October 12, 2009

Marital bliss on board

FOR THOSE SAILING COUPLES who have been constantly clamoring, I have the answer to marital bliss on board. I have been handed the most wonderful advice for men whose female partners are not mad-keen sailors themselves.

First, and most importantly, you must remember that she is not your crew. She is your lady love, the light of your life, your dearest darling, and you are taking her for a nice ride. Consequently, accept that you are singlehanding with a passenger.

It’s true that if you go cruising and find a beautiful quiet anchorage, she will probably offer to make supper, especially if you first serve her drinks in the cockpit at sunset. But you should not rely on her to bring you back if you fall overboard--not because she doesn’t want you back (although, sadly, that may be true in some cases) but because she honestly doesn’t feel capable of getting the sails down on her own, finding the Lifesling, starting the engine, and avoiding running over you with the propeller. That’s not why she came sailing.

She did not come sailing to be shouted at, either. She is not your crew, so you can’t shout at her. You can give no commands. You can give no orders. You’re on your own, remember. She is an ornament. She is your treasure. Treat her accordingly.

So set up your boat for singlehanding. Invest in an autopilot, and a self-steering wind vane if you’re going offshore. Don’t expect your darling partner to grind winches like a deck ape, or reef the gnarly mainsail in Force 8.

Having accepted this arrangement with good grace, you might be surprised when she does spontaneously offer help from time to time, when she takes the fenders in of her own accord, or shortens the dinghy painter when you’re about to back up, without being asked. You might even be surprised by how much she actually does know about sailing, and how competent she would be in an emergency. But nothing should be taken for granted. You should not expect it, or require it. Let it be a surprise when it happens. And for gawd’s sake show gratitude.

It should also be no surprise to anyone that my wife practically dictated this column, though I have to say she has stuck with me lo these many decades. I recall only one occasion when she seriously threatened to jump overboard and swim to a nearby sandbank, and that was during a dinghy race when she had rather a lot of difficulty with hoisting the spinnaker and she took exception to the valuable advice I was giving her. Otherwise, apart from the occasional remark about Captain Bligh, we have got on very well together on our boats.

Of course, I realize that advice like this is easier to hand out than to follow, but if it helps prevent a divorce it’s worth persevering with. And while the path to marital bliss never was smooth, you have it within your power to smooth out the sailing bumps. You’re singlehanding. Just accept it.

Today’s Thought
There are only about 20 murders a year in London, and not all are serious—some are just husbands killing their wives.
— G. H. Hatherill, Commander, Scotland Yard, 1 Jul 54

Beware of the man who insists he’s the boss on his boat. He’ll probably lie about other things, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Does this advice also apply to male significant others? Of course, being a female skipper of my own boat presents all sorts of tangles with the male ego anyway.

Seems I usually end up serving the grub and drinks too...where's the justice for such a one woman band?

In the end, I'm used to singlehanding anyway...and as you said...sometimes it's more enjoyable to do with company.

Cheers from Lake Michigan