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Old 16-01-2006, 12:19   #1
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Successful Paths for Cruising Couples

At the end of another thread ("why do occasional sailors who buy large"), a discussion about sailing with spouses began. Some believe boat size is really important for their wives in terms of cruising. Randy Abernethy pointed out that we should distinguish between women sailors and women who sail (cruise with their husbands, I believe).

I'd be interested in hearing other's success stories concerning cruising couples. Did it mean buying a bigger boat, or was there a "pattern" of introducing one's spouse to sailing that others could learn from. Did you purposely take certification courses together, for example? It would be great to hear from a couple where the man was hesitant and less experienced than the wife in terms of cruising (this does occur).

I've been thinking of this for two reasons: one, I heard Nancy Erley talk at the Seattle Boat Show last week. She's the captain of Tethys (http://www.tethysoffshore.com/) , and has done two circumnavigations with women crews (taking new students as crew around the globe). As a woman sailor, her confidence and relaxed competence was really apparent, and I was struck again that it might be a great idea for my wife to do a cruise with her in a year or two. Erley is planning to circumnavigate again.

I've also been reading "The Oceans Are Waiting" by Sharon Ragle, and the range of berserk responses she got when placing an ad in Cruising World for a long distance cruising companion. It worked, but the wheat to chaff on the responses was pretty radical.

Anyway, I respect Randy's point about women sailors vs. women who sail, but I also know I'd rather cruise with another sailor. To begin, that means a possibly smaller boat that my wife can handle without me (sailing with her friends, or if I got sick or incapacitated). In one of the Pardey's Seraffyn books, for example, it was clear there was a lot of pride when Lin took out Seraffyn on her own when Larry wasn't around. My wife can also get off more time than I can in the summers, meaning she might cruise with our kids while I work.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 16-01-2006, 23:19   #2
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Jim, you make some interesting points, and if I had seen this thread earlier, I would have posted my last post here instead of the other thread. I think most of us would be happy to have half the sailing skill that Lin has. It is also important to recognize that this is not simply a factor of wives with less sailing experience having different criteria for boat selection. THere are a number of couples that include an inexperienced husband and a wife who is the seasoned sailor. It is interesting to compare the criteria put forth by the experienced sailor when that person is male vs female. The most important factor is to find a comfort level that fits both crew. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes allot of couples make, in that the experienced sailor may sacrifice, for the benefit of the other persons comfort, some of those characteristics that make the boat safer for the experienced sailor to handle. If the wife happens to have the experience, and happens to be 4'10 and barely a hundred pounds, but feels her husband will feel more secure on a 40' sloop with 500' of mainsail, that is a recipe for trouble. She may not have the physical strength to handle that sail, and he will not have the skills to deal with it in a blow. On the other hand, when the husband has the experience, but is a tinkerer, and goes for a smaller boat, say 30', in consideration of her ability to handle the boat, after a week couped up in a 30' boat with projects spread out on the saloon table, she is going to get a little testy.
IMHO the boat should be of a size that can be handled by the weakest crew member single handed. It should have the rigging and systems set up to the abilities of the least experienced crew member, and it should provide sufficient living space that the habits of any crew member will not effect the living space of the rest of the crew. This is a tall order, but anything less will lessen the experience for all crew members. Finding this balance may be difficult, but it is not impossible.
This is less about husbands and wives than it is about the boat and the crew. Even the Pardeys would be in trouble alone on a hundred foot barq. (And Larry started on tall ships)
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Old 17-01-2006, 05:54   #3
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I'd support your idea, Jim H.........

I'm one of the lucky ones who have been able to sail with my partner for over 20 years, both racing and cruising, and enjoy ourselves.
I'd support your idea of having a female partner to go crewing with other ladies at what some may call 'equality' sailing - as I've seen this work for us.
Back in mid nineties Sue was invited to join a club team in a Ladies State Championship sailing some Farr 36's in a pretty competitive 8 boat fleet. The two month training and preparation for the series combined with participation in the event did provide an new opportunity for to improve her sailing competencies and perhaps express herself better than maybe possible as part of a male dominated race crew. If I recall they came 3rd overall which certainly helped build confidence.
IMHO the participation made Sue an even better sailor, and I am equally sure it increased her enjoyment of the sport.

And in my view, if one is happily married and wants to spend a lot of time sailing, it is well worth taking the time to ensure ones partner enjoys it just as much as you do - or you'll find you won't be doing too much of it!

