September 27, 2015

The path to bliss afloat

THIS IS A QUESTION for the men: Do you have a female partner who is not a mad-keen sailor herself? If so, I have good news for you. I have been handed the answer to inter-gender bliss on board.

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. Yes, it’s true. You have a passenger. But you are singlehanding.

It’s also 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. She is your passenger. Do try to remember that. 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. (True feminists might find this a bit sickening, but let’s pretend it’s okay for the purposes of our argument.)

Thus, you should 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 over it, 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 when it does.

It should also be no surprise to anyone that my wife dictated this column, though I have to say she has stuck with me lo these many decades. I recall only one occasion when she threatened to jump overboard, and that was during a dinghy race when she had more than her usual amount of difficulty with hoisting the spinnaker and she took exception to the valuable advice I was giving her. Otherwise, apart from the remarks about Captain Bligh that escaped on occasions, 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 split in the partnership 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.


Eric said...

So, with all this in mind, know of any singlehand females roaming around the seas looking for Mr Right to laze around on the boat all day, sometimes offering a little help, if I feel like it?
Hey, turn about is fair play.

John Vigor said...

Well, Eric, you never know. Miracles do happen. Good luck, my man. (And let me know if you find an extra, okay?)

John V.

Mike K said...

Ah yes, very sage advice. Back in the days when I had a little 1/4 ton keelboat we used to race and cruise, my wife told me that she would come cruising anytime, but if I shouted at her once more while racing that would be the end of that. She is a real trooper though. I recall leading a passage race, short handed, shy kite reaching in gusty conditions with a dodgy downhaul jammer, she stayed to leeward hanging onto it despite regular broaches that left her waist deep in water. We needed to make about a mile to a mark to be able to free up and run for home, with the hounds breathing down our neck. Taking down the kite would have placed us maybe 4th. Thanks to her we hung onto it and won.

John Vigor said...

Mike, what an inspiring story. You have a gem of a wife. Tell her I love her.

John V.