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Women on the Water

Women of the Bitter End  –  When I first walk into the reception area of Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC), I’m greeted by carved wooden statues of Arawak women in various poses: one proudly stands by the door, another serenely sits by the railing, a third gently paddles a canoe on the landing. Before I have a chance to wonder at the significance of the wooden ladies, I’m greeted by Carine Locher, the new Quarterdeck Manager at Bitter End.

Carine and I walk to the Clubhouse Grill where Day Hostess Beulah Samuel welcomes us, and I smile because Beulah was the name of my maternal great-grandmother. I feel like family already. We sit down to a buffet barbecue lunch and chat about BEYC’s Women on the Water program, a week of sailing they’ve offered in the past for aspiring female sailors, taught by world-class sailing champions. Though the program isn’t being offered this season, Carine hopes to reinstate it next year and launch a promotional campaign to support it. The fact that BEYC has offered Women on the Water in the past and desires to continue it in the future indicates their commitment to championing women.

 

Multi-lingual, Swiss-born Carine joined the staff at Bitter End in 2008 after working as a day sail captain. Before she was a day sail captain, she was recruited for a position as a dive instructor for Kilbrides Sunchaser Scuba which is how she first came to the BVI. “I always say that the BVI chose me,” Carine says. “Maybe that’s why I’m still here.” Carine first learned to drive a power boat when she worked as a dive instructor. “Here in the BVI, instructors also drive the boats,” says Carine. “You do everything. It’s great. It gave me the opportunity to learn.” After that, she learned to sail. “It’s no noise. It’s just the elements. I absolutely love it,” she says.

Carine and I are joined by Sandra Grisham-Clothier, Chief Operating Officer of the Bitter End Resort. Sandra’s background is in hotel management. At one property in the Florida Keys, she started a watersports and dive program, introducing her employers to the benefits of incorporating water activities to the resort. She first came to the BVI as BEYC’s managing director in 1999-2001 but returned to the States to further her career then came back to BEYC in 2008 as the Chief Operating Officer. “It’s funny how a lot of the women circle back to the Bitter End,” Sandra tells me and runs down a mental list of women in management positions at BEYC.

 

When I ask them if they’ve seen an increase of women on the water in general over the past ten years, they say yes, in both SCUBA and boating. “A lot of companies like to hire women because they have a different approach,” Carine says and describes how she will still splice a line instead of buying one. “Why pay for one that’s already braided when you can do it yourself? The more you know, even if you don’t use it for a while, you can figure it out again. It gives a sense of accomplishment. If you don’t do that effort, you don’t get that feeling.”

Sandra describes her active childhood on the water, and her dad encouraging her to “get in there and beat her brother” at watersports. “It’s great to see all the young girls come out here and really get into the sports and stay in it,” Sandra mentions. “We saw a lot of mother-daughter trips last year. We’re family-owned and family-run, so it has that nice warmth to it.”

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“In the BVI, we are known as the capital of sailing, so we attract more captains, and therefore more female captains,” Carine says, and Bitter End is known as the premier watersports centre in the BVI. Sandra proclaims, “Our world is on the water, that’s for sure.”  

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