“So the girls onboard do the cooking and cleaning and then the boys sail the ship, right?”
The idea of the ocean is both captivating and intimidating. Its enormous and difficult nature lent itself to being thought of as a realm for the “stronger” sex—but Lola Klint is a Danish sailor making you rethink that stereotype. A crew member and an accomplished independent sailor, Lola is only 25 and navigating a world that is largely regarded as a male sport. Either climbing 30 metres up a rig, carrying massive ropes or island hoping, she lives for the ocean.
She wants to see as many coasts as she can with her fellow sailors. So far, her voyages include Scandinavia and the Caribbean. The freedom she feels in the ocean and the ability to build a relationship with it through sailing is a hard-won honor. She worked for years to be able to navigate the various duties onboard.
As the early morning tide recedes and the sun peers over the horizon, ship members are the first to see daybreak and its rhythms. The solitude in the ocean and the rewarding nature of sailing are singular. Catching fish by afternoon, sweating through the labour and singing as night falls, Lola’s sport is equally difficult and dreamy. We had a chat with her to learn how more women can get involved.
GIRLS ARE AWESOME: How did you get into sailing?
Lola Klint: By chance. My parents were never into sailing. The only time we tried doing the outdoor experience for a change, our canoe capsized with the whole family. I joined the training ship DENMARK by chance and never dreamed that this trip would be more than an experience. But I fell in love with the lifestyle and the unity you experience onboard. The necessity of cooperation and understanding on a sailing ship is unique. When I came home, I had a hard time adjusting to my old way of living. I wanted go sail again—so I did. I went sailing on a barque up along the east coast of the US and Canada. I went sailing in the Caribbean, Greenland, Norway, Germany and Denmark. It’s easy to get into sailing: its getting out of sailing that’s a problem.
When I think of sailing, it involves burly men, rum and machismo. Is this just a stereotype or is it a man’s world?
I remember when we reached the US after crossing the Atlantic. We had an open ship arrangement where tourists were welcomed aboard. We were 40 girls and 40 boys, all in the same maritime uniform. A typical question was,“So the girls onboard do the cooking and cleaning and then the boys sail the ship, right?”
Sailing is a question of safety and you want the most competent person doing the job. Of course gender doesn’t matter, but sailing is historically a man’s world of honor and tradition. As a girl in a man’s world, you have to be prepared to prove your worth as a sailor. Often there will be an assumption that the guy next to you will be a better fit for the job.
Also, when sailing, there is usually a clear hierarchy. It’s a question of responsibility if you are in a critical situation: you need someone in charge who can give the right orders. There are more men working in the maritime business than girls—so that person is often a man. I have experienced being in a situation where I had a higher position than men both older and more experienced than me, but it wasn’t easy. Some of these men have had problems taking orders from me, and truthfully I’ve had problems calling the orders because they wouldn’t accept the hierarchy where they were under a girl.
But as a girl sailing, you also experience a lot of respect and admiration. Most people don’t expect a girl to be a sailor, so when they see a girl climb 30 meters up the rig, steering a ship or handling lines, they are astonished. I love to play with people’s prejudices.
What is your best memory of sailing?
All the people I’ve met. All the times my prejudices about a person were proved wrong. When forced to live and work together, you’ll find a way, no matter how different you are. There is a saying that you marry the people you are sailing with. You can’t hide. It won’t always be a perfect marriage, but you will always have an understanding for the person.
What are some of the main things you can’t live without when going on the ship?
One of the main things I love about sailing is the simplicity. You don’t need much. You need clothes which you can work in. You need tools to do your job. Besides that, you just need to fulfil your basic needs for food and water. Fishing gear and a book are always good to bring.
What is your dream voyage?
I once sailed in the Caribbean together with four other girls. We were living the dream sailing from one island to another, fishing, swimming, singing and laughing through the days. Last summer, we bought a boat together and sailed up along the coast between Sweden and Denmark. My dream is to do a long voyage with these girls. We don’t want any destination or time schedule. The dream is just to sail from one harbor to another as long as we enjoy it.
What advice would you give to an aspiring sailor?
Just do it. But I warn you: it’s the getting out of sailing that’s the problem.