I was one of the first to arrive, lugging my humongous bag of gear over one shoulder while gripping my ever-present Yeti coffee mug. I was always late, so my punctuality was either a good omen, or a clear sign that I was nervous.

I had no idea which campus building held the Offshore Safety at Sea course. As a sailing novice, I envisioned a neon light blinking “Clueless!” over my head. But I’d been offered the opportunity to crew on an offshore sailboat, and the safety course was required. If my lifelong dream was to come true, I needed to get over imposter syndrome and get on with it.

I spied eight people also carrying large bags who accepted me into their wayward group. They included one elderly woman and seven men. After entering the wrong building, one man pulled a rudimentary map out of his bag and stared at it, looking thoroughly confused.

“The blind leading the blind,” another man chuckled. The fact that our navigator couldn’t read his own map was definitely a red flag.

The elderly woman and I surmised that we should walk toward the water since our classes involved shooting flares. While walking toward the bay, one of the men spotted a sign pointing us to the right building. He puffed up his chest as if he was Ferdinand Magellan.

The course instructors slapped name tags on us and pointed us toward the lecture hall, just past a table offering coffee, fruit and a heaping bowl of doughnut holes. I snagged an inconspicuous seat in the back left corner of the amphitheater, then sneaked back out, unable to resist free food. While selecting a few doughnut holes, I joked to a hulking man eyeing the jelly-filled ones, “Fruit just doesn’t cut it.”

“My poor blood sugar,” he said with a smile. This brief moment of humanity settled my nerves.

Two more women eventually arrived, seating themselves, like the elderly woman and me, on the fringes. About sixty men filled the rest of the seats. “Why do women place themselves on the sidelines?” I wondered.

“Every Root Cause Analysis of boating emergencies has six ‘M’s,” our instructor boomed. “One — Man. Human error must be considered, but you guys -- er, sorry, I mean persons -- should also analyze Machine, Material, Method, Measurement and Mother Nature,” he fumbled, noticing the few women in the room.

Later, we were taught how to extinguish fires, shoot flares and manage leaks. During the fire lesson, the instructor asked us to break into pairs. The men glanced desperately at each other, obviously reluctant to partner with a woman. And when asked to line up to shoot rocket flares, the men scrambled to go first, as if to say, “Watch how it’s done, ladies.”

During the leaks workshop, a male partner and I were asked to identify a leak in a flooded make-shift bilge and formulate a plan to stop it. I found the leak right away, but my partner ignored me and kept searching. I grabbed his hand, put it over the leak, and shouted, “Notice it now?”

Later, walking to pool for lifeboat training, he whispered when no one else was around, “Hey, thanks for finding that leak.”

“Let’s talk about MOB,” said our afternoon instructor, “which stands for ‘Man Over Board.’” I was beginning to notice a pattern.

During a lesson about Rescue Swimmers, our instructor asked, “Anyone here serve in the Coast Guard? Army? Air Force? Marines?” No one raised their hands. “Navy?” I raised my hand half-mast, as if I represented the entire US Armed Forces, and offered a concession, “Spouse?” No one even glanced in my direction.

A few days after earning my course certificate, I read that on March 7, 29-year-old, 5-foot-2 Cole Brauer completed a solo circumnavigation of the globe, non-stop and without assistance. Brauer was the only woman and the youngest sailor in the 2024 Globe Solo Challenge. Although many refused to sponsor her, considering her a “liability,” she finished second place, becoming the first American woman to sail alone around the world.

Brauer told reporters, “It’s a fully male dominated world, and … I really want women to know that it’s possible.”

Read more at and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email:

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