First Cruise/First passage, Relationships & Roles Aboard

My first time on a sailing boat - or why women don’t want to go sailing with their husbands

When I was told that I could easily wear my brand new Jimmy Choo stilettos
on a sailing holiday, I agreed to go

“You poor thing!”, an American girl said to me, when I told her about the conditions under which I lived on my boyfriend’s 30 foot sailing boat. And I was close to agree with her, though I felt I was coming along very well in adjusting to the life on a boat.

How it all began

In December 2010 I met Henrik, and we had not reached New Years Eve the same year, before he told me that he had a sailing boat currently moored in Mallorca in the Mediterranean, and he had bought it with the purpose of sailing around the world.

I had at this point only once before sat foot on a sailing boat. The boat had moved, as I stepped aboard, which had frightened me so much that I peed in my pants. I was 4 years old!

But this was nevertheless my only experience with boats at the age of 31. Henrik told me though about white beaches, turquoise waters, sunshine and champagne, and when I was told that I could easily wear my brand new Jimmy Choo stilettos on a sailing holiday, I agreed to go with him for a couple of months the following summer. I pictured myself on a larger yacht in a white crocheted bikini, a soft hat on a sun deck, reading fashion magazines, and drinking cocktails. I had completely bought into the idea!

Henrik and Signe

What’s not to like?

As soon I started talking about our upcoming trip with enthusiasm, Henrik began talking about small marine toilets, limited amounts of water and electrical power on board, and that the boat we were to sail on wouldn’t ressemble the 60 foot something Swan he had showed me on a boat show. But regardless how persistent he was in telling me about the drawbacks of sailing, I didn’t hear any of it. I was too busy picturing myself looking like Brigitte  Bardot on a Mediterranean cruise, and the only thing I could think about life on a boat was: What’s not to like?

This question I was soon to answer, though, when we in the end of June 2011 went to Mallorca to stay on an older 30-foot sailing boat for three months, and after one week I made the following list of things I didn’t like:

The list

  • The boat is constantly moving, also when we are in port, the toilet is very small and needs to be flushed with a manual pump, there are no other options for showering than a cold one on the deck, and I must to a larger extent than I like use public restrooms and showers.
  • There are no reasons what so ever to wear anything else but practical clothes and shoes, I cannot see when I can wear my stilettos and silk dresses, or make use of the rather broad selection of Chanel nail polish and makeup, I have brought.
  • On top of that I have no Wi-Fi connection to my iPhone, the refrigerator is very small, so the water I drink is in best cases lukewarm, and the space inside the boat is so narrow that I hit myself on anything I can walk into, fall into etc., which has made my shins more blue that suntanned.

I’m not alone

I wasn’t thrilled! But Henrik likes to sail very much, and I like him very much, so I made an effort not to express myself too crudely about the life on board, even though it sometimes was quite difficult. I also felt somewhat ungrateful when I didn’t manage to control myself, and said something like “I’m so tired of this rotten boat!”

It is my understanding, however, that I am not the only woman with strong reservations towards life on board a sailing yacht. In a small marina on Mallorca we met a man, when we berthed, who was nice to help me with the mooring lines. I asked him, if he had a boat in the same marina, but he was on a charter holiday, he said, obviously ashamed of the situation. I then asked him if he had a boat another place, and he answered that he no longer had one since… And then he didn’t say any more, but instead pointed at his wife and two children, while he shrugged his shoulders. It wasn’t that I didn’t sympathize with his wife, but I felt really sorry for him that he had had to exchange his boat for a week on a Sunwing resort on Mallorca.

But why is it that women don’t want to go sailing with their husbands?

A man and his boat

Something happens to a man when it concerns his boat that doesn’t happen around his house and garden: He becomes completely hysterical! He washes and polishes his boat as soon as he eyes an opportunity for it, no one can set a mark on his boat, and everything is lacquered and kept to perfection, which his wife probably never would have guessed he was capable of.

And at the same time he calls out commands behind the steering wheel or tiller, while he makes his wife or girlfriend rush around on the deck with the mooring lines and jump from the boat to the pier and back again, and when he shouts “watch out!”, it is the boat she should watch out for, not herself. And all of this is regardless of her age and nimbleness!

However, I don’t believe that men’s hysteria is the main reason why a lot of women are hesitating when it comes to sailing. Instead I think that the life on a sailing vessel puts a lot of women out of their comfort zone, myself included. There is probably a reason why it is a universal desire for women to own a large bathroom or a walk-in closet! And even though I thought that the conditions provided for me on our small boat were inadequate, I am sure that women on larger vessels also suffer privations and feel like compromising. This doesn’t mean that she on good days cannot enjoy the boating life and consider it charming, but on bad days I am sure she feels she deserves better.

Adjusting to sailing life

I began to adjust to the sailing life after a couple of weeks, and when we after four weeks reached the most wonderful place south of Ibiza, where we anchored, I began regarding myself as one of those women who does want to go sailing with her husband. (And especially when we talked about getting a bigger boat).

Crusing life can be good!

And my newly acquired self-perception was luckily confirmed, when we a week later met a young man, who also was sailing in the Mediterranean. Henrik spoke very positively about me, and how I had taken on boating life “like a duck to water”. The young man wanted to sail with a girlfriend as well, but he didn’t have “a Signe”, as he so nicely put it. At that point I forgot all about my list and the fact that we the day before had rowed from the boat ashore in our red dinghy to go partying on Ibiza, and I had had to sit with my dress above my hips and plastic bags on my nice shoes to keep me from getting dirty.

