Women Making Waves: Port of Egypt workshop builds confidence on the open water

Women Making Waves at Port of Egypt in Southold is designed to give women confidence on the water. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

Spending a relaxing day on the water starts with confidence. The peace of mind gained from knowing the basics of boating makes a difference when you step on board — and not just for the captain.

“Heaven forbid you’re out on the water and something happens to the captain and you’re left there, what are you going to do? It is a safety concern,” said Southold resident and boat owner Eileen VanGelder. “It is the comfort of having the knowledge. Things can happen when you’re out there and it is important to know what you’re doing in a worst-case-scenario situation.”

VanGelder’s concerns are not uncommon for many women, many of whom have spent their lives on the water or who’ve owned boats but were not at the helm.

“My husband and I had a 16-foot Sea Ray and he was always in charge,” she explained. “He passed away two years ago. I have been on other boats since then and it is always the same thing … I want to be able to say, ‘Hey, I could take over for you’ or ‘I could dock the boat for you.’ ”

Boater safety is among the areas covered in the workshops. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

To get a better grasp on captaining, VanGelder is one of dozens of women who signed up for the Women Making Waves workshop at Port of Egypt Marine in Southold. The three-hour-long class is taught by general manager and licensed boat captain Will Lieblein, whose father, company CEO Will “Bill” Lieblein Sr., helped develop the course more than two decades ago. After a couple of seasons off, Port of Egypt revived the program last year due to popular demand.

“We saw there was a lot of interest,” said general manager Yvonne Lieblein. “We always listen to our customers and we want them to enjoy boating to the fullest. Our wish for these classes is to make women more comfortable on the water.”

Women Making Waves aims to build women’s confidence behind the wheel, instructing on the basics and beyond through interactive lectures and hands-on training. The course addresses nautical terms, safety at sea, radio use, basic navigation, how to secure a boat to a slip and intro to docking with practice sessions in the waters behind Port of Egypt.

“The channel behind Port of Egypt is super tight, which was good practice,” said Southold resident Tabitha McQuade, who has owned a boat for 13 years and took the class last year. “There were a lot of questions and answers, and people were immersed right away. We weren’t stuck there scribbling away in a notebook. It was very upbeat. Everyone left feeling really good about it.”

A workshop participants learns communications on the water. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

The workshops are limited in size to help foster a relaxed learning environment where participants could feel free to jump in with questions, Mr. Lieblein said. The women are encouraged to bring a friend and swap sea stories with others in the group.

“I never learned any formal boating skills. I knew some of the technical terms from working as a nurse in the Navy, but not a lot,” said Southold resident Dianne Wamsley, a volunteer firefighter and EMT in the Southold Fire Department. “Soon after my husband and I bought the boat, Port of Egypt reached out to tell me about Women Making Waves. I asked if I could bring two friends and they said, ‘By all means.’ The class is a fun way to meet people. This gives me an opportunity to meet like-minded people who want to develop boating skills.”

The course is designed for novices as well as more experienced boaters who want to brush up on their skills and hone new ones.

“We always had a much smaller boat and it was kind of a no-brainer to operate, but when we got a bigger boat, it was more complicated,” McQuade added. “There was a lot more going on with the steering and the electronics.”

The Liebleins (Will, from left, Bill Sr. and Yvonne) at Port of Egypt. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

McQuade was able to put the know-how she learned from the workshop into practice almost immediately after the class. A week later, she captained her family’s boat solo for the first time, steering it from Southold to a dock in Greenport for dinner with her husband. By chance, she ran into Mr. Lieblein, who was celebrating his birthday.

“I was so excited that I was able to tell him that I was able to drive the boat to Greenport that night because I took the class,” she said. “I wanted him to know that it was worthwhile.”

“It was a really nice birthday present,” Mr. Lieblein said with a laugh. “It is great to provide people with those types of experiences on the water.”

The next class is scheduled for Saturday, June 13, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Port of Egypt.

Port of Egypt is located at 62300 Main Road in Southold.