DO YOU TRULY LOVE your boat, or do you take it for granted? I ask because Barbara Marrett says she never felt much affection for the boat she owned with her husband, John Neal, until they sold it.
Marrett makes this confession in Mahina Tiare: Pacific Passages, a book about the American couple’s extensive South-Sea wanderings in a 31-foot Hallberg-Rassey sloop. They eventually sold Mahina Tiare and parted with her in Brisbane, Australia. By then, Marrett had sailed many thousands of deep-sea miles in her.
“Mostly I’ve just gotten impatient with her inconveniences,” Marrett says, “her small, tightly-packed spaces. I’ve cursed her many times but never spoken affectionately to her.
“And now that she is almost gone, I look lovingly at her sleek lines, at the wood I worked so hard to keep varnished. I pat her cushions and rub my hand over the soft curved teak handrails. I notice the subtle details which make her special, a cut above every other boat.
“Mahina Tiare is where John and I had our first date, our honeymoon. Even I, who didn’t care for boats, was impressed with her when I first stepped aboard on a cold December night. She felt warm and safe, like I felt in John’s arms that first night when he hugged me.
“She’s taken us to magical places and I never thanked her. Hurricanes, white squalls, we’ve tied up in impossible harbors, impossible anchorages like Easter Island and Pitcairn, but she has never lost an anchor, blown out a sail. I ran her into Greenhithe Bridge in New Zealand, broke her forestay, but she heeled over sideways and managed to slip us through without losing her mast.
“John always treated her gently and lovingly, but I just took her for granted. John earned her, but I married her along with John, competing for affection until slowly I spent as much time on her as John did. She has become home and I have learned the patience to live aboard her. She represents the happiest years of my life and with her passing, that chapter closes.”
Competing for affection, the lady said. Ah yes, there lies the rub for many cruising couples. If I had to guess, I’d say that men love their boats, and women do their best to endure them for the sake of the marriage. I know that’s not always true but I suspect it happens often enough to make long-term cruising an endurance test for many reluctant women.
An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have: The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.
— Maurice Chevalier
“What happened to your ear?”
“Well, I was ironing my shirt when the phone rang and I accidentally put the iron to my ear.”
“Bummer. And what happened to the other ear?”
“Well, I had to call 911, didn’t I?”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)