Cheers
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Old 17-01-2006, 11:00   #4
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John [ swagman] said it -- I'm also one of the real lucky ones. My wife has been sailig and racing with me for 20 years. She gained tremedous confidence when we cruised from Chicago to Annapolis on our old Frers 36 and as we raced her.

We developed our 'ideal' cruising boat requirements together balancing performance and comfort first and then throwing budget into the mix. For years we wanted serious performance above all and our ideal boats looked like a Santa Cruz 52 or an Able Apogee 50. Of course we could not afford them but that was what we [not just me] lusted for.

Over time as reality set in what we knew and also we able to handle changed -- but what we never lost site of is that waterline length matters. Greater length = faster passages as long as you had enough sail area for the mass [SA/D ratio was OK.

Jill can sail the boat in any condition by herself. Do we need each other in certain circumstances - of course -- but it's not ability driven it's you just need more than 2 hands - like docking a 47 ft, 30,000 lb center cockpit boat.

IMHO the answer to the question is not just bigger is the answer but what addresses your requirements from a cruising perspective. How far, how long, full time, money, ability, confidence etc.

We think we have the right boat -- we'll find out over the next few years living aboard and cruising. If it's too big we can downsize -- but something tells me that won't happen. Being able to have your own space is something we have learned is a good thing.

Hope this helps -- happy to answer any specific questions.
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Old 17-01-2006, 11:30   #5
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Thanks very much-- the responses so far are really high quality. My wife has only been sailing for a year, but my goal is like those posted-- 20 years of sailing together on a more equal basis of ability and interest, and how to reach that goal.

It's fascinating that racing came up twice so far. We're early in the process, but we're gearing up to race this year for the first time. My wife is going to "campaign" our 20 footer in a month-long women's series and she has her crew lined up. We just got the "race book" for our area, and I need to start learning as well so we can do some beercan races together. We also have an accepted bid on a 27 footer that was raced and might be fun to compete in as well.

It's worth noting that racing was part of many cruising couples' backgrounds (the Pardey's, Lisa Copeland, and others).

Neither of us are very competitive types, and coming in second from last might be a major accomplishment, but there's no question that what can be learned is worth the effort and likely embarassement at the start.

I also like the idea noted above that one's partner should always be able to sail the boat alone-- not necessarily single-handing to Hawaii, but comfortably in control when the other isn't around. I want to be careful as our learning curve progresses (slowly) not to jump to a challenge that isn't comfortable for both of us.

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Old 19-01-2006, 06:28   #6
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Racing is a great way to learn more

Hi Jim,
Fully support your intent to take up racing - it is a great way to learn more about sailing a boat to it's optimum in possibly the shortest period possible.
I would not be to worried about how long it might take to work your way up a race fleet.
When we entered our first race I'd also read all the books etc - but once the gun banged all the other boats dissappeared off over the horizon sailing an angle I could not even dream of reaching!
And where did they all go?????
Just finding the marks seemed in itself a major exercise. By the time we'd got back to the clubhouse that day they had presented the results, finished their drinks, packed up and gone home!
It did not take away from the pleasure - and we came back for more.
We slowly learnt more and graduated through a number of yachts from the first 20 foot trailer sailor up to offshore designs and within three years felt we finally knew what we were doing to win the trohies. And from first race to last - we enjoyed every single outing.
I believe the dicipline of 'having' to turn out on a race day (as other crew expected us there) all helped build upon our sailing skills etc. Some days when 35 + knots was obvious from the bedroom window we might have chosen to tuck back down if we were only aiming to cruise. Racing - we had to go out - and had to learn how to handle the stuff that can get thrown at you.

So please do excuse my ramblings and enthusiasm - I think racing is a superb way to learn how to sail better and I still miss it today. So again, I applaud you guys for taking it up.

Enjoy
JOHN
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Old 19-01-2006, 10:21   #7
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Race days

A wonderful excuse to go sailing. Our fleet races once per week from Early March to very late October or early November. Then there are other regattas in between. The competing boats get used the most as they are always out. Extreme weather is the only thing that stops the race, we have to get the fizz boat out to the start line. In my opinion this is a wnderful place to learn boat handling skills. I just purchased a second boat just for the races.
It is also a chance to introduce new crew.
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Old 20-01-2006, 11:55   #8
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John, thanks for the encouragement. We're equal parts excited and terrified. We may even have to learn to use one of those spinnaker things...

