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Captain, My Captain

Congratulations are in order to member Debbie Huntsman for obtaining her USCG Captains License – OUPV (6 pack). She is a very busy women and when not sailing with her husband Ed on their 37′ Jeanneau Sun Odyssey NOW in San Diego, Debbie works as a graphic designer. She is also at the helm of the National Women’s Sailing Association – serving her fifth year on the board and her third year as President. Congratulations Debbie!

Captain Debbie Huntsman

Being curious about the motivation behind her quest to be a licensed captain, I interviewed Debbie through email and our conversation follows.

So Debbie, how long did it take you to acquire your license?
Decades. I have said I would do it for a very long time but kept putting it off.

And how long has this been a goal for you?
Decades. In 2018 I co-presented a seminar at Gail Hine’s Conference with a woman, Captain Barbara Keeler. She was the Captain for a BIG boat — over 1200′. She asked me after the presentation why I didn’t have a license. I told her, “Uh, maybe I should just do that.” She encouraged me that whole day. Later at the bar, I promised that she could call me captain the next time we met. I expected to see her at the 2019 Conference — and dreaded telling her I still put it off. I was happy I didn’t run into her.

Then Covid came around. I still had my hands full with NWSA, trying to help orchestrate an online conference in June and adjust a traditional organization to a modern one where virtual was vital. Then there was a lot of follow-up for OLÉ; the Online Expo was a big success.

During Thanksgiving break, I ordered an early Christmas present for myself — an online “Get your captain’s license kit.” I worked on it a few hours here and there and got cleared to go to the testing center in San Diego. When I called to ask about the COVID protocol for the testing, the school owner offered me the chance to beta test a proctored exam online that the Coast Guard had just approved. It was convenient and safe. But, I had to essentially start over, watch all the videos, retake all the quizzes and pre-exam tests; my records would not port over to the upgraded software integrated with the online testing. That delayed me a few weeks or months. When I thought I was done, I got all sorts of thumbs up until my Red Cross certification expired. The delays continued until I got my vaccines and an in-person First Aid/AED/CPR course. I’m done now. Whew!

As a sailor and board member of NWSA you get exposed to some amazing women in the sport of sailing. You previously mentioned Gail Hines. Who are the other special women that inspired you to get your license?
Holly Scott, Kathy Orham, Nancy Early, Susannah Winder, Linda Newland, Margaret Pommert and several others. All the Capt. Ma’ams kept cheering me along.

Tell us how long you’ve been sailing?
Long enough to be a Captain. Not long enough to figure it all out!


“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” 
– C. S. Lewis