny postcards and tea-towels on 'ships as she' as part of my work on gendered maritime history. 
I would like to highlight the following points. They build up, step by step, what I hope is a sage and fair-minded fresh view on the subject.


Visitors to UK museums are rightly puzzled when they see, as in Glasgow Maritime Museum’s case, labels that refer to a ship as’ she’, and not as a gender neutral ‘it’.
English is not a gendered language, so it does not make sense for us in the UK to gender ships - or bicycles or nail extensions.
So it would be good to hear from experts on gendered languages explain this 'need' to assign gender to inanimate objects, taking a calm, systemic, approach based linguistics and neuroscience.
Mann and un-named colleague with the altered sign: image from Irvine Times 23.4.2019.

Protest and change

An unknown visitor scratched out the ‘she’ and the ‘her’ on Glasgow’s labels:  https://tinyurl.com/Irvine-Times-vandal. The change was called 'graffiti', and the protester called a ‘vandal’. But actually the visitor-observer had informally made a correction that the museum was anyway going to effect when it could afford to do so.
The useful debate that has ensued brings to our attention two things: widespread, under-informed, deeply-held bigotry; and the fact that museums are too cash-starved to update their displays and descriptions as they wish.
My book on the history of seafaring women (which had an appendix on 'ships as she') was launched on board the Glenlee, a ship moored at Glasgow Maritime Museum - and referred to as 'she' on Wikipedia. So I know the museum well enough to be clear that its ethos is to embrace diversity, which most museums now do.
Australia’s National Maritime Museum was ahead of the all this and switched in the late 1990s. Although the radical move brought controversy, the sky did not fall. Princess Anne and George W Bush still visited; the Sunday Times still put it on their list of ''the world's 10 coolest museums'' in 2010.


Gendering a ship is part of the long-established general practice of attributing human qualities to inanimate objects, and to pets. Psychologists and anthropologists, for example, tend to see this as a creative problem-solving strategy: humanise a significant thing can give us an illusion of having some control over it, as well as bringing us closer to it.
'I love him, my necessary machine.'
Image courtesy of  The Atlantic, Dec 2017,
 by Christopher Delorenzo
Lonely and overwhelmed simple seafarers working on sailing ships, when navigation was less developed, must have especially needed strategies to help them cope with long bleak months of unpredictable and unknowable vicissitudes.
In that loneliness a ship was an intimate companion. Befriending it was a good tactic. And if the seafarer  didn't want to be accused of being homosexual or odd it was clearly politic to call that darling a she.   


But attributing (white) female gender to every inanimate object in a category - e.g. vessels - is troubling for our society. It's a sign of the habitual sexist thinking in the old navy.
Auto Trader’s website doesn’t refer to its vehicles as ‘the ladies’. No airport announces of a plane ‘she is boarding now’. 
Understandably, people on a ship come to ‘love’ their 24:7 residential workplace and to esteem its abilities to get them from A to B. Anyone can grasp that. Their collective lives depends on a good relationship with the machine, which some may see as a protective parent (female) – even a kind of god (dess) or simply their dearest pal and pet.
Feminising is not a consequence of the speakers being male. I, myself, a some-time boat-dweller, have called ships ‘she’. So do some seafaring women I know.  However, I’ve usually been fitting in politely rather than feeling convinced.
Individuals have the right to anthropomorphise their personal car, ship, fridge or cat if they want. It’s their private business. I stand back, too, when friends see their car as a naughty child or a treacherous tyrant.   It's their right be irrational – and it doesn’t do systemic harm to an already-oppressed group of humans: women.

Anthropomorphising can assuage loneliness. But is it alright?
Image by MJL,courtesy of www.chucklingdog.com

Humanising OK, but...

However, in the anthropomorphising process, people in a gendered society feel they have to decide whether their inanimate object is female or male.
Whatever the choice, it will bring entrenched and overwhelming stereotypes.
The controversy about gendering vessels comes up because some individuals are still basing their views on disrespectful and outdated ideas about women.
This behaviour is part of the climate that led to misogynists, especially under sail, superstitiously hating Woman’s presence on board and sabotaging real women's right to maritime work.  
Humanising should not not mean gendering, nor perpetuating negative stereotypes about one gender, race or class.


In my years of collecting such material, including teatowels like this one, (pictured below, right) no ship is ever seen as male. But women are seen as ships, such as fancy frigates who a swain  proudly parades in port. 

