The story by Charlie Simon in your November/December 2016 issue is good. [“Top Ten Tips Being Together at Sea: Happy Wife, Happy First Mate!” ] In so many ways it is right on target. I am still waiting for the article, “Top Ten Ways to Get Your Husband to Abandon His Sailboat and Adopt Your House and Garden.” I probably don’t read the right magazines. I also liked “A Voyage to Maine and Back” by Nancy G. Kaull & Dr. Paul F. Jacobs. Based in Boston, we nipped up to Maine without much thought. Our big coastal cruise is going to be Cape Cod to the Chesapeake with a long linger in Long Island Sound. Same sort of story, but in reverse.
To expand on Simon’s article I offer the following observations from my 30 years of teaching sailing and cruising to adults. (There may even be an interesting bit of research for someone to do on the subject of what sailing instructors observe in the field regarding hopeful voyagers.) Some of my students have sailed away. Others said, “No way.”
Of the hundreds of people I have trained, only a few considered voyaging as the goal. Most were very happy to become competent at handling a typical cruising yacht. An excellent example is the voyage to Maine story. Almost all want to have a capable sailing partner and often take courses as couples.
My rough estimate is that sail-away students/couples were about one out of every ten. Of those, about two out of three were men hoping to convince a wife to voyage. Sailing wives, the one out of three, have the same problems getting non-sailing husbands aboard.
In every training course, a major component was to teach couples to do one another’s job. Cross-training is the critical first step for any cruising couple. They must take it seriously. As an example, my wife and I have sailed our boat for seven years. During decommissioning this year, I learned that she did not know how a turnbuckle works. I am the rigger so that’s my fault. Point is, couples have to be on the lookout for those odd gaps.
So what have I observed as critical skills for voyaging couples? It is a short list of beginning, middle, and end. I have seen it in play often among happily voyaging couples.
The first thing is passion. Very few people are really wired for long distance cruising. The idea is romantic. Reality is less so. Cruising can be very hard compared to life ashore. Those who want to voyage do. Voyagers come in every size and shape, so to speak, and they all have passion for the lifestyle. I claim that voyaging is very little about sailing and a lot about living. Ashore, we nip into the local hardware store, supermarket or contractor’s office to satisfy our immediate needs. Life is easy. Afloat and offshore, we nip into a nearby locker and hope we have “it.” Passion…one must want to be out there.
The second element is shared goals. For example, a couple I knew in Nanny Cay were at odds. He loved being in the marina working on the boat. She wanted to sail to a remote Caribbean anchorage and enjoy the wilderness. My golly, she was always angry with her husband. Observation: Many more happy couples are seen in quiet anchorages. Tip: No shared goal I know of includes a long bash to windward. Pick a wise route to satisfy your goals.
The third factor is how the voyage will end. Very few people sail until they die on board. The voyaging years are a sort of escape to adventure. Settling ashore is an escape from the adventure of voyaging. There is an age at which calm becomes very attractive. Pick a wise route to the shoreside retirement.
In summary, I saw these three steps in action through my parents. Rumor has it that while dating, mom asked dad if he’d cruise and homeschool kids if he married her. He said he would, they did and they kept cruising until in their 80s. They had a house in Maine and one in Florida just in case they needed to go ashore. One day, they did. I also witnessed how other cruising couples could endure life afloat for a while and then break up. It seems it was always the same – one didn’t really have the passion.
I love voyaging and life offshore. Our present boat is an Aphrodite 101, Averisera. Sure, I’d love to voyage her and my wife has said, “No.” Frankly, the boat has no standing headroom and the creature comforts of a pup tent. So, we do some extended coastal cruising and doublehanded racing between Newport and Maine.
I am an ASA Instructor Evaluator at the Advanced Coastal Cruising level. My goal in retirement is to sail with my wife. I earn sailing chits by working in her garden. She gets me to help in the garden by working on the boat.
Cruising has been part of my life from before the beginning. My maternal grandparents cruised the U.S. East Coast with my mother, who was home schooled aboard. That was in the 1930s and their lifestyle was considered bohemian. My parents did the same with us in 1960 to ‘62, adding the Bahamas to the cruising grounds. We had a 48-foot Alden-designed yawl. I think I had more playmates while living aboard than I did ashore. It was great. I escaped college from 1970 to ‘72 and went off to the Caribbean on big charter yachts. Sailing never really stopped.
I really enjoy your magazine. The two articles I cited are welcome reads.
Norman Martin, Cape Cod
Norman – Thank you for sharing your insightful knowledge! Many of us dream of cruising to distant shores as a couple one day, and having the right life partner (and agreeable vessel) is certainly the key to doing so joyfully. Editor’s note: You’ll find Norman’s very entertaining and informative blog at www.averisera.com.