Afterwards the remark has annoyed me a bit, though. Is it ever possible to escape sailing now?

How do you get your wife on board?

How do you get your girlfriend or wife to go with you sailing? How do you get her to stand it or even better to enjoy it?

The American girl in Barcelona asked me, what I liked about sailing, when I had reassured her that it wasn’t so bad after all. When she asked me, I didn’t quite know what to answer. Did I just endure not wearing makeup, being indifferent about my clothes, the frequent use of public restrooms, and the fact that everything was more difficult, because it was a limited period? Perhaps.

But I have thought of her question since, and I have reached the conclusion that it is especially the feeling of independence that follows, when you sail that appeals to me. The fact that we can decide ourselves where we want to go, when we want to go, and for how long we want to stay. Furthermore, we had splendid weather in the 2½ months we were sailing, which significance should not be underestimated. Had we sailed in Denmark, where we live, in slightly bad weather for a couple of months, I wouldn’t have coped with half of it!

Sunset over the anchorage

Besides, Henrik was nice to let me decide some of our destinations, he went with me shopping and took me out to nice dinners, and he basically did some of the things that I wanted to do. In that way it also became easier for me to make an effort to enjoy it – and meanwhile cut down on my demands for my daily routines and outward appearance.

Sailing again

During my first summer of sailing, I would never have believed what I know now: That I would move on to the boat and go sailing around the world! I don’t know how Henrik did it, but the fact is that we are right now on the Canary Islands waiting to cross the Atlantic Ocean with Jimmy Cornell’s new transatlantic rally, The Atlantic Odyssey.

Henrik and Signe leaving the Canary Islands aboard CAPIBARA

The next couple of years we plan to cruise the Caribbean and the American east coast and then truck the boat to the west coast of America and go from there to Hawaii and French Polynesia. We are still sailing in the same boat – and I still bring my stilettos and silk dresses, even though I don’t wear them very often.

I don’t think Henrik and I have the same approach for sailing though: He likes the sailing part, and I like to see new places.

But it works so far, so maybe it is possible after all for men to get their girlfriends and wives to go sailing!

The boat is called Capibara and is an Allegro 30 from 1987.

About Signe Storr

My name is Signe Dorothea Storr, I’m from Denmark, and I’m 34 years old. Up  until two years ago, I had never sailed on a sailboat. Now,  I live on board  my partner Henrik’s 30 foot sailing boat, a Swedish build Allegro 30 from  1988, and I’m about to go cruising around the world.

Originally, I’m a school teacher with a masters degree in IT, communication and learning.


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6 comments to My first time on a sailing boat – or why women don’t want to go sailing with their husbands

  • Turf to Surf

    I love this! My journey into sailing with my husband started much the same way – but I was much more resistant to the idea than you were at the start. And now? We’ve sailed our boat from New York to the Caribbean and just completed Legs 1 and 3 of the Clipper Round the World Race, racing from London to Rio de Janeiro, and from Cape Town, South Africa to Albany, Australia. And I have loved every second of it. And it turns out that I love ocean racing much more than my husband – I’m trying to sign up for more legs while he’s not interested in doing any more long races at sea. So, the tables can turn completely! I’m sure my husband will be wondering what kind of monster he’s created when I start insisting we sell our beamy, comfy 34-foot Catalina and buy a sleek, fast, uncomfortable racing yacht!

  • Lynn Van den Broeck

    Dear Signe,

    nice story and glad to hear you enjoy the sailing. I left Antwerp six months ago with my boyfriend on a 34 ft Van de Stadt sail boat and also never sailed before. After some difficult moments in the beginning I can now say I really enjoy it a lot and we just arrived in Barbados after our first Atlantic crossing a few days ago.

    All the best to you, your partner and the boat.
    Maybe see you on one of the islands!

    Lynn (

  • Daria Blackwell

    Nice Jimmy Choos!

    Funny, I brought along some dressy clothes and shoes only to find them moldy and destroyed after never having worn them once in a year.

  • Mari T.

    Damn good question! My first sailing expiriance – I thought it would never end! Croatia – early spring, we rented a small sailboat 37ft, 6 people, 6 completely different character and lifestyle. Everything was a problem: water, electricity, in what time we get up, when we will eat, when we will swim, where to go…and just when we start to sail someone asks “coffee break?” :-Z
    But have not given up, we all learned something about ourselves and others. Now after many years of sailing, I can not imagine a nicer holiday than sailing, and yes, I will definitely go with my husband on sailing anytime.

  • Jackie

    Good honest piece of writing – well done!
    I have some FAQ on my website – covers “what women want (how do I convince my wife to go sailing” – as well of stacks of other info:

  • Cathy Norrie

    Hahaha Signe…
    You are so cute! What a great posting! I am sure lots of women will relate to what you write. I love your voice. I too am sailing around the world with my husband and perhaps we will meet up once both our boats get back into the South Pacific (we will be there in 2016). Currently our boat, Terrwyn, (a Pacific Seacraft Crealock 37) is in S. Africa waiting for our return in November of this year. We will be crossing the S. Atlantic for Brazil and then end up in the Caribbean.

    Hope we meet up in some marina somewhere along the way :)

    Fair winds
    SV Terrwyn

    P.S. I have lots of cute, sexy sundresses that I wear when we reach land but my stiletto heels were tossed – really hard to walk in on those sandy beaches and pebbly paths of the South Pacific Islands :)

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