I’m a member of a closed group on Facebook that plays a big role for me when it comes to sailing and living aboard. I was invited by my friend Sophi who has lived aboard for a few years now, and she was really excited to add me to the ranks of the amazing group of women known as “Women Who Sail.” When I was added, we were at about 700 members. As of now we’ve busted on through to 1185 members and counting.
The conversation is enlightening, detailed, technical, supportive, and inspiring. I can’t get enough of these people. I really feel as though they’re friends, and we meet up with each other in the real world when our paths cross.
What makes the group special is perhaps the spectrum of its participants. We are old and young; we are new and experienced. We are single-handers out on our own and timid sideline sitters whose partners carry the bulk of the boat tasks. Many well-known bloggers and book writers are among our ranks. Lin Pardey chimes in from time to time, as she’s a member, too.
A good number of the members are at the dream stage of the boating/cruising life, however, many conversations are driven by women live aboard in remote places and have many nautical miles under their belts. I’m in awe of them, I respect them, and they respect me.
As we add new members, most give an introductory post about themselves and comment on how refreshing it is to discuss boat matters in a forum and format so open and accepting. I think this says more about the environment outside of WWS than it does about us, and so for anyone who’s curious about what goes on in our little neck of the internet woods, I’m going to lay it out. Here’s why I think it works. I’m sharing this because I hope it inspires other people with like minds to build their own beautiful webs.
1. Our membership is vetted.
Not just by moderators, either. New folks who come to WWS are typically added after meeting in real life with people who are current members. Sophi is a friend from Portland, and she added me. I’ve invited women I met at potlucks and random anchorages all up and down the eastern seaboard of the US during my first trip on the ICW. This creates a membership that cares. There’s a real feeling that we have a stake in how great the group is and what its inherent value is. We all bring that to the group, not just any particular one of us.
2. Posts are monitored and discussion is moderated.
We have our moments where the moderators have had to remind people to curb their tone, but really, for being over 1000 people I’m going to boast that we’ve got some really peaceful, mindful, thoughtful folks here. I don’t think it’s because we’re women, I think it’s got something to do with the vetting AND with the clear guidelines about the purpose of the group. Some posts about electrical maintenance or ideal finishes for teak could potentially get heated. Ever read a post about the holy act of anchoring in other forums? I won’t name names, but I mean really, if you ask a question a certain way in certain places the sharks come out. I daresay WWS is proud to be shark-free.
3. Conversation flows freely from engine parts to lady parts, and it’s all good.
When it comes to living aboard, there are some serious questions from a broad swath of potential topics that most folks on a wide open forum would not be willing to post. I think that the fact that conversations float at the top of the page and then slowly sink down while new posts are created and discussed makes for fresh, lively back-and-forth banter, advice, and opinion.
Right now, just browsing the page quickly, our group is discussing internationally documented vessels and an anecdotal experience off the coast of California, optimizing a new iPad so the Active Captain app renders a chart properly, how to make your dinghy a little safer for your dog that loves to hang out right on the bow, and what we can do with beach trash if we’re in a remote place and want to do something about it. There have been many discussions about healthcare, remote family relationships, and how to report abusive partner behavior we see in anchorages. We’ve got this one conversation that has gone into the mental archives as the “bra rant.” We’ve got a handful woman who could solve pretty much ANY of your engine issues with just a couple of pictures and a description of the problem. Don’t even get me started about how crafty, creative, and self-sufficient these people are.
Other forums have big lists of topics and so many places to poke around and stick your head in, leave a comment, and then leave, maybe never to return. Facebook might have one up on the traditional forum approach when it comes to talking about big things that really matter, and that might be because the posts flow down from a spotlight position at the top of the page and they move down as things become resolved.
4. Like-minded individuals just might have the most productive conversations.
We’re all women and most of us live aboard or have dreams about living aboard. We’re coming in at a particular angle and have some pretty major things in common. Our politics, our backgrounds, our incomes and therefore our approach to cruising might be slightly different, but fundamentally, we’re coming at this with a lot to offer each other. For example, folks who daysail or go on short cruises have a very different opinions about using marinas or anchoring than we do- we have to anchor or this lifestyle isn’t possible for us, financially speaking. There are many kindreds in WWS.
So that’s about it. If you’re inspired to join Women Who Sail, please send a message- we’ll chat it up and I’ll see if I can get you in! Maybe you’re inspired to start a group of your own, you gents you, who seek to raise the level of conversation or who maybe want to stay in touch, easily, with people you meet or with acquaintances of acquaintances.