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Old 18-09-2008, 23:41   #1
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Non sailing spouses

OK, I've got a great wife but she doesn't sail. I was a sailor long before we met and I probably forgot to mention to her that I had this problem/addiction. I was boat-less at the time and she had no idea what she was getting into until it was to late. She does try to be supportive but when she walks by me on the computer and says " Why are you looking at boats for sale, you already have two" I know she will never understand. She has been out with me a few times, once for a week long cruise. Fortunately there wasn't to much wind as she gets really nervous when the boat "leans over". It probably didn't help that "our" first boat was a 24' and a little cramped. I think her comment was that it was "worse than camping". But there is hope. My latest acquisition, a 32' ketch was trucked to our place and now sits next to my shop, and even though to put it nicely, it needs work, she actually said she liked it and that she thought it was "cute". Time will tell.
So, I'd like to hear from some others about their non sailing spouses past or present. How does it work for you or how doesn't it work for you.

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Old 19-09-2008, 00:43   #2
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No cat, but curious...

The key may be to keep her curious, without scaring her away.
Keep it calm and smooth with a good lunch.

My wife had only passing familiarity with boats, but I am slowly getting her more interested.
She'll actually touch the wheel and throttle now.
I did get a large boat, I think that helps.
I do pay very close attention to the weather reports.

Now she's starting to give orders...

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Old 19-09-2008, 01:57   #3
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Non Sailing Spouses

Hi all.
I am coaxing my wife into getting more involved.
We started with a 26 foot bilge keeler, with a tiller & liking for heeling - which she hated. We now have a more stable boat with a wheel & fin keel which although she is loathed to helm, she finds much more comfortable.
Having additional crew & not short handing also makes for an easier time, as she feels less pressured to deal with things when she would rather sit it out.
Making her feel comfortable & under no pressure what so ever is the key; after all we got the boat so we could BOTH enjoy it. I always remind her that handling the boat is ultimately my responsibility & she shouldn't feel she has to do anything unless she wants to.
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Old 19-09-2008, 07:20   #4
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Had a similar problem when I remarried; wife had never been on a sailboat. Heeling scared her, so most of our initial sailing was in light conditions (can you say slow?).
I always let her decide when we sailed, if it was too rough we found other things to do. Took about 2 years, but she finally started to get into sailing, we even made a few short trips.
Then the third year I had this great idea, since she know knew how to sail a little, we would have Capt. Pat days! Simply put, we would get up in the morning and I would announce a Capt. Pat day, no warning. On these dys, she was in charge. I didn't touch a sheet or a block until she told me to, if she made a wrong call, she would see that the boat wasn't doing what she wanted and would try something different. She learned to really sail on these days.
The next year, she was taking her girlfriends out sailing without thinking anything of it. She even singlehanded a couple of times.
That was 20 years ago and she has been an avid, and excellent, sailor ever since.
Good luck getting your wife involved.
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Old 19-09-2008, 07:38   #5
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Former non-sailing wife

I am a former non-sailing spouse. Heck I'm from SW Kansas where the biggest body of water for 300 mile is the municipal swimming pool. I have now lived aboard full-time and part-time for 11 years. You can read about my experiences on my blog A First Mate's Rules of the Road A First Mate's Rules of The Road

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Old 19-09-2008, 07:52   #6
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Some interesting successful approaches to introducing non sailors into sailing. Now, for the rest of the story. This is anecdotal and based on more than a few years of cruising. We meet many new couples on our annual winter cruising. Some only do it for a year and the main reason is that the spouse tolerates it grudgingly. It is usually the man's dream and the partner goes along with it. Many have been sailing for years but mostly day or weekend sailing with maybe a vacation thrown in. In the past few years many have taken to switching to a cat to entice the spouse to go cruising. However even this doesn't do it if the spouse doesn't fundamentally like the lifestyle. I think the spouse must like being "out there" and enjoy not only sailing but living on a boat for it to work.