Published justifications for calling a ship ‘she’ range along a spectrum from filial devotion to the patronising.

  • NOBLE: At the one end, the mighty container is something grand: a goddess to be worshipped and placated. Those aboard position themselves as merely devoted minions of the sainted Virgin Mary-like ship, sometimes created as a figurehead. (This may not encourage teamwork because it disables the worshippers’ sense of agency).
  • GIRLY: At the spectrum’s other end, a ship is a demanding, vain flibbertigibbet who asks too much of men – as all women do. An example of this is the saying ‘the outfitting she wants costs more than her hull’.
  • CONTESTED AUTHORITY: Somewhere in between is the view that ‘She won’t be controlled, you have to woo her to get her to bow to your will. Humour her and she’ll eat out of your hand’.

Beyond binarity

The nineteenth-century products of patriarchal societies, who’ve been away in all-male situation since their boyhood, are understandably under-informed about the realities of everyday women and equal, non-dominating comradeship.
They've known women only as idealised personifications of home or workers in the waterfront sex industry. For all sorts of reasons such exiles feel the need to reassure themselves that malestream is still mainstream.
Boys and men were away  for months or years; unrealistic ideas
about distant women developed.
  Illustrated London News. 10.2.1883.

Changed times

But education and the seafaring profession are today much less gender-segregated.
People are actively looking for new, more embracing personal pronouns such as ‘ze’ or ‘hir’, not just 'they'. 
In the West, women’s rights have been on the agenda for nearly 150 years. The past five decades have seen some advances. Women are less often positioned as second-class or treated as jokes - at least in public.
Unacceptably sexist behaviour has never been more discussed than in these #MeToo times. It’s now recognised that society should stop routinely denigrating anything seen as female and locking it in the Bad Corner until it conforms to men’s rules.
The time for placing 'ladies' on fanciful pedestals is long gone too.
We live in a new age. So it’s appropriate that twenty-first century museums, publishers, writers, navies and seafarers move on from routinely ascribing hackneyed gendered characteristics to rectangular vessels.

Respect helps

There is room for acceptance of diversity. This includes people’s personal right to call their cars Fifi or Henry and their right to call their ships ‘her bloody ladyship’ but also ‘his effin nibs’. If such anthropomorphising helps them work in harmony with their machines then it's fair enough.
But no one should impose systemic sexist irrationality across the board and thereby perpetuate negative stereotypes. Respect helps us all.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Maritime Toxic Masculinity conference: on now & forever. Listen in!

This Global Maritime History conference, in which I am a speaker, is deeply innovative in two ways:  
  1. Topic. Historians have been discussing maritime masculinities for several years now. But to take the bull by the horns and discuss toxicity in this context is really daring and fresh in intent.  
  2. Form. This is digital conference. Although it was ‘held’, as it were on 26 April 2019, all the papers are available to any 'attendee', any time, anywhere. Entrance is free. No travel costs are incurred so you don't have the hassle of finding a sponsor for your air fares and pizza.  

Participation is virtual. This means no jet-legged late-arriving participant need miss out. Panel-hoppers avid for everything can have their dreams met. Here there are no such obstacles as timetable clashes. Listen when you want, how you want.
Never too late.
 Image by Jing Jing Tsong
As long as the website is up, you can 'attend'. 
And there's infinite room for comments and questions. So just metaphorically 'put up your hand, then get to your feet' and join in, via your keyboard. The responses you get, of course, are not instantaneous. 

Finding your way around
All the papers are spoken and some are visual too. The abstracts are available as written text. There are no chairpersons. Everyone introduces themselves and their biographies are also available in written form in the conference’s ‘provisional' programme which is actually final and complete: https://globalmaritimehistory.com/maritime-toxic-masculinity-conference-provisional-programme/
You have to scroll down to the bottom of that website, to 'Recent Posts', to find links to all the full papers. Most of them are in Powerpoint 2016 form. The links all work.
I am attaching a summary of the conference here, as I thought others might find the website a puzzling one to negotiate, as well as to find as a whole if browsing You yourself can help raise the conference profile by tweeting etc.

If you want to go direct to my paper, on women, here's the link to that panel. Mine is item two: https://globalmaritimehistory.com/gender-sexuality/

And here below is an outline of the entire conference. It has no keynote or plenary speeches, by the way. Just 4 panels.

