Saturday, 26 April 2008

Sexism alive and well in Montenegro

STOP PRESS: Katie Squires no longer has a job!

After spending several days this week, working for free, in my new role checking every system on every boat and getting them ready for charter, I am told at 6pm yesterday that I cannot do that job and have to go back to being a cleaner. And the reason why? Because I am a woman and apparently, that job requires a man.

Obviously, I told them that I cannot work for them anymore. I am not willing to spend another minute of my life helping to make money for these people.

Today is the first day of the season and all the boats are out on charter - it really doesn't make good business sense to ditch one of the three people who can do anything other than clean boats/stand around posing at 6pm the night before.

We were planning a summer of working together, in a team, both getting valuable experience and sharing the responsibility of keeping these boats afloat. Now it's all gone to pot. It has been a long while since I've felt this angry.

Being judged on what I can do by the virtue of whether I have cock is pretty hard to swallow (don't snigger, child!). What do they think I do when I install a new bilge pump or rewire a light fitting or fit the water filtration system into the undersink plumbing or - shock, horror - start the engine and steer my own boat? Do I strap on a magic penis which gives me super-human powers enabling me to use a screw driver or drill holes? And this job doesn't even require any of that - but I do need to be able to show MEN how to turn on the engine, use the anchor windlass, fire up the outboard motor and turn off seacocks. Maybe it is less to do with my own inadequacies and a little more to do with theirs? To add insult to injury, they have got to get someone in today to help Tim take the boats to be refuelled as he needs crew.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

More bloody rain

Sadly I have no stats at my fingertips but the past two months have felt like the wettest period of my life. In between days of driving rain has been the occasional hint of what it could be like if it wasn't pissing it down - and believe me, it is gorgeous when the sun shines. The mountains instantly transform from grim, foreboding peaks poking their rocky outcrops through the cloud into full technicolour, 3-dimensional beauty. But not often, or so it seems.

At the end of March, our friends Andy, Kim and Cath came to visit and it forecasted rainy and chilly conditions all week. This was slightly gutting as these were our first visitors who we feared after a week of drips, wet clothes and tiny spaces, would wonder what the hell had possessed us to swap the spacious, Georgian villa that we rented at home for this floating thing. But this did not transpire. Far from it, in fact.

We drank through the rain of the first 48 hours and it seemed enough for our visitors to master crossing a precarious, wet gangplank which is poorly balanced at the best of times but takes some practice when the boat is swinging around in 25 knot winds. During the first night of partying, Tim and I spent much of it on deck checking that all was okay as the boat strained and lurched in strong winds. No one else seemed particularly bothered by the howling wind or that the boat kept violently tipping their beer off the table. Maybe they thought it was normal!

Gangplanks mastered (to a point) and an upturn in our weather fortunes made us leave our moorings at 8am, fully crewed, and we spent a day motoring around the Boka. We made it to the mouth of the Boka and rounded the island at its entrance. As soon as we'd turned towards the sea, everyone noticed the motion of the boat immediately; the swell brought the water to life and our guests finally got to see what this is really all about. It was wonderful to feel the sea and yet again, I felt that sadness which keeps coming over me, where I crave to be out there rather than tucked away in Kotor. Our time will come and we are having to be very careful where we take Monty B in her current state - but I am not known for my patience.

We managed another two days out on the water. A late afternoon/dusk pootle in Monty B which was dreamy as the sun glowed pink on the mountains and our wake glittered as the light was lost. We also spent a day aboard one of the company yachts and actually got sailing though in our usual fashion, the wind died after an hour. Is this just us? Is someone trying to tell us something?

So now they know what its like aboard Monty B.
Last Sunday we took part in Tivat Regatta. We were part of a crew of 10 on one of the company's yachts. Pedja, Tim's boss, was superb as skipper though I took some umbrance at the beginning when I asked how things were going to work with crew. "I have crew", Pedja lists 4 names and Tim. I forgot my place for a moment; of course, I am a WOMAN! There is definitely some work needed in this region on gender roles - and this isn't me being bratty; they still appear to be of the opinion that women want to get married, stay at home and have kids while men go around being "strong". Even a good (local female) friend of mine suggested that Tim should join the sailing club and when I said "yes, I'd like to do that too", she looked at me with surprise and replied "But you would put all the men off because you're too pretty". Maybe I should sail in a Burka?

Anyway, I was glad I kept my mouth shut on this particular occasion as the crew worked seamlessly in response to Pedja's cries of "Jos, jos, brzu, brzu.....etc" and there is no way that either Tim nor I could have been part of a Serbian speaking crew without having a working knowledge of the language. Though I do understand "more, more, faster, faster".

So instead the day was kicked off at 8.30am with a (down in one) glass of Rakija and there wasn't a point that I didn't have a drink in my hand until around 1am the next day. The race started around 11am and ended around 4pm (little wind). We came fifth and 2nd in class. It was fantastic sailing with such a skilled skipper. We had a surreal motor back in another yacht whose crew were too pissed to take it back to base (Tim was in charge of ensuring that the incredibly drunk skipper didn't do anything crazy - this was quite hard). Watched the sky turn pink and orange blah blah - another breathtaking sunset on the water - then after the pissed skipper had abandoned his attempts at mooring, Tim took over and we got back onto dry land and into Bandieras (our favourite bar). The day ended around 1am when I couldn't find the loo in the tiny, one-roomed bar then struggled to find the exit. I decided to quit while I was ahead.

We have been planning to get out onto anchor for weeks but the weather is still too shit. Anyway, I still have a list of jobs as long as my hair to get done before we leave shore. This includes re-wiring our crap old windlass - somehow. The wiring is working - I bypassed the switch and the motor works. The switch clicks when powered and pressed but nothing happens. The wiring all looks fine. It may be a problem with the solenoid but surely the motor wouldn't work if the solenoid was knackered. Anyway, the rain has to stop before any more progress can be made. I've cobbled together a wiring diagram from the internet so yet more terrifying games with electricity will commence later today.

Katie Squires has a job! Yes, Employee of the Month has been lured out of retirement and is now a salaried member of staff. I am employed for one day a week - though spread across several and will include about 12 hours on a Saturday so I'm not quite sure on their definition of a day. I began with cleaning boats, for which, I have discovered, I have something of an aptitude. My mother's obsessional cleaning has rubbed off on me somewhere; though still not on my own boat I am glad to say. I always wondered how you got those tiny bits of stuff off things - now I know.

Anyway, I have already been promoted (by Tim!), to do check-in and check-out which involves checking every system and item on the boats, showing clients how to use every system on the boat then making sure they haven't broken or nicked anything at the end. It actually requires quite a lot of knowledge which is all good stuff.

And on that note, I must go as it's 1245 and I still haven't turned in for work! nowt changes.

Photos of latest exploits to follow.