Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pink & Blue?
By Michael

Windy hanging laundry aboard the first Del Viento in Mazatlan, 1997
It was a boating/cruising environment where I first heard the descriptions “pink jobs” and “blue jobs” attributed to the division of boat chores among male and female crew. It was about 1994 and it came from my marina liveaboard friend and neighbor Dar of s/v Mimosa. I’ve seen the terms used in cruising blogs and in forums since, and Betsy Morris of s/v Salsa wrote about them in the May 2010 issue of SAIL magazine.
From personal experience and observation, I acknowledge that it is most often the male crew who undertakes maintenance and repair of the iron genny. But after engines, can the rest of the work aboard be so broadly classified? And, just because the grease is found most often under men’s fingernails, does the corresponding work warrant a gender classification?

I would bet that Lin Pardey could do anything aboard a boat better than I could. But I think her descriptions of the cruising life—and those of other cruising pioneers such as the Roths and Hiscocks—regularly align the work aboard a cruising sailboat into “traditional” roles based on gender, reinforcing the pink and blue construct. I think those perceptions are attributable to both the time (their generation) and maritime tradition. Yet, outside the writings of these cruising pioneers, I think that the gender distinctions are blurring, echoing the land-based culture.  

Aboard Del Viento, I suspect Windy and I will follow in the wake of most of today’s cruisers: we will each take the lead on tasks to which we are inclined or most suited, but helping each other whenever needed--and ensuring that either one of us is prepared to take on all critical roles and responsibilities in the event the other is incapacitated.

When we begin our voyage, the girls will be 5- and 7-years-old. We are both eager to involve them in the daily maintenance and operation of the boat. I am eager to see what roles and responsibilities they are each attracted to as they get older. Cruising World columnist Wendy Mitman Clarke often describes her daughter as the fishing enthusiast aboard Osprey, battling the big catch alongside her father. I remember reading in Tom Neale’s book, All In The Same Boat, of a months-long project his daughter undertook to completely disassemble, clean-up, and reassemble an old genset engine that would have been appropriately used as an anchor. She did all of the work on her own, with his guidance, as part of a correspondence school project. I don’t know if it is really in the book, or just an image I created, but I can see the picture of a beaming teenage girl standing next to her engine after it fired up for the first time. (If anyone has any small, non-functioning motors, please save them for me and my girls.) I suspect already that Frances will work alongside me in the galley. Roughly by the time she turns seven, she will have learned to embrace my recipes-be-damned approach to baking and meal preparation. Eleanor will lead her mom on long hikes ashore ahead of the proper waking hour, reveling in the life sciences.

Toast cruised Mexico with three daughters aboard and has her own perspective and story of triumph over the blue jobs. And of course, there is another class of cruiser who tackles all jobs aboard, without respect to color: the singlehander.  To wit, grandmother Jeanne Socrates is currently sailing her Najad 380 Nereida on a second solo circumnavigation and Liz Clark is the inspirational young surfer gal who has been out for five years aboard her Cal 40 Swell. I’ve no doubt both have cleaned pounds of grease out from under their fingernails.

I think the most accurate perspective comes from cruiser Barb on La Luna: “Doesn't matter whether you wore pink or blue as an infant. If you cruise someone has to do the tough jobs. Sometimes you both do.” I agree with Barb, so long as she isn’t talking about unclogging the head; that has got to be a pink job, right?



  1. Hey Mike,Windy and Girls.
    We are finally leaving on Wednesday ,first stop borrego springs, then slab city and slavation mountain, up to havasu/parker dam, grand canyon caverns off route 66, williams az., grand canyon, sunset crater n.p., meteror crater, gila bend cliff dweeling n.p. and then carslbad caverns. That should get us to Texas about mid april. We need to be in n.c. june 14 for great grandmas b-day. What does it look like for you to head down to P.V. Hope all is going well. Really hope to see you. I think we may try to loop up thru nova scotia and upper states and down west coast all before dec 2011. But who knows, it chages daily, but Danielle may have chance to sell S.D. munchkin minders for good profit and maybe central america and south . Enough of my rambling. Take care. Hey do you guys use skye at all?
    Later Greg

  2. What I think is interesting is that when Michael and I cruised pre-kids we had a lot more overlap on the pink/blue jobs (I did lots of boatwork, like splicing, varnishing, helping with plumping, standing rigging, etc.) Now, I take care of the kids and he takes care of the boat. Hopefully we'll get that sorted out a little more evenly when he's home full time starting in July!

  3. We just added a link to your post on our pink/blue jobs topic page. Based on the posts we've found, the generational differences are really remarkable. Take a look!


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