Panel 1: Hostility: Masculine Violence and Xenophobia

  • Ankita Das: “War, Travel, and the Turmoiled Self: Narrative of an Odia Soldier”
  • Dr. Johnathan Thayer: “Andrew Furuseth, the International Seamen’s Union, and the Political Ideology of Maritime Masculinity”
  • Harry Brennan: “Masculine Violence in the lives of John Cremer (1700-1774) and William Byrd II (1674-1744)”

 Panel 2: Toxic Masculinity in Literature and Song

  • Dr. Kelly MacPhail: “‘The horror of the race’: W.C. Williams’ ‘The Yachts’ and the 1934 America’s Cup”
  • Dr. Jessica Floyd: “Shaping a Hyper-Masculine Sailing Identity: Sex, Violence, and Otherness in Examples of “Blow the Man Down” Located in the James Madison Carpenter Collection”
  • Dr. Joshua M. Smith: “Those human seraphim, the sailors”: Beatnik Merchant Seamen, 1942-1965  
    1980s UK navy women say no to unwanted
    sexual attention - and it was seen as worthy
    of a cartoon. Image by Jim Swift, courtesy of
    Navy Books.

Panel 3: Gender and Sexuality

  • Mitch Gould: “Sailors: the Wheels on Melville’s Coach” 
  • Dr Jo Stanley:  “#MeToo and mar hist: Tackling the silences about women’s subjective sexualities in maritime histories”
  • Meaghan Walker: “The Issuing of Such Coarse Stuff to the People”: What the Contents of the British Tender Diligent Reveal about Gendered Relationships and Labour, Clothing Systems, and Imperial Power, 1804 

Panel 4: The Docks: Semiotic Examination of Masculinity and Sexual Constructs Surrounding the Lone Sailor 

  • Steven Dashiell (lead organizer)
  • Dorian Alexander 
  • Kyle Shupe
  • Angus Henderson

Do join in the discussions! This has got to be the most accessible maritime history conference yet

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Woman on Costa Concordia: a missing story of heroic alacrity

Passenger Concetta Robi seem to be to be the oddly obscured principal female character and a hero in the Costa Concordia disaster story.There’s no picture of her on the internet. She’s  barely visible in the public discussions. Her helpful daughter is un-named. 
This absence got my attention when I was reading one of the latest analyses of the ship that ran aground off Isola del Gigli, in January 2012. The Tuscany sinking brought 32 deaths and major publicity about the captain’s behaviour.
Marine consultant Captain Michael Lloyd has just (22 April) posted part 3 of his discussion: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/voices-costa-concordia-part-3-damage-decisions-michael-lloyd/ 

Prompt action - unofficial

His evaluation contains very useful material about the way people – even captains - freeze and act irrationally in such disasters.But among the people who did not freeze was Concetta Robi. 
The story is that initially the crew gave false information to passengers to allay panic telling them it’s only an electrical problem, go back to your cabins. We’ve got it all in hand.
In fact, as Lloyd says, 
'instead began a loss of confidence in the shipboard leadership. As the delay in any decisive action continued, passengers now began to make their own decisions regardless of those in authority. 
'Indeed, it was a passenger, not the bridge staff, who alerted the shore authorities. 
'Somewhere on the ship, an Italian woman, named Concetta Robi, took out her cell phone and dialled her daughter in the central Italian town of Prato, near Florence.
‘She described scenes of chaos, ceiling panels falling, waiters stumbling, passengers scrambling to put on life jackets.
'The daughter telephoned the police.’
As a result the rescue process got under way, helped by Senora Robi’s accuracy after the misreporting by ship’s crew.

Why no recognition?

Why is this woman not credited for her role? 
Because she’s not a maritime professional, but  a passenger and a woman - and one who excelled, implicitly showing up male crew?

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Top 10 reading about women and the sea

This is a writer's Top 10 books about women and the sea. Compiled by Charlotte Runcie, it appeared in The Guardian , 27 Feb 2019 and includes brief summaries of all the books.  
See https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/27/top-10-books-about-women-and-the-sea#comment

As someone who knows about the huge range of gendered maritime history I find the list to be mainly about the metaphysical sea. It's about the outsider's idea of the timeless sea as something one romantically gazes upon, rather than an element one works with, today. 
And it's very interesting and thought provoking. I hope people will add their own favorites.

