Susan Brittain, with the schooner Adventuress behind her at the Port Townsend Boat Haven, is one of six storytellers in "She Tells Sea Tales," an online event this Saturday. Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News

‘She Tells Sea Tales’ presents women’s true stories

Presentations aim to support dreams of sailing

PORT TOWNSEND — Susan Brittain, winner of the Tall Ships America lifetime achievement award for 2022, has stories from far and wide. For the Northwest Maritime Center’s “She Tells Sea Tales” evening, she’s chosen a true tale about her first job.

It was in the Caribbean Sea. And that’s all Brittain will say until the time comes for the telling.

“She Tells Sea Tales” will sail at 6 p.m. Saturday, as the maritime center presents the annual gathering.

Tickets are $22 to benefit the nonprofit center’s programs, which include the Girls’ Boat Project, and many sailing classes and camps.

The link to purchase and view the livestreamed event is found at NWmaritime.org while more information is available by phoning 360-385-3628.

Brittain grew up in England; since then she has lived on two continents, captained ships across the seas between them, and changed her gender from male to female.

In 2015, she moved to the Pacific Northwest — to remote Marrowstone Island — and joined the marketing and public programs crew of Sound Experience, which sails the schooner Adventuress.

Brittain, 64, received Tall Ships America’s honor last month for being an unconventional inspiration to her fellow sailors around the world.

Accepting the award, she thanked her wife, Cindy, whom she called her soul mate. Then she thanked the thousands of students who’ve sailed with her over the years, adding that each taught her as much as she taught them.

In 2009, Brittain was Captain Bob, and one who had to make a decision, one “brought on by 50 years of gender dysphoria,” she said.

Facing into thrashing winds, she said, “I turned and set all sail … I changed my gender and became Susan.”

Brittain is only one of six “Sea Tales” tellers.

Accompanying her are:

• Ebony Welborn and Savannah Smith, cofounders of Sea Potential, an organization promoting inclusion of Black, Indigenous and people of color in the world of marine sciences;

• Ginny Wilson, a graduate of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock;

• Lara Edgeland, an artist, scientist, and tall ship sailor who has taught in the maritime center’s Girls’ Boat Project;

• Meegan Corcoran, a U.S. Navy veteran who now manages global research vessels. She’s traveled to 13 countries so far, where she’s logged some wild, woolly experiences.

The “Sea Tales” tellers have set their sights on changing the narrative for women and girls, who at this point make up just 1.2 percent of the worldwide seafaring workforce, according to the maritime center.

Through storytelling, the women intend to show that one can follow any dream and desire, unencumbered by the old gender-societal limits.

For the first time, “Sea Tales” is running a matching gift challenge. Two donors have pledged to match any contribution made to the program — through March 14 — up to $10,000. So along with the ticket price, these proceeds will support women-forward programming at the Northwest Maritime Center.

________

Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

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