Warning: if you are totally grossed out by biology or blood you might want to stop reading now. Also, if you have no sense of humor definitely stop now.
Note: I am not a medical doctor, none of this is medical advice but hopefully will give resources and direction to search further. My expertise comes from the fact that I do proudly and thankfully have a vagina and know many sailors and non sailors with one. I am also a nerd who reads a lot. This post is meant to be a guide for sailors searching for practical solutions, preventions and care for normal biological functions involving vaginas, plus some snark because I enjoy it and hope you do too. Finally, please note I have tried to be as inclusive as possible here and recognize that gender and biology are different. Happily, there is much diversity in the world and I want to give a shout out to non-binary and trans sailors too!
This may come as a shock to people, but some sailors have a vagina. I don’t mean to get all science-y on you, but I thought it would be a nice public service announcement to let everyone know that not all sailors have a penis. While a penis is relatively simple in anatomy, a vagina is as varied and complex as the sailors who wield them. Sailors with a vagina have to take some extra care with their biological parts. Like any good engine they need maintenance to keep them running smoothly. This care happens through education, body awareness, celebration, commiseration and packing specialized supplies onboard. This blog hopefully will give some clarity for those sailing with a vagina on what to pack and prepare for. In addition, sailors with a vagina are extremely hearty with a tremendous amount of grit and I plan to help you all understand why. It’s always seemed odd that people use the word pussy for weakness. Like Bette White said, “Why do people say “grow some balls?” Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding!”
First, a little on anatomy and pleasure.
When most people think of the vagina, they really mean the vulva, which is the external part of a woman’s anatomy. The vagina is actually the stretchy resilient muscular canal that leads up to the cervix. It has a lovely little savory flap at the opening called a labia minora surrounded by a thicker labia majora with fur for protection and padding. Luckily, there is also a clitoris hidden at the top of all of these folds where the only function is pleasure so the biological act of procreation is fun and effective. It has 100x more nerve endings than a penis and has little bulbs and arms that reach around the vagina, seeming to hug it, ready for contact. Some sailors like to have all of this caressed and played with by self or other leading to undulating waves of lubricating wet pleasure that allow everything to open and relax, gaining lots of fun endorphins that make life seem easier and happy.
Interestingly enough, just like penises, each vagina is of a different length and angle. Some sailors vagina tilt back or forward, some are short and some long. Unlike penises, where nerve endings seem to be mostly uniform, the vagina has nerve endings concentrated in varying places and degrees for people. Some have nerves primarily in the clitoris or the vaginal walls, some in the cervix or g-spot. Because of this there are many different types of orgasm and ways to get there. Some sailors, because of their anatomy, can only have certain kinds of orgasms and it is up to each sailor to explore their own bodies to figure out what gets them off. I am including some resources below if you want to know more about female orgasms. They are pretty great and sailors with these parts have access to multiple orgasms in multiple ways if they so choose to explore that. Like the old saying goes: Don’t come knocking if the boat is rocking!
A few things to have on the boat for the pleasure part of the vagina starts with some kind of lube. The tissues in the vagina can become dry and sometimes need some help. Sweet almond oil is a great natural one that not only helps friction, but also moisturizes. It doesn’t melt like coconut oil, which is another great natural remedy that is also anti fungal and can help with yeast. You can use the above oils with non latex condoms or sans condoms. Birth control of some kind is critical if a sailor is fertile, doesn’t want more sailors on board, and is having sex with a fellow sailor who has a penis. Pills, IUD, condoms are most common. No matter who you are having sex with, even yourself, besides just water or a wash cloth, wet wipes of some sort come in handy for super quick clean up. Water wipes are great and the most natural out there. This specialized soap is designed to help pH balance is also super helpful for sensitive vaginas, they sell wipes too. Don’t forget to always wipe front to back, just like when you fold the main sail cover! Have fun!
Second, a little on pain and trauma.
Sadly, many sailors with vaginas have also had extensive trauma done to them through assault and various medical crisis. The statistics on assault are grim, and most still goes unreported. Many sailors have experienced trauma through child-birth or other medial issues like hysterectomies that have altered their relationship with this part of their body. Both kinds of trauma can make sex and orgasm quite painful. Physical, psychological harm or damage in the bodies generative region can lead to many health issues through inflammation, stress, tension, pH imbalances, scarring, muscle memory and psycho-somatic traumatic memory patterns. If this is the case, first of all, I am deeply sorry. I also hope you know there are great therapists, books and resources out there that can help. I have listed some below. There is even specialized physical therapy just for your vagina for when you are ready to help re-pattern these physical traumatic responses. It is a healing experience to be touched non sexually and non invasively and learn more about how to relax and be aware of the many internal muscles and areas of the vagina. It can be a way to take back control and find a new pathway and relationship with your body.
Third, let’s talk logistics and start with urination.
Sailors with a vagina have to sit or crouch to pee unless they are a gymnast, contortionist, or if they just can’t hold it anymore whereupon they just wear adult diapers and say fuck it. There are also Icon and various brands of pee proof undies for those who accidentally leak after babies or menopause as muscles can collapse with use and age. Sailors with vaginas cannot just unzip or pull down a little and stand at the back of the boat casually, shaking it off after. They either have to hang their bare ass off the back rails, gripping the pushpit with the will of god and have their own refreshing bidet, or they go below.