1. Female Tars: Women Aboard Ship in the Age of Sail by Suzanne Stark (non fiction)
2. The Waves by Virginia Woolf (fiction)
3. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (fiction).
4. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (fiction)
5. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (fiction)
6. Petticoat Whalers: Whaling Wives at Sea by Joan Druett (non fiction)
7. Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett (autobiography)
8. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan (fiction)
9. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (autobiography)
10. Katie Morag’s Island Stories by Mairi Hedderwick(fiction)

The best of all, in my view

Commentators also recommended:

  • The Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine by Stanley Crawford (fiction)  
  • El SIglo de las Luces (Explosion in a Cathedral, usually, in English) by Alejo Carpentier (fiction).
  • Ahab‘s Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund (fiction) 
  • Watercolour Sky (fiction) William Riviere
  • The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See (fiction)
  • Diving Belles: And Other Stories by Lucy Wood (fiction)

New suggestions are being added by the hour so I recommend that you keep visiting the site for some really good ideas.

Runcie is a journalist and the writer of a new book: Salt on Your Tongue: Women and the Sea. (Canongate, 2019)

It is described as:
  •  'A lyrical exploration of the sea, how it inspires art, music and literature and how it connects us' 
  • 'An ode to the ocean, and the generations of women drawn to the waves or left waiting on the shore'.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Women increasingly becoming cruise captains: CondeNast Traveler

This is an interesting summary not only of the new women ship's captains but the fresh networks that are helping right the gendered imbalance in the maritime work force: Women Offshore (https://womenoffshore.org/author/allison-cedeno/) and the Scarlet Squad. (The first ones began in the 1990s, in the US and New Zealand).

Cameroonian Nicholine Tifuh Azirh became, the first West African woman to work on the bridge of a cruise ship, is also featured.

This article  by  Cynthia Drescher,  ‘With More and More Women Taking the Helm, the Cruise Industry is Setting an Example,' is from CondeNast Traveller, 21. 2.2019
https://www.cntraveler.com/story/why-there-are-more-female-cruise-ship-captains-than-ever. I've just added some sub-headings and extra pictures.

"I’m so excited to share the news of our partnership with RMU and to welcome Nicholine [Tifuh Azirh] onboard,” says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, of Celebrity Cruises. “Nicholine isn’t just a new-hire, she symbolizes hope for women around the world who dream of working in a male-dominated industry.” Picture by Diego Texera/Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

'Kate McCue was walking along a beach on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten last June when an attendant asked if she was heading back to one of the cruise ships docked there for the day. 

Wearing a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses and a sundress over a swimsuit, McCue certainly looked the part of the relaxed vacationer. 

She replied, however, that she worked onboard, then asked the attendant to guess her role on the ship. 
“I think you’re the captain’s wife, but if you’re not, then I think you’re the cruise director’s wife,” he said. 
McCue's reply—"What do you think if I tell you I’m the captain?”.
[T]he man’s shocked but enthusiastic reaction, was posted on her Instagram account, and the short exchange has racked up more than 16,000 views and a deluge of supportive comments from viewers. 

Some even vow to only cruise on whatever ship she’s captaining (currently the Celebrity Equinox).
McCue [pictured below] may be the first American woman to captain a cruise ship, an honor she earned in 2015, but her story is emblematic of a paradigm shift in the cruise industry, where, for the first time, more women are taking the helm. 

Women now constitute between 18 and 20 percent of the cruise industry workforce, and five to 22 percent of cruise ship officers are women, depending on the line. 

Compare this to the global airline pilot industry’s five percent female statistic, and it’s clear that cruising is making waves (pun intended).


Not that progress has been easy, of course. Having a woman on a ship’s bridge was once considered a major no-no.
[C]enturies of folklore painted women as sirens, mermaids, or demons who distracted crew and angered the sea gods into stirring up stormy weather.
During the 19th century, the only female presence found on many ships would have been the carved wooden figurehead of an open-eyed, bare-breasted woman affixed to its bow—a totem the sailors believed would bring navigational luck while shaming the seas into calm weather. 


Ship officers, meanwhile, traditionally came from countries like Greece, Italy, England, and Norway—cradles of seagoing tradition and home to a plethora of professional maritime academies, many of which did not admit women until the last quarter-century.
But nautical superstitions die hard. 

