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Maggie Brown, Owner Body Glove Cruises

Maritime history is rich with legendary tales of cantankerous, heroic seamen. Taking to the sea is primarily thought of as a male dominated career and past time, however women have always been a part of this rich history. In fact, there are many places where women are moving beyond traditional gender stereotypes and taking the lead in owning and operating boating businesses. Kailua-Kona, Hawaii is one such place.

Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawaii, is a hot spot for tourists who wish to venture out into the deep blue. Water activities such as snorkeling, whale watching, and dinner cruises are just a few of the offerings boating businesses provide. For too long, boating has been a male-dominated industry, however in this small town, women make up a significant percentage of boating business owners.

Maggie Brown, owner of Body Glove Cruises, finds the high number of women-owned boating businesses interesting and exciting.

I don’t know much about the other Hawaiian islands, but I found it very interesting when I started counting the numbers of women involved, and I thought, ‘This is crazy. I love it!’”

Brown grew up around boats her entire life and comes from a long line of boaters going back to the 1700’s.

Maggie aboard the Kanoa II

Boating has pretty much always been a man thing,” said Brown. “From the tine I was a little kid, it was always my dad and my brother who were into it. For me, I think it’s an inborn passion women have for the ocean and water. I remember when I first came to Hawaii in 1971, I always ended up on boats. I just knew it was meant for me. It was kind of like my church. It’s where I found my peace.”

Historically, there were many reasons women became interested in boating. Often times it was for patriotic duty or financial necessity. Other reasons were to respond to emergencies at sea, or to fulfill a need for adventure.

Brown recalls looking for adventurous thrills in her younger years—a trait that stayed with her throughout her adulthood and ultimately led her to a life of seafaring.

“When I was young, in my teenage years, I used to race motorcycles,” she said. “I thought it was so freaking cool because there were hardly any girls in the sport at at that time. I was doing Motocross and jumping over hills and I knew I could be as good as the guys. I was kind of a little show-off. I wanted to be better than the guys.”

Fortunately, Brown grew up when she did because women were prohibited from pursuing seagoing careers during the sailing ship era. In fact women were known to disguise themselves as men and adopt a male name to become sailors. During the 19th century women were allowed to take on responsibilities once considered male-only, resulting in recognition for their heroic behaviors.

Fortunately, women no longer have to disguise themselves as men to pursue their dreams of a boating career. In fact, women are becoming recognized for the unique and beneficial traits they bring to the profession.

I can only speak for myself, but I would say that women bring positive attention to details and see things how other people see things,” said Brown. “Women also enjoy sharing. I feel so blessed with everything that I have and I love to share it with others. When friends visit I love to take them on the ocean because I know they will never be the same.”

For Brown, it’s her passion for the ocean that makes her business successful.

“We’re in a world now where women are becoming equal and we can do anything. I’ve never felt intimidated by this business at all. It’s me. It’s really natural, and today women don’t have the same number of limitations put upon them as they did in the past.

As we move further into the 21st Century, maritime careers are sure to see more women trading in their mermaid tails for a captain’s hat. Aye, aye Captain Ma’am!

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