Since opening the Annapolis School of Seamanship in 2002, Capt. John Martino has sought to educate and empower boaters of all skill levels with the knowledge and dexterity necessary to be self-sufficient on the water.
"There's not a whole lot of formal training out there," said Martino, whose school instructs students from all over North America. "We offer skills you can't find anywhere else."
He'll be offering much of that guidance during a three-hour "Women at the Wheel" workshop Jan. 25 at the Baltimore Boat Show at the Baltimore Convention Center.
"Some of our best students have been women," said Martino, who long has been reluctant to hold a women's-only class given the success of his school's longstanding coed format.
The school, which has conducted seminars at the show for the past five years, has offered year-round, hands-on classroom instruction to men and women since 2003, teaching everything from boating basics to celestial navigation to marine electrical systems.
"We don't teach to men or women, we teach to boaters — that was always my logic," Martino said. "But it became apparent to me that there is a significant population of women that are intimidated being in a coed class."
By offering a women's class, he hopes to alleviate the common fears associated with the technical aspects of boating not traditionally thought to be female-oriented, Martino said. The class will focus on boating basics as well as the hurdles all boating beginners typically face, including docking, close-quarters maneuvering, line handling and navigation.
Boat show officials say they expect to welcome 14,000 to 18,000 customers. Though the attendance will be largely male, show manager Tara Davis hopes the "Women at the Wheel" class will encourage more female participation.
Davis, who has managed the Baltimore Boat Show for the past four years, is a boat owner herself and acknowledged that even she isn't the most confident female boater.
"I'm sure there are plenty of women out there who want to feel more confident on their own on their boats," Davis said. "I can't be the only one."
In a 2012 research study published in the National Marine Manufacturers Association's Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, just three out of 10 female boat owners participated in recreational boating in 2012.
The "Women at the Wheel" class has room for 20 students and will be taught by Martino. The cost will be $99 and will include the price of admission to the boat show. For more information or to register or to attend any of Martino's other workshops, go to the seminars page at Baltimoreboatshow.com.
Baltimore Boat Show
The 60th anniversary Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show will be Jan. 23-26 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Compare hundreds of boats from luxury cruisers and fishing boats to family runabouts and pontoons. The show will include appearances by members of the History Channel's "Swamp People," seminars, a boating simulator and a 50-foot-by-¿50-foot pond for hands-on fly fishing practice, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. There will also be a kids zone. For hours and more information, go to BaltimoreBoatShow.com or call 410-224-7633.