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Old 27-10-2008, 08:16   #1

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Question getting the wife to feel more confident

OK ladies help me out here. My wife and I are new to sailing this year. We are both bareboat cetified and took lessons together as we figured we may as well start right out learning each others "methods". We sailed by ourselves probably around 20 times this year after the lessons and now have what I consider a good base of experience to use to improve our skill etc. But, she doesn't really like to be on the helm, while for some odd reason likes to handle the lines (maybe just because that means she isn't on the helm). I'm not a yeller and say over and over that when out in mostly open water that there isn't really any "mistake" that is all that important because we just correct it and continue on our way (as long as nothing gets broke and no-one gets hurt I always feel the best learning is when you did something wrong). Granted that everyone can get scared if the boat gets overpowered, but of course one needs to feel they know what to do when this happens. She seemed to be a lot more comfortable back taking the lessons even though the instructor really spend more time below than in the cockpit so that we would take "ownership" of the boat. I feel it is very important that she feels comfortable in making her boat handling decisions and being in charge while at the helm, and at the same time it would make me happier knowing she feels she do this in case I ever go overbroad. So ladies, what is your advise to me on ways to help her get there?

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Old 27-10-2008, 08:47   #2
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Do you live in an area where there are regular regattas? I had a blast and really sharpened my confidence and sailing skills racing with a group of easy going, yet knowledgeable people without my then boyfriend (now he's my husband). Doing it over and over in many different situations with the teamwork element thrown in was a great learning experience at the time.

Or try getting access to a small boat that she can go out and sail by herself. A little day sailor sunfish/ laser type boat. That's how I initially leaned how to sail when I was a kid. Nobody in my family did ANY boating. But a neighbor had a Sunfish and I took it out on Lake Michigan all the time and just played with the feel of the tiller and the mainsheet in my hand and really learned to trust that connection between me and the boat and the elements.

Good luck!

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Old 27-10-2008, 10:59   #3
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I'll second sending her out in a dinghy that she can sail by herself. Worked wonders in building my wife's sailing abilities and confidence even though she had thousands of miles on a big (35') boat.

btw, I hate to steer. First thing I do after shutting the engine down is engage the wind vane. Anyone can steer a boat, it takes real talent to pull the strings and things to get the boat moving at her best.

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Old 27-10-2008, 11:14   #4

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Yeah I kind of like to pull the strings etc more than steering also.
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Old 27-10-2008, 11:31   #5
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If your wife does not know how to steer the boat then by all means work on bringing her confidence up by using some of the above suggestions but if she just prefers to handle the lines as opposed to being at the helm then I do not understand the problem.
I am always the one that handles the lines when docking as well as setting the anchor, picking up mooring lines does not mean I can't handle the boat I just prefer handling the lines. I am glad my husband does not complain about my preference. Besides he prefers to let the autopilot steer and I do not complain about that
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Old 27-10-2008, 11:59   #6
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Maybe a brush up at a womans sailing school would help. send her to a docking class at the maryland school of seamanship. Or really anywhere by herself, I think couples should not be on the same boat while taking classes. I dont yell, but can be overbearing sometimes with out my knowlege. Next time we will be on diffrent boats, I'm sure she would get more out of it with out me sometimes. I do love her, but I have to remember that we are NOT mind readers.
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Old 27-10-2008, 12:18   #7
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i have a similar situation and have found that my wife is not strong enough to handle the lines on my boat. so i have to fill in there as well. but hey at least she is out there!!
some of the best times of my life were spent on a boat. it just took a long time to realize it

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Old 27-10-2008, 14:08   #8
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You need confidence to feel comfortable. Training and experience are the best ways to get there but when it becomes familiar you get more relaxed and can actually concentrate on the details easier. I think we all get more of each over time but not all at the same rate. I don't see it as something you can force. If you have pursued down the training track correctly then practice and just time on the water start to make things feel familiar is all that is left. Encouragement and some positive reenforcement is about the best things you can do for someone else.

Yelling seems to have a negative effect. Go figure
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Old 27-10-2008, 14:15   #9
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Yeah, why do they do that in the military? builds character, right? not for me.
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Old 27-10-2008, 14:59   #10
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Its not real clear why she does not want to be on the helm. It could be that she is not comfortable with it as you suggest. It could also be that she simply does not like to be on the helm for some other its boring. You are going to have to adapt to her preferences it seems.

If she does choose put herself on a small boat alone, definitely do not put her on a small boat that capsizes easily as was suggested earlier. Put her on a small keelboat with a relatively small a Rhodes 19 or something similar. Whatever you do, do not pressure her into doing something that she does not want to do...that is always bad for a marriage.