If you are in colder climates this means taking off 10 layers of foulies and jackets, peeling down 10 layers of pants and panties and just praying you don’t piss yourself before you sit. Toilet paper is always a little damp and as you brace yourself to stay put, you hope the boat doesn’t rock too much so the bowl contents come up and touch your precious toosh. If your skipper is super nice or you are prepared you have some wet wipes around to help clean up. The real litmus test of a sailor with a vagina is if you close the door or not. It’s like an extra step from hell underway with that little latch, which I usually have no patience for. The last option is a bucket, so just apply all the above and then figure out how to balance over it squatting in a rocking boat. Thighs of steel and the balance of a ninja are required. There are fewer bonding experiences you can have than sharing a pee bucket on a boat. What did you eat for lunch, asparagus? How many cups of coffee did you have?
The fourth part: blood and why sailors with a vagina are badass.
I know this one can be a shock as well, but vaginas also bleed regularly. More accurately what bleeds is the uterus. Every 28 days or so the lining builds up and sheds for oh, like 40 years. Miraculously, some sailors can actually grow and push out small humans from this uterus and through the cervix and vagina which can stretch to accommodate little round heads. It is a proven fact that this is indeed where all sailors come from.
Bleeding on a boat is not an easy thing. I have heard stories of sailors changing tampons under the spinnaker on the foredeck during a long race while peeing in a bucket…in cold rain and big waves. I think this wins the award for the most amazing human feat on a boat possible and is further proof that sailors with a vagina are tough as nails. I also knew a sailor who bled so heavy with cramps so fierce they had to go to the doctor the day after a big race and have surgery shortly after for uterine complications. They still ran that race like a boss and without complaint. You hear stories of men getting hurt and bleeding and they keep going and everyone praises them as so tough. This shit happens once a month y’all, and we don’t stop, we don’t complain (much), and we still run those god damn boats!!
So, what does a sailor need to help with all this bleeding out? You can keep supplies of tampons and pads on hand, but many have chemicals in them that are not good for you. They also take up a lot of space and it can be hard to keep them moisture free. But if you do use them look for natural cotton or organic ones like sustain. Diva cups and THINX underwear can be a lifesaver, less expensive, less waste, and keep your expensive foulies clean. The only issue is washing them properly and thoroughly to keep them extra clean. Some sailors also choose to use birth control or hormonal IUD to not have a cycle. The sailor above with the uterine issues had an ablation, which essentially cauterised the uterus so it can’t bleed anymore. That’s some medieval shit, but it worked. Then there are hysterectomies, but that really is for worst case scenarios as it is so invasive. Did you know they can pull a uterus out through your leg now so they don’t have to cut into your abdomen? Ya, that blew me away too. Get a good OBGYN and see them for recommended check ups, especially if your cycle is abnormal, and see what’s best for you.
Lastly, we need to talk about bacteria.
Another interesting fun fact is that vaginas are like a giant bacteria parties. There are billions of little bugs growing in there and some are good and some are bad. The good ones make it self-cleaning and keep everything running smoothly. The bad ones can cause urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and various bacterial infections. Hormone fluctuations, soaps or water that change pH, sex, synthetic materials like swim suits and food can alter this balance and cause all kinds of issues. Girls in puberty and perimenopausal sailors tend to have more issues with bodies changing and need to take extra care. Below are some suggestions of what to have on board if you are doing any remote or extended cruising and can’t just run to the drug store at will.
One key to all of this is knowing your body. It is important to pay attention to your vagina, know its smells and secretions, its aches and pains, and especially know its thrills and awes so you know what is normal for you and what you need. This way you can tell when something is off and care for it before it becomes a major problem. Keeping track of cycles and moods is also important and knowing what you need when patience is low is critical. Self care keeps a homicide free boat when hormonal.
Hopefully this has been helpful for you and you read this with a happy healthy vagina! May we all sail in peace.
Vagina Help Med List
pH test strips These are handy to have so you can tell whether your itching and burning is yeast or bacterial vaginosis (BV). The vagina normally has a pH from 3.8 to 4.5. If it gets too basic, over 4.5, you generally have BV. You can also tell by discharge and smell and I will refer you look at webmd or mayo clinic for that info.
To treat BV or yeast with home remedies you can use probiotics inserted up the vagina as well as boric acid. You can consult with your med provider as to how often but the rule of thumb is stop probiotics if you start to smell like yogurt and stop boric acid if irritated by it or after 7 days of use. Do not douche, ever. This is the advice I have been given from countless doctors and naturopaths.
For yeast you can also go for the old monistat over the counter treatment.
If these do not work then you will need antifungal like diflucan for yeast or antibiotics like metronydozol or clindamyacin for BV. You should consult a doctor and have those on board for just in case.
UTI test strips These are handy to tell if you have a UTI or not in case you need to rule anything out. It can also tell you how mild or severe it is. You never want to mess around with a UTI so it doesn’t crawl up to your kidneys. That is painful and dangerous.
To treat UTI without antibiotics you can try Cran Stat Extra and D-Mannose. Cranberry juice has been a go to for many women, but the sugar in it can aggravate the bladder. Drink lots of water. Avoid coffee and sugar. To make the burn and pain go away have a stash of Phenazopyridine Hydrochloride on hand.
There are many other opinions out there on these topics, but this is what I have found to be most helpful and what I pack and use.
Women’s Anatomy of Arousal by Sheri Winston
Vagina by Naomi Wolf
Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski
The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment by Babette Rothschild
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
Moody Bitches: The Truth About The Drugs You are Taking, The Sleep You are Missing, The Sex You are Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy by Julie Holland
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical Health and Healing by Christiane Northrup
Women’s Bodies and Minds:
Vagina Monolouges by Eve Ensler
Women Who Run with the Wolves Clarissa Pinkola Estes