Sailing with a Mate

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Sailing with a Mate

I’ll Be in Trouble Now!

First the disclaimers: I have been married for almost 50 years (to the same woman… or as I like to refer to her, to my first wife). During that time we have been sailing for almost 40 years. And for what it is worth I am a member of the Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica (not sure what that has to do with anything, but thought I would throw it in – BTW if you are a woman that wants to connect with other women who share an interest in sailing, it is a great organization that meets monthly at the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club in Marina del Rey)

So my topic is going to be:
“Sailing with wives and girlfriends”.

Above is a picture of the book, The Motion of the Ocean. A fun read about a young couple who, newly married, take on a journey around and across the Pacific Ocean. It is written by and from the perspective of the wife who does not have the sailing background of her spouse. Therefore it is more about their relationship and the confines of a boat than it is about the actual sailing. That said, it is a fun read and I would highly recommend it, specially if you sail with a spouse or girlfriend.

My experience is that while many “couples” enjoy boating together, that more often than not, it is the male partner who is more into it. One of the examples I use to demonstrate this is the drill of picking up a mooring in Catalina. I think one of the entertainment factors in going to Catalina is watching the boats come in and picking up their mooring. Typically, it is the woman who is on the bow attempting to pick up the mooring line while the man is at the helm. You can easily while away an afternoon sipping some adult libation, and giggling while watching these attempts over and over.

But I digress. Realizing that I am now treading on thin ice my challenge is how to approach this topic knowing that my wife may read this. Oh what the hell, here goes. Here are ten rules to live by:

Rule #1 (especially for new boaters) Make the experience as positive as possible. In other words don’t go out if the weather isn’t perfect and preferably with wind under 10 kts and minimum wave action. Then you need to convince your mate that this is pretty much always the way it is.

Rule #2: Don’t yell at your mate to release the jib sheet so you can tack quickly. You probably won’t hit the other boat anyway.

Rule #3: Don’t assume your mate even knows what a jib sheet is, or for that matter any other part of the boat, its rigging, or other nautical terms. Initially, you just want to make sure she enjoys the experience and looks forward to doing it again. Too much too soon can spoil this likelihood.

Rule #4: When asking your mate to take the wheel or tiller, make sure you are in open waters; there is nothing near you; there is nothing that is going to be near you; and you can point to something for your mate to steer towards that you can actually see that is not moving at a high rate of speed.

Rule #5: You are not racing; you are not in race mode; you don’t have to catch and pass other boats; it is ok if your sail trim is not perfect. I’m not sure what the corollary is for power boaters… but then again, who cares!

Rule #6: If your mate has to use the head; assure her that she doesn’t need to worry about knowing how to use it, you will be more than happy to take care of it for her when she is done. This is true for all types of heads, electric or manual.

Rule #7: Offer to be the person who goes down below to get you both beer, wine, water and/or other food items. Refer back to Rule #4.

Rule #8: When bringing guests on board and your mate explains to them everything there is about the boat; how to trim sails; and any other boating information, don’t correct her; don’t laugh; and what ever else you do, don’t exclaim WTF are you talking about?

Rule #9: Despite your having just cleaned the boat, just accept the fact that your vision of “clean” may not measure up to your mate’s standards.

Rule #10: Be prepared to “single hand” the boat. You both will be happier. When people ask me if I can single hand my boat, my response is, hell I sail with my wife, which means I not only single hand the boat, I have to constantly step over her. And you have to do this while not disturbing her… Refer to Rule #1.

Notwithstanding all of this, my next article will be all about how boating is such a great bonding experience for families and kids.

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