Why Ships Are Referred to as “She”

By George Davis


A ship is like a woman, in that if a sailor does not provide her with his full, undivided attention, she will wander off.

“HEAVE-TO to lay a sailing ship on the wind with her helm a-lee and her sails shortened and so trimmed that as she comes up to the wind she will fall off again on the same tack and thus make no headway.” THE OXFORD COMPANION TO SHIPS & THE SEA, edited by Peter Kemp, Oxford University Press, 1976

The Flying Scot is a 19-foot, sloop-rigged, centerboard day sailer. The large, deep cockpit is ideal for family sailing. It is of fiberglass construction with comfortable benches along each side. One person can sail it, but she can seat eight adults.

It is a bright, pleasant, Sunday morning. The sailor and the girl sail the Flying Scot across Subic Bay to Gaines Beach. At midday ,they enjoy hamburgers and San Miguel. After a leisurely stroll under the pines on the old submarine base, they start back.

The wind is coming out of the west, blowing steadily toward the land at a pleasant 4 to 6 knots. There are little wavelets on the water, but no appreciable swells. The sails are set for a starboard fetch, which puts the boat in the middle of Subic Bay, out near the channel. There are no ships moving. There are no other boats near. They are alone.

“Did you ever make love on a sailboat?” the sailor asks.

The girl looks up at him. “No.”

He grins back at her and drops his swim trunks. She looks around, then begins to undress. The sailor positions himself on his back on the leeward bench seat, his feet toward the bow, using a life jacket for a pillow. The heeling of the boat anchors him firmly against the seat back. From that position, he can monitor the wind in the sails and manage the tiller. The boat is hours from any obstruction and he can guide the boat by watching the wind in the sails. The girl positions herself over him and assists him with the entry.

“Damn, you are easy!”

“You make me wet.”

But the moment doesn’t last. The sails begin to luff and he must concentrate on correcting the course.

“This is not working,” he says as he withdraws from her. “Lets try something… Ready about! Helm is over!”

He brings the boat about onto the port tack, close hauled, and cleats the jib sheet up tight. “Ready about! Helm’s a-lee!” and he brings the sailboat back to the starboard tack, leaving the jib cleated off on the wrong side. The wind catches the back of the jib and blows the bow off the wind. The sailor pushes the helm over to the lee and ties it off. He trims in the mainsail until it pushes the boat forward. The helm turns it into the wind, but the jib pushes the bow off the wind. Now he readjusts the main so it balances against the jib. The main pushes the boat forward. The jib pushes it back. It rocks gently forward and back, not going anywhere, just drifting sideways against the centerboard. Satisfied, he cleats off the main sheet.

“This is called ‘heaving-to’”, he says. “Now, where were we….?”

“Guess we’ll have to wash with sea water.” The sailor unties the tiller and begins steering with his knees. He releases the jib sheet from the cleat and draws it back through on the port side. Then he adjusts the sails for a starboard reach back to the yacht club at Cubi Point. He checks for signs of current so he can adjust for any set from the tide.

“I can feel a two-step coming on,” he beams at the girl. But she knows that after a shower and a warm supper, the sailor will probably feel like a nap……

A woman is like a ship, in that if a sailor does not provide her with his full, undivided attention, she will wonder off.

George the Sailor

01 August 2010


George Davis was raised on a small farm in the breaks of the Republican River in Nebraska. He graduated from an electronics technical school in Denver, Colorado, then worked for a year in an electronics assembly factory in Dallas, Texas. He joined the Navy and spent 19 of a 24-year career forwardly deployed to the western Pacific. He is now retired on a hobby farm on the dissected plain of the Buffalo Commons, driving a school bus to cover the expenses of farming.



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