When I write my column, I usually think about readers who are already on board, if not the boat itself, then at least with the cruising dream.
But I know there are some of you out there who come to boat shows, enjoy Lats & Atts parties, and read the magazine while bobbing in the slip, but who haven’t really thought of going cruising yourselves. Maybe you like the idea of cruising, but you are skeptical about the reality of it, particularly as your partner may propose it to you.
He may describe it as a never-ending vacation, where you and he will rock gently anchored off one beautiful palm-fringed beach after another, sipping rum punch nightly. He may take you to boat shows and point out all the big, beautiful boats with luxurious interiors that could be yours. He may take you on a bareboat trip. Or perhaps he’ll just get on his knees and tell you how this is his life-long dream and after all the years of his doing the nine-to-five for you, you owe him this one little adventure.
But the one thing he doesn’t do is look at it from your point of view. You know for a fact that the weather is not always postcard perfect, because you have heard him and his buddies telling a half-dozen “no-sh-t-there-we were stories” that have succeeded in shivering your timbers. And you’re not so sure about a steady diet of rum punches for his liver or your waistline. Those fancy boats look like a lot of work to keep shiny, and surely it’s not possible to cook anything real in those cramped galleys.
And doesn’t he remember you got seasick that day on the bareboat cruise when the squall rolled in and the seas kicked up but you still had to get the boat to the planned anchorage on schedule? You were sure the boat was going to go right on over when he sailed like a madman with all sails up and the rail in the water, and then you worried all night about the boat dragging while he snored away. You pretty much had all the reading, relaxing and sun-tanning you could take by the end of a week.
Why ever would you want to leave your lovely (stable) home to chase some fantasy he’s had since boyhood?
Because there is a lot in it for you. In this column and on womenandcruising.com we try to bring those attractions alive: the empowerment of working together with your partner or your family as a team; the mental stimulation of learning new things and assuming new responsibilities; the time to pursue hobbies and passions; the satisfaction of living a simpler yet more global lifestyle. Quite simply, these are the joys (along with pretty anchorages and the occasional rum punch) many women find from the cruising life.
The trick is getting involved in the cruising dream in some sort of balance with your partner. Most guys trying to persuade their partners to sail away on a sailboat are thinking about themselves and not so much about you.
I’ve recently come back in touch with someone I first met in Puerto Vallarta. Nick and his wife were just one crew of many getting ready to leave for the South Pacific. Nick had bought a big, shiny cruising boat and loaded it with equipment to keep them comfortable. They had done all the “right” things: attended Puddlejump seminars, inventoried spare parts, and stowed months’ worth of provisions.
Then, the night before departure they woke to a bilge full of diesel. It was a huge job to clean up and repair. As the rest of us sailed off, they limped to the boatyard and hauled out. This was not how the dream was supposed to go, and the rest of it unraveled as they commuted back and forth to their old home, staying longer each time and falling back into work. Eventually they sold the boat at a loss.
That was almost six years ago. Why did it all fall apart? ….and how did they fix it?!
Nick took a lot of time to think this through and realized most of it came back on him. With the clarity of hindsight, he identified a series of mistakes he’d made, many of which he has since discovered are also made by those men whose dreams have never even left the dock. The biggest mistakes, Nick believes, are when guys proceed toward their dream without fully conceiving what they want from the experience, what the lifestyle will actually be like, how their values will change, and, most importantly, what their wife’s role might be on board and what she might get from the experience that she will think worth the effort.
From the excavation of his personal disappointment and through the successful reconstruction of a new shared dream, Nick has shaped a whole strategy and put it into a book called Get Her On Board – Secrets to Sharing The Cruising Dream. An award-winning Associated Press journalist, Nick has knit all his ideas into an amazingly holistic approach and presented it in a straightforward man-to-man style. It starts way before shopping for a boat, and requires men to do some self-examination and adaptive thinking.
Even more importantly, Nick steers guys to consider what the dream looks like from their wife’s point of view, because, Nick insists, a guy’s wife (or partner) is his “most important asset.” Four things guys need to understand with respect to their wives before moving ahead with the dream are: “What you want and expect from her; how her talents can fit into the Dream; what motivates her; and what her tolerance for risk and ambiguity is.”
Why am I telling you about this? Because I think these things are worth your thinking about. If you have a partner who’s been nudging you to consider a dream, but you remain skeptical, this book may help you sort out what’s in it for you. Casually slipped in to your partner’s reading pile, it could also help you both avoid a lot of trial, error and stress.
Because you don’t want to learn these lessons the hard way like Nick and Megan did.
Fortunately, they did learn them, but it took some time. A debacle like Cruising Dream #1 could have driven them apart. Instead the way they chose to recover from it strengthened their relationship. Instead of continuing to badger her about trying again, Nick concentrated on more fundamental things like shifting their focus from material wealth and accomplishment to time, presence, and health.
Eventually these changes allowed them to return to the idea of some sort of sabbatical. They considered a variety of land adventures but in the end gave cruising another try. This time they opted for a smaller, simpler boat for a shorter, less fully-committed itinerary. They made a plan, had several fallback contingencies, and picked out the right boat together.
“We had a wonderful second cruise. The boat was simple and easy to handle, and both of us were capable and confident single-handing. Our itinerary was flexible and neither of us ever felt our freedom restricted by the other. Instead of doing maintenance, we enjoyed the destinations. The experience left us wanting more.”
Nick is surprised that sales demographics suggest many buyers of his book are women. I’m not. I read GET HER ON BOARD and thought “Ah Hah! How do I get Don to read this!” Because this book is not just for men trying to figure out how to get their partners to buy into the cruising dream; it’s for every man who wants a fuller richer life with the woman he’s pledged his life to. And ladies, if you are more receptive to the idea than your partners might guess, it’s also for you.
This article was published in the August 2010 issue of Latitudes and Attitudes.
Related articles on this website
- Getting Started (Admiral’s Angle column #3)
Examples of how (and when) some experienced cruisers got started show you don’t have to be a life-long sailor to take off cruising.
- The Temptations and Realities of Size (Admiral’s Angle column #8)
Understanding some realities about boat size when determining what size boat to be shopping for.
- Joint Effort (Admiral’s Angle column #5)
Cruising chores are less a matter of divided responsibilities than they are a matter of joint effort.
- 6 Mistakes men make in sharing their sailing passion (Lessons I learned the hard way), by Nick O’Kelly (Women and Cruising blog)
- Relationships and Roles Aboard – Women and men discuss how they share responsibilities and boat jobs aboard (Women and Cruising blog)
- How We Learn – Women tell us how they have learned the skills they need to sail and cruise (Women and Cruising blog)