There may not be a solution to what you perceive as a problem. To her, it may not be a problem at all.

This may be what is one of those compromises you have to make in a marriage and quite often there is no perfect solution.

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Old 27-10-2008, 14:59   #11
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I find the biggest reason people don't want to steer is when a heading is needed. I wrote on the bulkhead for my wife....LEFT IS LESS...worked wonders.....i2f
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Old 27-10-2008, 15:28   #12

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"Left is Less" - I don't get it.

Not counting when the boat gets overpowered and starts rounding up; I think the helm problem is that she doesn't have a "feel" for the wind and gets off what the boat is trimed for and this makes think she doing something all wrong. I say this because she will make comments like "I'm on the same course". Or I notice she is fighting the boat too much. Since normally we are just sailing and not really going anywhere I normally tell her that to just go with the wind unless she wants the sails retrimmed. She also gets kind of pissed off if I stand up to talk or look around and she cann't see around me because she seems to think something is going to suddenly jump up out of the water and "bite" us.

On the other she goes out with me and says she likes it. So as long she gets better over the next few years to point that she can stand watch and I make sure I have the best autopilot we can manage it will all work out.

PS - she is sitting across the room and I just read this to her and she agrees this the problem, that she doesn't have a feel for the wind as to the boat heading. So next year it is back to the basics, maybe I can get her to do some reading etc.
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Old 28-10-2008, 02:58   #13
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Just a thought.

When the boat gets out of trim do you "intervene"? When she is skippering how much "help" do you give her. You don't mention the boat you are sailing on.

As hard as it seems you have to let them make the decisions - completely.

My boat partner's wife has an issue deciding when and what to do. I don't just let her make mistakes - failure is annoying. But I aks questions early - "Which way are we going to turn and when do you think we'll do it? I want to ready the sheets."

When we I know we are going to be pinching I will start off the wind a bit where it is easy to stay put without luffing. At this point I might ask, "What's our aiming point?" Having a shore target helps with heading control in the begining. If we can pinch higher I'll ask her, "Do you think we can head up higher a bit?"

Let her answer. Let her decide. Let he be in control. The hardest thing to do is let someone else sail...
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Old 28-10-2008, 03:23   #14
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Hard to assess what is going on here. Frankly I don't like the helm either and only hand steer for coming to a dock, getting off a dock or mooring and when there is absolutely wonderful or extremely challenging conditions. The rest of the time I use the auto pilot and spend my time with trim, watch keeping and a bit of navigation.

However, I DO know how my boat handles... especially under power (without sails) which is when it is critical to have control of the boat. Winds and current can make boat handling in close quarters challenging. But all the above depends on the boat - how big. A J24 and a Hallberg Rassy 45 are very different beasts to helm.

My wife doesn't drive or care to do sailing "things" because it does nothing for her. She helps out in ways she can - watch keeping, cleaning and cooking and most of all good company. She does enjoy being out there and cruising to a new place. I also defer to her judgment about whether to sail because of weather. I have sailed thousands of miles for more than 2 decades so being more or a fair weather sailor to make her comfortable is fine with me. It's a sweet price to pay.

But she also stays at home many weekends and I am free to sail or not, singlehanded or with friends, fair weather or foul. ''

There is no competition between us concerning the boat. Yes, I would like her to be more competent in boat handling and operation, but I don't push her because she will only do something which she wants to do. End of story. So effectively, even with her on board I singlehand.

I, on the otherhand have a need to feel confident and somewhat in control of the environment I am in so learn what I can to further that. When I am around competent people I can relax and let them take control. That's nice too.

My philosophy about boating is that you need to be completely self sufficient with your boat or else you are dependant on others to use it. If you can't run it completely yourself, it's hardly "yours". And in that situation you need to find others who can do what you need done... helm, trim, navigate, bleed the fuel system.... The key to my enjoyment is the freedom that can be had from being able to manage a "large" yacht that can take you anywhere... alone, any time, under any conditions.
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Old 28-10-2008, 06:29   #15
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I agree with the post that she should take lessons without you, especially if her natural tendency is to defer to you. If she can get along without you her confidence will improve dramatically. My wife would rather be in the galley than sailing, but she insists on periodically being taught critical things like navigation, motoring, and radio use which will allow her to take over if something happens to me.

Yelling is bad, as it indicates that YOU are out of control. Use the walkie-talkies when anchoring, docking, and close-quarters navigating to avoid raising your voice.

Now I wish I could follow my own advice.

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