The growing availability to all of a professional maritime education, combined with seemingly common sense developments like sexual harassment prevention training and making marine workwear available for women at sea, opened the way to shipboard leadership.
[A]nd, in the last decade, cruise lines have been enthusiastically promoting women to the top ranks.



The first woman appointed captain of a cruise ship was Karin Stahre-Janson of Sweden, who took command of Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas in 2007. 

Other lines that have added their first female captains include: 

  • Cunard (Inger Klein Thorhauge)
  •  P&;O Cruises (Sarah Breton)
  •  Windstar(Belinda Bennett, the industry’s first black female captain), 
  • Sea Cloud Cruises (Kathryn Whittaker)
  •  AIDA (Nicole Langosch)
  • Silversea (Margrith Ettlin). 

Just this week, luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced that its newest ship, the Seven Seas Splendor, set to debut in 2020, will be the first brand new cruise ship to have a woman, Serena Melani [pictured, right] as its first master. 

(A ship’s master is the captain captain and the ultimate authority onboard, while a staff captain is the second-in-command and next to take a ship of their own.) 


Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises—and Kate McCue's boss—is a "first" herself. 
In 2014 she became the first woman to run a publicly traded cruise line, a position she’s held while developing initiatives to recruit more women to shipboard leadership roles. 
Celebrity now leads the industry, with women accounting for 22 percent of its bridge teams. 


The Celebrity fleet of 13 ships counts two female masters—McCue on the Celebrity Equinox, and Nathaly Alb├ín, the first Ecuadorian cruise ship captain, on the Celebrity Xploration—and two female staff captains, Wendy Williams and Maria Gotor, as well as many more at other officer levels.
Yet another industry first came when Lutoff-Perlo had a chance meeting with a female cadet from Ghana’s Regional Maritime University.
Learning that women enrolled at the institution have no career path following graduation other than turning around to assist or teach at the university, Lutoff-Perlo helped forge a partnership with the school to create a pipeline for female maritime professionals from Africa.
[As a result] in 2017 RMU Cadet and Cameroonian Nicholine Tifuh Azirhbecame the first West African woman to work on the bridge of a cruise ship. 
All this trailblazing was also key in Celebrity’s convincing Malala Yousafzai, the female education activist and Nobel laureate, to christen and be godmother of the line’s newest ship, Celebrity Edge, in December 2018.


"That said, no one goes straight from the maritime academy classroom to the dress whites and formal nights of a cruise ship career. Ally Cedeno, [pictured right] a chief mate of unlimited tonnage vessels and an offshore dynamic positioning operator, founded the Women Offshore organization to foster and support female interest in maritime professions. 
She tells Traveler that the organization's mission is to offer “virtual mentorships,” describing them as “a free resource for any woman, regardless of what body of water she works in.” 

Cedeno believes now is (finally) the time for women to rule the waves. “There are shifts to not only hire more women, but also retain a female workforce, effectively opening opportunities for women to pursue leadership roles," she says. 
"Addressing the gender gap has gone beyond recruitment practices to focus on maternity leave, availability of technical uniforms, mentoring, and harassment prevention guidelines.”Seeking out mentorships is also the advice of Uniworld River Cruises CEO Ellen Bettridge, whose line recently shook up the staid river cruising industry with initiatives to welcome LGBTQ+ couples and families as well as millennials. 

“Cruising is one of hospitality’s great innovators,” she says. “I do believe that women have a special understanding of the power that lies in making connections, and so I encourage young women to find an experienced person who can help them navigate their careers.
 And when you make it, be that person for someone else.”



The numbers of women on cruise ship bridges is only expected to grow, especially with newbie cruise line Virgin Voyages actively recruiting women to the bridge of their first ship, Scarlet Lady, due to begin sailing in 2020. 
Virgin has formed a “Scarlet Squad” with the explicit intent of “growing leadership roles for women in marine, technical, and hotel management positions onboard.” 

Dee Cooper, senior vice president of design for Virgin Voyages, tells Traveler that their shoreside team is 60 percent female, and they have set a goal for their shipboard crew to be at least 50 percent female. 
"We need to rebalance the field," she said at a recent press conference in New York City, when Virgin Voyages announced its sailings were open for booking.
 "And we're focusing our attention on recruitment and mentoring to do it."