I think some, like me, are very fortunate. Others, like my best friend, sell their boats and get a condo in Costa Rica. They had visited us a few times in the Bahamas and we had all chartered in the Virgins together. They had a boat on Lake Ontario and we sailed together up here but it was weekends and a couple of weeks cruising, usually tied up in other clubs every night. They bought a brand new 42 footer and set out cruising. A year and a half later the boat was sold and the condo was bought.

This is not intended to discourage introducing spouses to sailing. To go cruising though, both must like the lifestyle. It certainly makes life easier.
Rick I
Toronto in summer, Bahamas in winter.
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Old 19-09-2008, 08:57   #7
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So, I'd like to hear from some others about their non sailing spouses past or present. How does it work for you or how doesn't it work for you.
Being familiar helps you get past the fear of it. Sailing lessons can do a lot to help with that. Once you know how it all works it feels more comfortable. I think it's the main reason my wife sails at all and likes to cruise. It can help if someone else teaches her.
Paul Blais
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37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 19-09-2008, 10:02   #8
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Good points here. My wife does not like 'leaning' I work at keeping it relatively straight. She is amazing though and cooks some great food and vacations for a week at a time. Inviting people she really enjoys [I'm not enough???] helps. She too is shy of the helm. Sometimes she'l take it if I have to use the head as long as there are no boats within sight. [she checks w the binoculars!]
A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, he said, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. But we do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again.

J.M.Synge, in The Aran Islands
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Old 19-09-2008, 10:10   #9
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Strange Sailboats

It's inexplicable, but the females of the species (and we are talking female spouses here aren't we?) don't seem to like being cold, wet, scared and uncomfortable. Curiously, they find living life at an angle somewhat unnatural. Amazingly, they like to wash in hot showers, sit in comfortable seating, sleep in comfortable beds, cook in well-laid-out kitchens and eat at proper tables. Strangely they believe they are living in the 21st Century and think they should be able to enjoy the benefit of such things as hot and cold running water, washing machines, microwave ovens, vaccuum cleaners, flush toilets and other such new-fangled inventions.

Bizarre as it may seem, it is possible to find sailboats with all the above features. Its a new invention called the catamaran. Of course such alien luxuries offend our manly sensibilities and are contrary to our in-bred hair-shirt mentality, but if they tempt our non-sailing spouses onto the water there is a chance that they might enjoy it. And then it might just be possible that we manly sailors might not end our lives as sad, lonely and decrepit single-handers after all.

So perhaps it might be worth trying one of those strange-looking catamaran things. Who knows, you might even start to appreciate some of the creature comforts yourself?

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Old 19-09-2008, 11:36   #10
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It's a new invention called a catamaran.......NOT. Multis were crossing the Pacific for a thousand years while Europeans were hugging the coastline for the most part.

The only thing new about multi's is that it's not just brown skinned people sailing by the stars. Looking for a new island to party, and raise children. It's anybody who can read a GPS:cubalibre
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Old 19-09-2008, 12:04   #11
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I didn't stop chuckling all the way through this thread, so many of us have the same experiences. We started out in a Soling so the "leaning" was a constant given and my wife's feeling of instability and the surprise heel in a gust was a perpetual breath-holder for her. Eventually, we graduated to a bigger, more stablle boat (Westsail 32) and her first experience with it was sailing with acquaintances who were on a vist home after reaching Fiji. The female of that crew happened to be a wee bit older and quite experienced and it was her example that showed my wife that it really was pretty safe, and she could do it too. The best teacher is not the husband - it seems to be another woman. But you have to get her aboard first without scaring her to death. Out of sight of land is still in the future, but sleeping, cooking and eating aboard have become "fun" and "leaning" is no longer cause for even a raised eyebrow, let alone a gasp. Great thread. Thanks for starting it.
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Old 19-09-2008, 12:35   #12
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I guess I'm lucky because I met my wife on a ship I was on. We were doing a 1 day dependents cruise to Catalina and back before our big deployment to the gulf. My wife and her college roommates came aboard with one of their brothers that worked for me. My wife wasn't aboard more than 5 minutes before she was three shades of green and hanging over the lifelines. We hadn't even cast off the mooring lines yet. I thought it was hilarious being the salty dog I was.

