Want to be a boat captain? Find a mentor, these women captains advise

Want to be a boat captain? Find a mentor, these women captains advise

Oct 31, 2021 by Dorie Cox

Photo by Dorie Cox

Mentors and role models are at the root of success, said four professional female anglers who spoke Friday at “Learn to Captain with the Ladies,” a seminar hosted by West Marine at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

This group of captains shared tips for future mariners and offered recommendations for breaking in as a new boater.

Capt. Deb Deyo, of Bluewater Girl Charter, knew she wanted to be on the water when she was young. She worked her way into the industry by chasing pelicans off fishing docks.

Next, she found knowledgeable mariners in the Florida Keys working at Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada. She gained experience and sea time to get her captain’s license, then started her own charter company.

Deyo’s mother was her biggest role model. “My mother was more of a fisherman than my dad,” she said. “We used to go 30 miles out in our 17-foot boat. My mother was the best.”

For someone wants to buy a boat, she advises: “Hire a captain to learn the ins and outs.” A top priority is to make sure to learn safety procedures, wear a personal floatation device (PFD) and know what to do on board.

Capt. Pamela Wirth is a kayak fisherman.

“Hire a guide, always wear a PFD and don’t go by yourself,” she said. If soloing, have a buddy system or float plan, she said.

Capt. Leiza Fitzgerald said to start small when breaking into the field professionally. As director of the Coastal Conservation Association STAR, she works with a variety of people in the industry.

“Start in the cockpit and work your way up,” Fitzgerald said. Someone asked her to start as a deckhand when she set a goal to be captain.

“Captains don’t just drive, you need to know how to troubleshoot,” she said.

Although Capt. Debbie Hanson, of She Fishes 2, did not have a role model, she knows the value and tries to take it on for the next generation.

She started fishing with her grandfather as a 5-year-old. “My brother didn’t have any interest, and I didn’t have anyone to look up to,” she said.

“Learn to boat safely,” she said. Try classes and events with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, boating clubs, and even hire a professional captain.

“At this show you look out to see that people don’t look like ourselves,” Hanson said. “I hope that all women will be forthcoming.”

The takeaway? Anyone can be a mariner ­— just reach out.


About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is a writer with Triton News.

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