I believe there needs to be clear distinction and communication style between "sailing partners" vs "life partners". I think the two can function and are quite healthy, so long as it is understood by both that these are very different power dynamics, understood by all the "when" and "why" this needs to be.
My wife and I have had terse moments and stern words, sometimes yelling. But at no time disparaging or hurtful (unless having a non sailing related relationship dispute that has spiralled out of control). It has occurred once where the two sailing/relationship dispute coincided and thought this an important story to share.
We are both from different native language backgrounds (Australian and German) so communication is often not natural and extra explanation is needed. I have sailed since age 10, on and off for 32 years and my wife born in a landlocked city only a recent developing master of the wind
. Despite long experience, I admit I am no sailing expert and have much to learn myself.
We were heading back out of the protection of a bay under motor
and the wind was not pleasant, causing a nasty chop and funnelling into the bay. Once we hit the full force, I realised the wind and swell was far stronger than anticipated and could see some gear
shifting as it was not quite stowed as well as it should be in these conditions. I asked my wife to take the helm
, but she refused since we had just been having an argument. In any case I popped the throttle in neutral, and walk up to the bow to secure the gear
. Of course this blew us quickly off course and brought us beam-to the swell and wind, causing us to dangerously pitch
, roll and yaw. I sliced my foot on a deck
fitting, was not happy and swore black and blue. I was not proud of myself nor the situation.
As any leader or manager (whether man or woman) it is vitally important that there is a single
point of command, particularly in the event of an urgent or imminent emergency
situation. Think Emergency Medical
Triage, Piloting Aircraft, Skydiving, or Rock climbing. Experience, Knowledge, Preparation, Procedure, and Control are vitally important. These aspects are also vital when sailing, particularly when weather
conditions are not ideal.
A modern relationship (between man and woman, or same sex) is more based on equity sharing of power. This is where when sailing as a couple, the lines of leadership and management can become blurred and issues arise.
A few times when sailing I had to raise my voice with my wife, only because instructions were not followed, as she saw it that she knew better. This is OK in the normal relationship situation, my wife can do what she sees fit at any time although I may not agree. In safety
of our home, we can discuss or argue within reason as we like. This is how healthy relationships evolve.
However in sailing, where there is potential disaster when deviating from instruction (close quarters, wind gusts, etc); deviation or self determination in face of command is not prudent. Normally in these situations I have loudly reiterated the instructions and declared their importance. Then afterwards when out of danger
, calmly explained the whys and wherefores of the instructions and the reason for them, potential danger
I love my wife, she is a very intelligent woman and very talented in her ability to learn sailing. I admire that she analyses and questions everything and understand this is the key to successful learning
. However sometimes it is also important to act and not question, when the stakes are high. It is also then important to analyse and discuss later, when more prudent.
We have discussed the reasons and mechanics behind this sailing "command and control" dynamic and both agree, though sometimes the "relationship dynamic" overpowers that of the sailing one. It is Important that all sailing couples have this conversation, both honestly explore and understand the different power dynamics at play. I have learned that a firm, clear, measured statement is more effective than a blustered, frustrated, yelled one.