The kid she came on to see asked me if I could babysit her in the control booth down in the engine room and for some reason I agreed. I still don't know why but I'm glad I did. For the whole day I had her sitting down there with me in the hole and had to keep helping her run down the ladder to where she could puke in the bilge.

Navy ladders are steep and some of you know how we usually just slide down them. My wife kept going down backwards and I thought that was really funny too.

It's nice being in charge also because I didn't have to clean it up. I was nice enough to hold her hair out of her face while she puked though. We talked all day and that night after we got back to port we went out together. She paid!
I was asking her to marry me the next day and we were headed to the Persian gulf that day. I didn't get an answer till several months later but I did end up flying home a couple weeks early to get married so it all worked out. That was almost 17 years ago and we're still doing great.

Now I'm trying to talk her into buying our own big boat. I want a 40 or so foot sail boat to sail the South Pacific.

I think she's having flashbacks to the day we met!

The best teachers for a wife are other women, I completely agree. I've been trying to get my wife to ride the horses with me for 5 years now and a couple weekends ago was the first time she ever did it. It was because a lady we know that rides very well went with me one day riding and talked my wife into going. She taught her how to ride well enough in those few hours to feel comfortable on the horse.
I could never do that myself.
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Old 19-09-2008, 12:50   #13
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My wife had never been on anything bigger than a ski boat. She knew I wanted to sail during my retirement and she wanted to go too. Now, I may be dumb, but I;m not stupid! I knew better than to try to teach her myself. We took the ASA course for Basic Keel Boat up to off shore crusing. We booked a room at Marina Del Rey, stayed two nights there, went out and saw the sights. Then came class day. We moved aboard to give her the feel of life on a boat. One other class mate, a young man shared the boat with us as live aboards. I let the instructor teach her and we were "Equals" through the entire eight days. She had trouble with navagation but took to boat handling like a champ. The first time the boat healed nearly to the rail while she was at the helm, she yelled "Whoo Hoo, this is cool!"
We were in the marina each night and out to dinner, the chandlerie, and some shopping.
Well that was two and a half years ago. We now own a 42' Downeaster and live aboard. Changes are in progress for world crusing and she keeps telling "Hurry up, I'm tired of this place!"
Did I do it right, or just get lucky? I dunno, I don't care. It's working!
Nothing scares me. I've raised childern!
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Old 19-09-2008, 13:52   #14
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SAILING is not always a slick magazine cover!
BORROWED..No single one of is as smart as all of us!
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Old 19-09-2008, 15:04   #15
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Hi all,

I am a sailing spouse, however I wasn't always a sailing spouse. I too, was uncertain about "leaning". I have since overcome my fear of leaning. How you ask? It's a combination of knowledge (yes it helps to take classes independent of your husband and learn from others about the mechanics of sailing), experience - this takes some time, think in terms of at least a couple of years not a couple of months. Sail with friends that involve other women who enjoy sailing. Feeling of control - test the limits of your particular boat with your wife on board. The first time you do this, you should have other crew on board that she trusts, not just the two of you. Allow your wife to control the main sheet, show her how and let her spill wind out of the main when the heeling gets too much for her comfort. Time - repeat, repeat, repeat. This will not happen overnight.

On of the factors most overlooked by our male counterparts is finding the "what's in it for me" from a women's point of view. Most assume, "since I like sailing, why wouldn't my wife like sailing". In order to get her buy in, she needs to feel motivated to learn and participate based on something that she could get out of the equation.

I highly recommend that you read "Changing Course - A Woman's Guide to Choosing the Cruising Life" by Debra Ann Cantrell. After you read the book, make sure your wife reads it too. However it would be best received if you can get another women to recommend this book to her or give to her as a gift.

Not only am I now a sailing spouse, I am ready to leave our shore based life for the cruising life, can't wait! Now I just have to convince my husband

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