Top 10 tips for being together on the water
By Capt. Charlie Simon
1. Take Small Bites: We’d 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 twenty 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. 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 spouses 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. But 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. Choose the right wife! 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.
Captain Charlie and Cathy Simon are the authors of QuickStart Circumnavigation Guide: Proven Route and Sailing Itinerary Timed for Weather (October 2016). More information about Captain Charlie and Cathy Simon can be found at http://worldsailing.guru