What do fishing boats have to do with #metoo?

I came up to the bridge at midnight, as always, to relieve the third mate on watch. We were in a pirate zone, and were surrounded by fishing boats, both lit and unlit, at close range. Two days earlier, a ship had been boarded by pirates a few miles from our position; another two ships had managed to evade attacks the day before that.

The third mate, who was usually very even tempered, was at the end of his tether after four hours on watch.

I hate this,” he said. “I know most of them are just fishing boats, but because I know at least a few of them are pirates, I have to treat them all as if they’re going to attack us. And I can’t stay away from all of them or we’ll never get home.”

Before watch, I’d been reading yet another post online where a woman tried to explain, yet again, to one of the #notallmen crowd that yes, she knew that not all men would assault a woman, but some of them definitely would. Since she didn’t know which ones, she had to take precautions against all of them. The similarity between the two situations struck me.

The third mate is one of the most affable, friendly men I’ve ever sailed with, but he’s also a huge, bald, and muscular. To be honest, he looks kind of scary until you get to know him. He once commented that he didn’t understand why so many women who didn’t know him well were standoffish in day-to-day life — he knew he wasn’t going to hurt anyone. That night, I think he worked out the reason.

And no, we weren’t attacked that night, but another ship was, just a few miles away. It’s the luck of the draw — all we can do is take whatever precautions we can, and hope they’ll leave us alone and find an easier target. Regardless of whether you’re a ship or a woman, staying home isn’t a realistic option; if you’re a woman, even staying home might not be enough to keep you safe.

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