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Old 12-10-2012, 14:02   #1
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A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

First off: I am talking about that optional crew a nice little boat likes to have for good company, easier operations, and all those other things you want to do with that special somone in your cruising dreams. Yes, when I say 'crew', I am talking about my most awesome Honey, my amazing wife.

The thing is, the water scares her some, she gets a bit sea sick, she remebers that first time she sailed with me (which was the first time I had sailed - enough said about that!) and she vividly recalls the movie Jaws.

So, as I assume the rest of you do, I have a small obsession with sailing and I would dearly love my beautiful wife to share it. I am looking for advice on this - I can't begin to imagine I am alone with this delimna.

I am taking her and a few friends out tomorrow and have made arrangements with the Port Clyde General Store (near my cruising grounds in Maine) to be able to pull up to their dock and buy us all lunch. I'll sail her beside the Forest Gump Light House on the way in - nice harbor and view followed by a good lunch. I think it will be some slightly exciting pampering. Might help to combat the reluctancy. Maybe.

I want to get to the point where she'll want to go and, eventually where she'll want to go cruise the coast.

As it stands, she wants to go out with me because she wants to make sure we do things together (isn't she cool!) but, it is not because she wants to go sailing.

If you've been through this, PLEASE pipe in.

Keep Calm & Carry On

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Old 12-10-2012, 14:21   #2
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

Actually, your daysail sounds like quite a nice plan.

You might try asking her (rather than a bunch of strangers on the internet) what would work for her - sailing lessons either together or separately? Researching seasick meds together? Going to a science lecture or natural history museum to combat "Jaws?" Maybe you agree to take turns choosing activities - she accompanies you sailing this weekend even though it isn't her first choice, you accompany her to chick flick/antique shopping/insert-her-favorite-activity-here next weekend?

Shameless self-promotion - my blog for the Annapolis Capital newspaper Life Afloat is having some formatting glitches, till then I'm posting at Life Afloat Archives and Life Afloat on Facebook! And a new project, The Monkey's Fist: Collecting Cruisers' Perspectives
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Old 12-10-2012, 14:22   #3
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

I'm not an expert on this, so feel free to tell me to shove off!

Maybe you can both just spend some time at anchor to start. Have some romantic "boat time" together so that she can get used to being on it. Then work your way up to some smaller sailing trips in sheltered water.

My wife is afraid of deep water. I have no idea why, since she can swim like a fish! I don't swim very well, more like a kid splashing water everywhere, but I'm not afraid of water no matter how deep it is.

Funny that you mention Jaws though. That movie made me want to live on a boat!

Just talk things over with her. No pressure. Find out what her comfort level is, and go from there.

Dean - 22' Westerly Nomad - Travelnik
A 14-foot mini-cruiser is minimalist. A 19ft is comfortable, and anything much larger than a 25 borders on ostentatious.
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Old 12-10-2012, 14:48   #4
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

I received a square confrontation with my by long ex-wife when I set sail with her for the first time.
The trip lasted 30 miles or something and she gave me her good byes after we moored.

I gave her the good bye too.
And that was end of story. Never follow advice from strangers. Follow your own feelings. Is the only reliable compass.
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Old 12-10-2012, 14:51   #5
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

Familiar ground. I love my wife, but she gets motion sickness, has replaced joints and limited mobility, and never liked waves. She likes flat water and the lean of a sail boat bothers her.

a. Learn to single-hand until it is all second nature. Then, if she wants to pitch in, fine, but you wouldn't need it, will be in good control, and honestly, will enjoy it more. Practice everything, from leaving to returning to anchoring to reefing ALONE.

b. Ask her what she wants. Start with shorter trips, no more than 4 hours of sailing, with the emphasis on the destination, even if the destination is nothing more than a cove.

c. Make certain she likes the boat. Ask her if there are any small changes that would help HER. It will never be a house, but little things matter. This will also give her some ownership, which is important to everyone. It's why we waste money owning boats.

Now my wife will go on trips up to 3 weeks, over 100 miles per day. But it took time. Sometimes she still gets a bit sick; we might turn around or she might decide to tough it out. But she is never scared, because she knows I have it under control. That's important.
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Old 12-10-2012, 14:55   #6
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

My companion says she doesn't like sailboats because they are "too close to the water."

This ...

Versus this (companion unstressed taking photo from the Coot's stern):

A motorboat with strong and high handrails could be more to the liking.
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Old 12-10-2012, 15:20   #7
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

If you read a lot of books, these two are about the different starting places for men and women, and how the couple's relationship tends to work or not work in the sailing life. They are both very explicit and linear, so while they are informative, that can also make them a chore to read. The first is a bit better, in my opinion.

