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Over the years, I have noticed that the people who work in boatyards and marinas always refer to me as Cap (Captain) or Skip (Skipper). They do that when I am alone, and also when I am with Rebecca.

It’s obviously difficult for the average worker to learn every customer’s name, so to overcome that, they have learned to use these terms. Interestingly though, they only address the guys in this way. The problem is, they are working on the assumption, in some cases a false one, that the male is the Captain. Even when they are right though, they don’t have a word to address the females, which, to me at least, often seems a bit rude. I know it’s not intentional, but they just don’t have a word to use. Please don’t suggest Admiral, Rebecca hates that term!

We know at least one cruising couple where the female half is the Captain. We also know several single-handed female sailors, which, by default, makes them the Captain. I wonder what their thoughts and experiences are on this.

34 Comments

  1. I do like the term “Admiral” but I hear her reluctance. “Boss” would work too, but perhaps you could defer to Fatty Goodlander and use “Brains”. 😉

  2. I think that ‘Captain’ is Ok for women too. I believe this has precedence in the military where a ‘Captain’ is called “Captain” based on their position/rank regardless of their sex.

    • Of course it’s OK. That doesn’t change anything though.

      Not that I think this is a huge problem. We have much more important things to worry about. I’m simply sharing an observation.

  3. I’ve heard these words many times too. And you’re right, the women are rarely addressed, except maybe in a very polite manner. I always figured the Caribbean men were being discrete and not trying to be too forward. When the roles are reversed, I’ve always found it brings a smile when I call an unknown Caribbean woman “Sweetie.”

  4. Thank you for ruminating on this. I always appreciate it when men consider things like this. I think the issue is that the workers often have not even thought about it, and might be surprised that someone would take issue with it. Education is always a good thing, as well as not trying to lump everyone in the same category. Male = captain, female = ???

  5. Mike, we often hear this as well. As to your reference of calling people cap or skip it is the casual way the caribbean and most of Americas address people today.(chum, mate , bud, cap, skip, etc.) This is not true however in Savusavu, Fiji. The marina staff and almost every resident on the island ask you your name and from that point on they call you by your name. If I could only train myself to remember their name as quickly oh what a wonderful pleasant world we would live in.

    • Interesting. I try hard to remember people’s names but it can sometimes be tough, especially if you’re dealing with a large number of people. We had hundreds of students and had to know each one by name.

  6. Drew, Mr., or Sir. Captain is military or large commercial. I suppose they think it is polite, but I don’t even like it. It feels disrespectful to captains.

    Admiral is plainly derogatory. You will hear me refer to Laura or my wife.

    Yeah, maybe name tags aren’t so dumb. Kindergarten was fun, after-all. A simplicity we’re all striving to return to, some days anyway.

  7. How about,

    Mrs Captain
    Ms Captain
    Miss Captain

    Right now it just is, nothing meant by it. As the discussion continues a term will evolve.
    However, Western thinking is different than many of these countries. Making a living is still the most important thing, not what proper term we parachuting in want to be called…just saying…

  8. I don’t think anyone should be called Captain or Skipper, unless they have earned a Captain’s rating and are operating a commercial boat as a paid Captain. I get called Captain at the airline I work for (even then, I always say “Just call me Brett”), when I am flying, because I put in a lot of work and time earning that title. If I fly a small plane for fun, I am not a captain and nobody would call me one, I’m just a pilot. I don’t know where this thing about calling everyone “Captain” just because they had the money to buy a boat, but I always was embarrassed when people called me that on my sailboat, because I had not earned a USCG Captain’s license and I was not operating it commercially.

  9. I agree with Brett. I think unless I have a Captain’s license, “Captain” seems weird. However, I’m normally the one who should be called the “captain” of our vessel, and it does annoy me that most people assume it’s my husband (he flys the plane, I drive the boat).

    We were clearing customs in our own slip at our marina in Anacortes one time. I called by phone first and the customs guy told me to have the captain come up to the office with documents, and for the other person to stay on board. I gathered our documents and went up to the customs office. After giving him my name and documents, he asked the name of the person still on board. I gave him my husband’s first and last name, and he then asked “And he’s the captain then?” I said, “Um. No. I’m the captain. Didn’t you just tell me to have the captain come up to the office?” He looked a little embarrassed and just went on from there with a slight smile. 🙂

  10. Personally I prefer the Reverend Doctor Co-captain Livia but it is difficult to train people to say 😉

    We havent encountered a lot of Skip/Capt where we’ve been. Interesting. The French countries we’ve visited use Monsieur/Madame rather than a sailing term mostly. Fiji was amazing name recall (as someone else mentioned) and I got macho bullshit about clearing the paperwork in one port in Tonga but not another. The guy actually rolled his eyes when I said I was the captain. Quite funny really. Women cant inherit land there so you can see the mindset.

  11. In my opinion women also have the right to be called captain. But if there is a male captain already and the woman is the 2nd in command why not refer to her as the “First Mate”. If she doesn’t like it then call her queen or madame. Better yet tell them how you and Rebecca wished to be addressed. It would be non-discriminatory if they call you by your real names and not in some labels. But like you said it’s probably not their intention and they just got used to it.

  12. Oh, I am sure they have a word for the ladies! ♥

  13. I think sometimes Skip of Skipper is used as a demeaning term. An example is a bridge tender in Longboat Pass when we first started cruising. After we passed the bridge opening he called back ” Hey Skip, do ya really think you needed that opening”? We didn’t know we were just low enough to make the high side of the bridge. He new the charter boat and his tone for the term Skip was condescending.

  14. Same problem in construction We need an all purpose word for workmen to call the owner. “Boss” would be a close as I could come to an all purpose term. The main thing is that they talk to us, no matter what they call us.

  15. They seem to call me sir as if they really think I’m actually my age….. Never get old!

  16. Well in my home I prefer to be called by my proper title. “Lord and master of all things in the world.” Its good to be king. My wife just calls me idiot, or dufus, and quite a few others I can say here.

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