Attorney Linda Ramirez (center, in sunglasses) docks the Water Taxi Indefatigable in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Ramirez works approximately 30 hours each month as the only female captain in the water taxi fleet. (Photo courtesy of Linda Ramirez)
From day one, practicing law was anything but smooth sailing for Linda Ramirez.
"I had issues with stress," admits Ramirez, a litigator with the Baltimore firm of Reamy, Ramirez & Deady, LLC. "I wasn't handling it very well. My blood pressure had gone up."
Only in her lifelong obsession with boats – particularly sailing – did Ramirez find an effective antidote to this condition. A series of tests conducted by a nurse-friend seemed to validate her claim. "She would take my blood pressure before [I stepped aboard], and as soon as we stepped on the boat she'd take my blood pressure [again], and it would drop," she notes. "And that would be normal – you would expect that." But when subsequent tests showed Ramirez to be "completely at ease" even in the middle of a squall, "that's when I started essentially working to support my sailing habit."
never, ever the same. There's always some variable, or combination of variables, you've never encountered before.
So, Ramirez did just that, sailing herself or with friends at every opportune moment, even entertaining such long-term goals as sailing the Caribbean or circumnavigating the world in retirement – until a chance meeting with an older couple in a crowded bar during the Annapolis Boat Show.
"I was in my late 30s," she recalls. "I think they were maybe in their mid 50s, and they were at the beginning of taking a two- or three-year voyage. I [told them], ‘Yeah, when I retire, that's what I want to do,' and they spent the rest of the hour-and-a-half that we sat there saying, ‘Don't wait until you retire if you can figure out a way to do it before then, because you don't know what's going to happen. If it's something that you really want to do, do it now.'"
With renewed focus, a lot of planning and hard work, Ramirez indeed made it happen a few short years later, and in 2001, she stepped away from practicing law and set sail for warmer climes aboard a 38-foot Morgan sloop.
"We went from here all the way down through the islands to Trinidad and Tobago, Isla de Aves, then worked our way back up," Ramirez explains. "We sailed the ocean when we wanted to; the rest of the time we just island-hopped. If there was an island that we liked a lot, we stayed there. If there was an island that had cheap beer and food, we stayed there longer."
"There's definitely something about sailing," she adds. "The quietness of it, and there's actually skill involved – you can't just get in, turn the key and go, which people shouldn't do anyway. It requires more than that. And then learning to read the wind and the waves. The water is never, ever the same. There's always some variable, or combination of variables, you've never encountered before."
Although she didn't want to come back, nevertheless, two years later, Ramirez returned to Baltimore – and the law. "I thought I had quit my job, but apparently it was a ‘leave of absence,'" she laughs.
But the appeal of practicing law was soon once again put to the test, when her mother passed away following a protracted illness. "I ended up taking a lot of time off during her illness, came back to work for a little while, then just decided I didn't think I wanted to practice law," Ramirez recalls. "So, I ‘retired,' you know?"
Still in need of gainful employment, Ramirez once more went to sea, this time working at a variety of jobs that included delivering yachts out of Charleston, South Carolina, and crewing aboard the Schooner Woodwind Cruises based out of Annapolis. During this time, she upped her captain's license from the U.S. Coast Guard's most basic, the Six Pack (which enables its holder to carry up to six passengers for hire), to a full 50-ton Master's license.
But Ramirez didn't want to relocate to Charleston for a more permanent position, and she eventually tired of the long commutes between Baltimore and Annapolis that bookended her 12-hour work days.
|IN A LOT OF
ways, the law works the same way - if you start here, you know that these are the possible consequences.
"Those are long days, and it's physically demanding work," she notes. "I'm young, but I'm not that young. I mean, I'm working with 18- and 20-year-olds."
Back in Baltimore, Ramirez landed a job aboard Ed Kane's Water Taxi in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. And despite eventually coming back to the law, Ramirez holds the position to this day, working "four roughly eight-hour shifts" per month as the only female captain in the Water Taxi fleet.
"On the Water Taxi, passengers sometimes ask me, ‘Do you do this full-time?' And I say, ‘No, no – this is my happy job,'" Ramirez laughs. "And when they ask me what I do the rest of the time, I say, ‘Well, I'm a lawyer.' And they're just blown away – I don't know whether they think business is that bad or what!"
But working in the open air, on the open water, is not the job's only draw for Ramirez. "It's really amazing to see Baltimore through visitors' eyes, because somebody's always saying something different about something that I've looked at a thousand times. I think that there's absolutely nothing new to see in it, and then I get a new perspective on it. You see what a beautiful city it is. I have a blast."
"Happy job" or not, Ramirez sees a direct correlation between captaining a boat and practicing law in that they both employ "linear" thinking. "It's logical thinking," she explains. "Particularly if you're working with a crew, if you tell the crew to do A, I expect that the crew has done A, so if I get into trouble, I know how to get out of that trouble because I know A was done, and I know how to backtrack out of that. But if I tell the crew to do A and, in fact, he or she does B – but I think they've done A – that can create more problems. And in a lot of ways the law works the same way – if you start here, you know that these are the possible consequences."
She also credits her time at sea for helping her to make better decisions in the office. "I think that a lot of lawyers don't always make decisions as clearly as they should," she says, "and that's one thing that I have really learned from boating and from being a captain: [sharpening] my decision-making skills, and living with the consequences of those decisions."
But the similarities end there, Ramirez insists. "I don't want there to be any correlation, because when I boat, I don't want to be a lawyer," she laughs.