Unicorn’s all-female crew sets sail from New York to Nova Scotia
Bridgeport, CT, United States (AHN Sports) – The all-female crew of tall ship Unicorn wants to prove it can co-exist and excel in a male-dominated world of sailing.
“When I sought to start an only-female crew, everyone looked at me like I had four heads,” said Dawn Santamaria, who owns the Unicorn with her husband and founder of the non-profit organization Sister Under Sail.
“One, there’s not a lot of female mariners out there who have the captain’s license that we require,” she explained.
Santamaria also pointed out that no women had ever worked in an all-female environment in this industry. “So I had my work cut out for me,” she said.
Since she founded the Sisters Under Sail in 2005, Santamaria has put aboard nearly 450 teenage girls and 250 women aboard the Unicorn, believing that by putting them aboard a 100-ton ship will develop teamwork, camaraderie, self-esteem and confidence.
Santamaria said her structured program exclusively for young female sailors will teach them a powerful lesson to stick together in support of one another.
This year, Rose Witte will captain the Holland-built 65-year-old ship Unicorn, which will sail out of Captain’ Cove Seaport Wednesday for a more or less 100-day journey from New York City to Nova Scotia.
In various sessions along the way, the ship will welcome nearly 50 teenage girls, who will learn how to operate the old-fashioned schooner and develop leadership and teamwork skills.
Witte said trips up and down the masthead and scaling dozens of rungs above a ship will be part of the training they will give to participants to develop their self-confidence and leadership skills.
“That’s what leadership is about — self confidence. That’s why we’re here,” said Witte, who will be joined by other crewmembers, including first mate Hannah Imrie .
A student at the School for Marine Navigation in Ontario, Imrie has sailed on tall ships up and down the East Coast, through the Great Lakes, in parts of the Pacific Ocean and in Wales and Italy.
When she finishes her schooling, she will be certified to captain everything from merchant marine vessels to cruise ships. But she wants to sail tall ships, like the Unicorn, as long as she can.