A cruise ship may be a vacation factory for its guests, but it's also a workplace for the hundreds or thousands of crew onboard. 
Gender diversity is as critical to a ship as it is to any enterprise, encouraging teamwork and creativity while bringing a range of perspectives for better, more informed, and even faster decision making. 
It’s also just good business sense. 

Women make the lion’s share of decisions and bookings in the $7.6 billion dollar travel and tourism industry, so having women at all levels means better representing and relating to customers. 
And with 2019 set to be the biggest year ever for new cruise ships—24 deliveries will bring another 42,488 beds to the seas—there's never been more opportunity in the industry, not to mention improved chances that the woman on the beach lounger next to you is your captain.


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Neva shipwreck women commemorated in art

This month in Tasmania the loss of over 200 transported women is being commemorated as never before - through textile art, specifically seaweed garments as memorials. 
Hobart-based artist and psychiatrist Catherine Stringer has done some wonderful maritime art. 
And now she is remembering the convict  women, babies and children who died in the 1835 shipwreck of the Neva. Her show, Sea Stories, is  at the King Island Cultural Centre. https://kingisland.tas.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/Artist-Statement-Sea-Stories.pdf

Skins and clothes

Catherine has put together here the Neva Reliquary and another sequence of art works: The Seal Woman.
She says: "The Neva Reliquary... is my personal response to this tragedy. The work was initiated during a residency at the King Island Cultural Centre in 2011, when I first started experimenting with making paper from the local kelp and subsequently other seaweeds. 
"I became increasingly drawn to the Neva story, feeling a connection with these women, particularly as many of them were mothers, like me, and moreover 28 of them shared my name, Catherine.
"I have developed and refined my papermaking techniques during the past five years to create these garments for selected Neva passengers. They are all made from seaweeds gathered from the Cape Wickham area.
" I have made a small size garment to represent each of the 28 Catherines, and life size garments for each of the Catherines who were children. 
"I have also made a cloak for the youngest convict, Ester Raw, who was only 14. She had been sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a cloak.
"The six surviving women each have a Survivor’s Cape, which incorporate some shore plants as well as seaweeds.
"The Seal Woman series developed from {thinking about the story that a "woman could slip easily from seal to human form by removing her sealskin. One day her sealskin was stolen by a fisherman ...  She ended up marrying the fisherman...
"but she always yearned for the sea. After many years the woman found her sealskin and returned to the sea, where she had [a further] seven children. She was thereafter torn between two families, two worlds.
"The Neva story and the Seal Skin story are linked by similar themes - mothers and their
children, separation, loss, grief and transformation, and of course their connection with the

The Neva - and Elizabeth Fry

Of the 241 people on board when the  three-masted barque which left Cork harbour for New South Wales all but 17 died. 
The small ship, owned by Moates, a Shadwell firm, had previously been used for carrying troops, meaning it would not be in a salubrious state. 
It was on its second convict voyage when it hit the submerged Harbinger Reef north of King Island, four months after setting forth. 
On May 13 1835  the ship sank and is now seen as the second-largest maritime disaster in Australian history. It's one of the worst convict ship disasters. 
The survival rate was 3 per cent for the convicts but 35 per cent for the crew  - which has to indicate malpractice and selfishness in evacuation procedures. There was no chivalry as with the famous Birkenhead Drill of 1852, two decades later, when the Women and Children First procedure was used.

It's common to assume that the disaster is barely known because it involved 'just convicts' and 'just women', allegedly many sex industry workers drunk on a broached barrel of rum.
Actually, If you know your history of women's penal reform, another explanation is more likely.  I suspect that the silence was diplomatic; the authorities didn't want any more public outcry at this major moment in policy on imprisonment. 
When the Neva sank prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (pictured left) had been pushing improvements for over two decades.
 She had:

  • urged that transportation should be abolished
  • inspected hundreds of convict ships
  • founded the British Ladies' Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners in 1821
  • visited women prisoners in Ireland  in 1827 
  • actually been to the ship before, for its previous convict voyage, and offered the men comforts - probably bibles, blankets and eating utensils

Transportation was to be outlawed as a punishment  only two years later, in 1837. 
The Neva tragedy still reminds us today about the continuing burning issues such as: the morality of exporting unwanted people; under what conditions should people be imprisoned; and should imprisoned women, especially mothers, be treated more humanely?