Top 10 Tips for Being Together at Sea Ever wanted to take the adventure of a lifetime on the sea? Here's a husband's quick guide on getting your wife aboard. BY CAPT. CHARLIE SIMON
A lot of considerations should be made before you leave land to make for smooth sailing.
“ Guys, we shout orders at each other all the time aboard—be aware that our spouse’s take them all personally.”
Nobody believes me when I tell them it was actually Cathy’s idea to sail around the world—but it’s true. Having been a banker, Cathy presents such an organized and proper exterior, who would think she would be willing to make the sacrifices in creature comforts and security to take on the adventure of a lifetime. When we first met, she was contemplating a world tour by air but my international business travel and subsequent tightening of airline security made that sound less attractive to me. Thirty-five years later, I guess she figured out how to finally get me to go on her circumnavigation.
The intervening time gave us both a chance to get comfortable with the concept of longer sailing trips and improve our sailing skills so we were able to make the journey with some degree of luxury. We had such a great time, she suggested our next expedition through the Northwest Passage. A lot of guys ask me, "How did you get your wife to sail around the world with you?" From our nearly forty years of sailing together, here are my top 10 tips:
1. Take small bites. We started with chartering small daysailers on the San Francisco Bay and graduated to staying overnight at anchor. Then we purchased our first boat, a Ranger 33, and we’d drive to the marina on Friday afternoon, putt out to an anchorage, sail on Saturday, and drive back Sunday. When we moved to Seattle, I suggested sailing up the inside passage to Alaska and she exclaimed, "Absolutely NOT!" So we spent a week’s charter in the gorgeous San Juan Islands and another the following year venturing an additional 20 miles north to Canada’s Gulf Islands. Our next boat, a Beneteau 461 (with hydronic heat) got a trip up to Desolation sound. The following season our trip was a bit further and continued on when I pointed out we were already more than half-way to Ketchikan, AK. She then agreed to Glacier Bay on the condition she could fly home any time she wanted.
2. Rewards. On our drive back from sailing in San Francisco, we always stopped for a nice dinner. When we eventually made it to Juneau, AK, I got her a gold nugget on a chain. Then black pearls in Tahiti for our 35th wedding anniversary; and a safari in South Africa. It doesn’t have to be big, just thoughtful.
3. Absolutely no shouting. Guys, we shout orders at each other all the time aboard—be aware that our spouse’s take them all personally. For all your sailing activities, explain in advance what the procedure will be, be clear on her role, follow through with praise when it goes well. This issue is so pervasive that one of the first wireless intercom sets was called "Marriage Savers."
4. Choose comfort over speed. Almost everything which makes a boat go faster, makes it less comfortable. The lightweight racing boat with the huge sail area usually has a rough ride if there is any sea… don’t’ press for that last half knot of speed; reef early, and straighten the boat up so she can actually stand up and not be fearful. When you think of a new sailing gizmo, ask yourself, "Will it make the boat more comfortable?" If not, put it on the "low-priority" list.
5. Let her choose the boat. We’ve owned three boats, the Ranger, the Beneteau, and now a Taswell 58 and my wife, Cathy, has selected them all. We all know that every boat is a compromise… why not compromise in favor of your spouse? It’s well worth it. Do you want a foiling race boat with no wife aboard or a comfortable cruiser with wife included? Your choice.
6. Be safe. Of course we’re all safe aboard. Well… perhaps her idea of safe is more conservative than yours, and remember that your idea of safety doesn’t matter.
7. Maybe you aren’t the best teacher. I know you’re not only a great sailor, but a great teacher as well. However, maybe not the best teacher for her! Send her out on a weeklong liveaboard class—that way it’s not you telling her what to do and how to do it. (see also: "No Shouting").
8. Chores, chores, chores. Does your wife do all the cooking and cleaning at home? Be advised that cooking and cleaning on your boat is more difficult. If she has to do even more work on board, what’s in it for her? I do the grocery shopping and cooking, she cleans.
9. Toilet seat down! And not only that, stow your stuff, wipe out the sink, and keep the boat neat. It’s not just her job any more! Remember, it is your job to make sailing a more attractive experience for her than staying home.
10. Make sure she’s all in! We’d just docked in the Bahamas and Cathy was putting the sail cover on as I went to check us in. The guy on the 70-foot power boat in the next slip (with the gorgeous blonde on the bow) says of Cathy, "Now that’s the kind of woman I want on my boat!" It wasn’t that way in the beginning, we’ve now been sailing for nearly 40 years and over 100,000 miles together and have developed the sailing relationship most guys yearn for.