Love and empathy can conquer prejudice

Tom & Peter’s Story

mid shot of tom and peter on sailing yacht on the open sea

Our love of sailing came from the full focus that the sport demands, taking account of the elements, navigation, and being constantly aware of the boat. It really helped us to switch off and detach from the stresses of our then, land lives.

We started our sailing adventure five-years ago in San Francisco (having worked there at the time) and have been full-time cruising liveaboards ever since! So far, we’ve covered over 7,500 nautical miles on our 36ft Beneteau Oceanis 361, Bohemia, having set sail from San Francisco to Panama.

We first had the opportunity to sail together on our honeymoon in 2015 on a rented Hobie Cat. Tom had never sailed before, but Peter was a natural sea dog, dutifully taking the helm and repeating the mantra that the guy in the beach hut left us with: “Just keep your back to the wind and you’ll be fine!” Peter still swears by this technique today!

After our honeymoon, we set about taking sailing lessons with our local training centre, needless to say we were hooked in no time.

We started to vlog our sailing adventures on our YouTube channel, Sailing Bohemia, to keep in touch with friends and family back in Europe (Peter is from the Czech Republic, and Tom is from the UK). We knew we’d need a thick skin putting ourselves ‘out there’ on YouTube every week, but the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

Documenting our adventures online really helped to persuade our family and friends, firstly, that we weren’t completely mad, and secondly, that cruising is a lifestyle and much more than a means of getting from A to B. I think they soon realised that we weren't planning to come home and get a real job again anytime soon!

mid shot of tom and peter posing for picture on dockside

Celebrating pride

For us, celebrating Pride is about increasing the visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is important to recognise the areas where progress has been made towards equality and to remind everyone that LGBTQIA+ people are to be found everywhere in our society and amongst our families and friendship groups.

We often come across what we call a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude to sexual orientation; this isn’t unique to sailing. The argument goes along the lines of: “Why should I care who you sleep with as long as you can trim a sail.” In that moment when that sail is luffing, the logic is, of course sound. But the long-term effect is to silence the conversation, understanding, and sense of inclusion that needs to develop; to prevent people with different strengths, needs, and experiences from bringing their full selves to the sport. This attitude is by no means the norm though, and we are heartened to receive so many positive comments on our adventures so far.

aerial shot of yacht on the blue open sea

Inclusivity across the sport

Sailing as a sport can provide a great framework for inclusion. Clubs must beat the drum and ensure that all their current and future members feel considered, included, and safe for this to flourish. When organisations, such as the RYA, show their support for Pride by using the progress flag in their social media logos and by flying the progress flag outside their offices, it sends a very powerful message of inclusivity across the sport.

It’s human nature to be wary of things that we don’t identify with or fully understand. In the past we’ve witnessed too much of a phobia around ‘saying the wrong thing’ or slipping up around people different from ourselves. Even if you don’t get it perfect every time, we always find that making an effort and putting ourselves out there is what matters most. It just takes reaching out and joining in on both sides.

wide shot of sailing yacht on the open sea during sunset

Breaking barriers

Pride shouts the message that sexual orientation and gender identity should not be a barrier to anyone achieving their dreams. Love and empathy can conquer prejudice - a powerful message amongst the doom and gloom of the other headlines!

To anyone from the LGBTQIA+ community considering getting out on the water, we would say just do it! Sailing is such a wonderful pastime that deserves to be shared with as many people as possible from all backgrounds.

You can follow Tom and Peter’s sailing adventures in Panama on their YouTube channel, Sailing Bohemia. You can also learn more about their travels so far by visiting the Sailing Bohemia website.