On the other hand, it's fun to think about racing on a regular basis. There's also an annual Oregon Offshore race from Astoria to Victoria (about 200 miles) that's fun to dream about.

Tomorrow, we get to test sail the C&C 27, and the survey is set for Tuesday.

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Old 20-01-2006, 14:12   #9
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Jim: I am a Portlander as well. Girlfriend and I have been doing the ASA courses, a good number of charters, etc for about 5 years now. I used to own a small cruiser when I lived on the east coast. We are older than you and most of the kids are gone but not all. If you want to communicate send me a message. wallm@ohsu.edu
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Old 20-01-2006, 15:05   #10
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Quote:
wallm once whispered in the wind:
Jim: I am a Portlander as well. Girlfriend and I have been doing the ASA courses, a good number of charters, etc for about 5 years now.
Hi, Wallm. This site is becoming polluted with Portland, OR sailors, and it's a good thing.

You're years ahead of us, but we'll be doing our ASA bareboat certification in Bellingham, WA in May, and hopefully our first week-long charter in San Juans in July. If we buy the C&C 27, we hope to do a week-long cruise to Astoria and back in August.

I'll send you an email-- if the rain every stops, maybe I'll see you on the river.

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Old 22-01-2006, 00:10   #11
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Successful paths for cruising couples

Recent posts concerning boat size and women sailors prompted me to post my first note to your forum...my husband and I have a 34 foot boat, one of the smallest on our pier. She is also definately smaller that any of our boat friends' vessels...yet, she is perfect for us. I love that I can manage everything on her by myself in the event my husband is unable to. Everything we have set up on her is done so that one person, the weakest, (me) can do it alone if necessary....I can put up and take down all the sails, inflate, launch, and put outboard on the dinghy, handle the liferaft and all ground tackle byself. Just knowing that I can manage most things alone gives me an enormous sense of security...When we chose her, it was for her seaworthyness, her beautiful lines , and , from my insistance, her size. I would rather spend boat bucks on quality than on interior volume. I don't have the spacious salons my friends have, but I have a boat I am comfortable handling, is well built and well designed, and, the most important thing, is that she makes my heart sing every time I see her.
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Old 22-01-2006, 02:40   #12
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Grace, welcome. We agree with you whole heartedly. When we first started our search for a cruising boat, the surveyor we were using advised us that the lenght of a cruising boat should be equal to the average age of the crew. Fortunately, we didn't listen. Our first cruising boat was 34' and if we had deeper pockets, we would probably still have that boat, but after the 25000 we invested, and the 78000 the current owner has invested, she is still a couple of months from going back in the water. Hard to justify investing that much in a 40 year old wood boat, but she sure was a pleasure to sail.
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Old 22-01-2006, 02:51   #13
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Hey Kai Nui,
Does that mean Sue & I are 14 feet too short or 14 years too old? We went small (ish), single handed capable & can even reef from the cockpit. All pretty much on the Admiral's advice. Nice & easy but she still has to remind me to be a bit less intense, we have all the time in the world. Looking forward to living life at a less hectic pace.
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Old 22-01-2006, 02:57   #14
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No, it means that if we had kept working on that boat, by the time we could afford to leave we would need to upgrade to a 85 footer Actually, if the 88000 in prolems that that surveyor missed is any indication of his knowledge of boats, I suppose I should not put much credence to his advice.
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Old 22-01-2006, 09:59   #15
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Re: Successful paths for cruising couples

Quote:
grace c. once whispered in the wind:
I can put up and take down all the sails, inflate, launch, and put outboard on the dinghy, handle the liferaft and all ground tackle byself. Just knowing that I can manage most things alone gives me an enormous sense of security...
Wow, Grace, great first post. You've summed up the exact philosophy that my wife and I hope to follow. I'm still bewildered that other couples don't see the logic and beauty of it.

I have to admit that I owe a lot to a woman sailor-- Tania Aebi. It was her book, Maiden Voyage, that really woke me up again to thinking about serious sailing. On another board I heard that she recently talked at a boat show (likely about her new book), and she also argued in favor of smaller boats and against the exaggerated arguments for big boats. Not to mention the costs associated with them... Our "dream boat" at the moment is a Crealock 34, like Herb Payson had/has with his wife.

I also think that's great that you joined us. Some of the current threads on this board are really disappointing in the way new posters are being greeted, but I really enjoy hearing new voices, new experiences and new examples of how decisions are made.

Thanks!

Jim H
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