Caroline Mayhew, wife of Captain William Mayhew of the whaling ship Powhaton out of Martha’s Vineyard, possessed a working knowledge of navigation and practical medicine. In 1846 when a small pox epidemic broke out aboard ship, she took over as captain in place of her stricken husband. She then ministered to him and the ailing crew, saving their lives.
A remarkable woman, Mary Patten, temporarily took command of a clippership in the 1850s. In July 1856,Neptune’s Car left New York City for San Francisco. Captain Joshua Patten was in command and accompanying him was his wife, Mary, nineteen years old and pregnant. (…) As the ship was rounding Cape Horn, Captain Patten fell ill, his hearing and eyesight failing. Next in line for command was the second mate, but he could not navigate. Mary Patten assumed command, with the second mate’s help and the support of the crew. Navigating and caring for her husband filled every moment; for fifty days she was unable to change clothes.
Eliza Thorrold continued to operate the 44-foot steam tug Ethel and Marion on the San Francisco Bay after her husband, Captain Charles Thorrold, died from blood poisoning in 1893.
So basically maritime history is a history of men fucking up and women having to save the day