If ever there was a woman in a man's job, this is it! The author spent six years -- until shore-bound by the birth of her first child -- in the world of commercial mariners, first as cook and deckhand, then as licensed mate on oceangoing tugs.
Two weeks before their marriage, her husband became captain of a coastal tug. A month later, she joined him on a short run on the upper Chesapeake Bay. Although she had been aboard tugs before, this was different, "like the first taste of a drug -- intoxicating, seemingly harmless, but the beginning of a slowly growing addiction."
The book initiates the reader into the beauty and romance of life on the water combined with the exhausting, dangerous work. Robson relishes the incredible closeness to Nature: whales, porpoise so close she could nearly touch them and birds that come into the galley to watch her making bread, as well as the magnificent spectacle of a sunset on a clear winter's day as it glows behind a black network of bare-branched trees along the shore. She also endures the fear of being maimed or lost overboard, the male opposition, and the drudgery, collapsing more than once in icy, sodden clothes into an unmade bunk.
It's a world that many imagine what it would be like to share in all its adventurous, terrifying glory though few actually experience. Robson brings that world alive and takes you along for every hard-won but glorious nautical mile.
This book is for anyone who every imagined running away to sea, for every woman who wonders what it would be like to live a real-life adventure romance, for every man who relishes the outdoors, and for everyone who loves a good yarn.
Paperback and E-book. Amazon site for Woman in the Wheelhouse
“Nancy Taylor Robson watched in disbelief as Bob, the man she’d come to relieve, dumped her own bags on the dock and tossed his own in the back seat of the car before flopping into the driver’s seat and slamming the door.
“Isn’t there anything you should tell me?” she asked. “Oh, yeah. I got some pork chops out to thaw over the stove, but they might still be a little hard,” said Bob.
“Uh. Thanks. What else is there? How do you usually cook for these guys?”
“Do whatever you want, Nance. You know how to cook.”
And then Bob drove away. That was the sum total of the job orientation Nancy Taylor Robson received when she joined the tug Progress in May of 1975 as relief cook, the start of a six-year odyssey from Maine to New Orleans with excursions along the way in Bermuda and Mexico. A journey not just of miles, but accomplishment, as she worked her way up from cook and deckhand to become a licensed mate on oceangoing tugs. And quite a journey it was, in the rough and tumble man’s world of tugboats. A world where ‘sea room’ was often measured not in nautical miles, but feet or inches, and respect was earned by demonstrated competence — not apportioned based on educational accomplishment or what might be written on some paper. And in 1975, never to a woman.
Robson shares that journey unselfconsciously, with an easy-to-read style and a keen insight. I felt every discomfort, saw every dazzling sunset and porpoise surfing the bow wave, and shared her quiet pride the first time she ‘threaded the needle’ and maneuvered her tow through a trio of railroad bridges. The author writes with an authority that few can match, and none can surpass. Woman in the Wheelhouse is a fascinating tale, masterfully told. Highly recommended.”
"Not long ago I went to hear Nancy Robson talk about her experiences as a tug boat captain and bought her book that day. If you are interested in learning about what it's like to work on a commercial tug you will enjoy this book. If you want to hear the tales of a versatile, talented, courageous woman who dared to challenge the 'man's world' of tug boating in the 80's, you will love this book."
"One of the more fascinating aspects of commercial maritime life revolves around the tugboat. Nancy Taylor Robson marries a tugboat captain, and starts her seagoing career as a cook. Soon she is doing more of the jobs on the boat, and earns her Coast Guard License, and rises to the rank of Mate. She has an excellent eye for the work, the sea and the men she serves with.This book is every bit as good as the more popular The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw. While tug life is not usually as dangerous or exciting as longlining for swordfish on the Grand Banks, her portrayals of the crew are more three dimensional."
— Erik Westgard
About the Author
Nancy Taylor Robson Nancy Taylor Robson was one of the first women to earn aUS Coast Guard license as a commercial mariner. She grew up sailing and building boats with her father,and worked as a housepainter, desk clerk, and yacht maintenance person while incollege. After earning a degree in history, she married and went to work alongsideher husband as cook/deckhand aboard an old 85-foot coastal tugboat built during World War II.
Robson brings that world alive and takes you along for every hard won but glorious nautical mile. This book is for anyone who every imagined running away to sea, for every woman who wonders what it would be like to live a real-life adventure romance, for every man who relishes the outdoors, and for everyone who loves a good yarn. Robson was one of a handful of women who cracked open the gates at a bastion of male supremacy for every intrepid woman who has followed.
Author of numerous articles and essays, Nancy Taylor Robsonis also the author of two novels: Course of the Waterman, and A Love Like No Other: Abigail and John Adams, A Modern Love Story.