Changing Course: A Woman's Guide to Choosing the Cruising Life: Debra Cantrell: Kindle Store
Get Her On Board - Secrets to Sharing the Cruising Dream: Nick O'Kelly: Kindle Store

But I think stories are just as valuable, that you can learn a lot from individuals. These two books were written by women who found the sailing life rewarding, while still dealing (and writing about) many of the issues the books above touch on. The first book is more fun to read and is more of a positive story, though both people write that they are very glad they did it:

Harts At Sea Sailing to Windward: Barbara J. Hart,Dora St. Martin: Kindle Store
Sailing Down the Moonbeam: Mary Gottschalk: Kindle Store
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Old 12-10-2012, 15:25   #8
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

All good suggestions. One thing I have heard from women is that their first experiences sailing was with some guy who wanted to show off and sail fast. Better to go slow and make it fun for everyone.
My wife had never been on a sailboat and had no desire to sail far from land. But we bought a boat in Europe while I was working there, with the plan to just do some short trips and maybe the Med. Since then we have crossed the Atlantic and Pacific and sailed for 7 years and 35,000 miles and she loves it. Now she is trying to decide if she wants us to sail to Africa or Alaska.
She kept a blog of her experiences from the first times, when everything we did seemed scary: Home Page
She can email my wife and asked how she learned to love sailing.
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Old 12-10-2012, 16:13   #9
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

It's like training any wild beast. You start small and reward good behaviour with a little treat. It's worked for me, and she's not so beasty!

We only went out on quiet days and on every trip there was a carrot to look forward to. Often there would be a nice meal at a yacht club on the way or something like that. Sometimes it might be just a quiet sail and a glass of wine with some friends for a couple of hours. You have to go slowly and string a lot of positive experiences together. If there's a potential negative, don't go there. Do it some other way and do the hard stuff yourself - like jumping off to tie up when coming to a wharf. Be prepared to let her drive, hit the dock and then say "Well done honey!" In 10 years time you'll laugh at all the times you hit the dock a bit hard, so why not now?

Oh.....I nearly forgot, DON'T YELL!
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Old 12-10-2012, 16:21   #10
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

My wife was scared a lot at first and has come round to really enjoying all our family cruises. As others have said -- start small, keep it calm, and especially in your area, go to some really beautiful quiet hide-away harbors, places no one gets to see unless by boat. Show her all the incredible beauty hidden so nearby, invisible to all the masses on the mainland. It's like a membership in an exclusive secret society. (Shh -- don't tell anyone!)
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Old 12-10-2012, 16:27   #11
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

It is fear of the unknown. She needs to learn how to sail all by herself. She will then learn that her fears were not accurate fears. Sailing lessons without you anywhere near are called for.

Life begins where land ends.
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Old 12-10-2012, 19:00   #12
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

Originally Posted by markpierce View Post
A motorboat with strong and high handrails could be more to the liking.
Not if she gets seasick...
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Old 12-10-2012, 19:29   #13
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

Gee, I feel for you. I've lost two wives to boating. It wasn't so bad losing the wife; they are easily replaced, but losing my crew was devastating!
No, in all honesty, I think patience and "baby steps" are your best hope. Your idea of going out with a few friends is a great one IMO; when you're busy sailing, she'll still have someone to talk to and not be so attentive to what's going on around her.
When I ran diving charters, I used to tell the women who feared sharks not to worry; "sharks are man eaters, you have nothing to worry about". It worked like a charm, easing fears by being funny. Like "the only thing that sinks boats is rocks, dear, so this deep water is much safer than close to shore".
Keep it light and keep it fun.
Good luck, sailor.
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Old 12-10-2012, 20:47   #14
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

No wary spouse, but here's what has worked for cruising in Maine w/ [initially] reluctant children:

Short sails in good weather, beautiful islands, nice hikes, good food and wine [for the adults, not the kids), a warm blanket and good books, a few movies on the laptop for inclement weather. Avoid beating into wind and waves until they're [she's] ready for it. Low stress and no yelling, ever. Be a calm, relaxed skipper who listens to the crew. Make it a collaborative endeavor.

Get a copy of the Taft / Rindlaub cruising guide. It's great browsing - history of the islands, short pieces on geography and sea life, and great recommendations for activities ashore. Let her think about where she would like to sail, choosing from the hundreds of destinations only 50 miles from your mooring.

Short sails: we sometimes tell friends that we're going "cruising" only to duck a mile around the corner from our mooring and just chill for a day or two. It looks like there are several nice coves less than 5 miles from Friendship. A long distance destination, with good weather, might be something like High and Dix Islands off Spruce Head. It's only 15 miles, so three hours downwind in a nice Sou'Wester, but it will be a real adventure to her, and the anchorage will feel like it's worlds away.
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Old 12-10-2012, 20:57   #15
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Re: A Reluctant Crew - What Do You Do?

Lots of good advice here. I just want to add when folks say 'take your TIME' they really mean it. Go slow, take the long view, don't push, be calm and patient.

We have been taking baby steps for three years now and are only just reaching the point where Himself is confident enough on the water to be happy there.

The wind is your friend, but it may take her a while to really 'get that'!

best of luck!


ain't what ya do, it's the way that ya do it...
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