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Old 05-02-2018, 07:37   #1
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The unequally capable cruising couple

For some years, I have been married to a woman who I love. I love her still.

Circumstance and the passage of years have caused her to have starkly limited strength and mobility. She suffers a number of interrelated medical conditions that affect her strength and that preclude vigorous exercise. She has the benefit of the best obtainable medical advice, which she follows. She has been told that her condition is stable and unlikely to worsen or improve.

I go to the gym and lift weights several times a week and have average strength and mobility compared to other men who do that.

While there is much that we share, the reality of the situation is that if I'm going to do physically active things outdoors, I have to do them myself, or with my kids etc. As this situation is not new I have a number of activities I pursue this way. We had originally approached cruising in this same light, as something that would be an occasional side adventure of mine away from home.

As I make preparations for upcoming trips, my wife has shown strong interest in coming along. I am of two minds, as I will be delighted to have her company, while at the same time recognizing that it will take a good deal of effort to keep her safe and comfortable. The responsibility I will have for keeping her safe is not one I take lightly.

I imagine she'll be good help keeping a lookout, and making plans, and operating navigation and communications gear, but she will be unable to operate the boat for reasons of strength and mobility.

For some of the first overnight trips, I'll have an RV as a sort of "chase car" so that she'll have an out if she doesn't want to stay on the boat at any point. We will be cruising inland rivers and lakes, including Lake Superior.

I'm thinking of adding some additional steps and handholds to the companionway to make it a little easier for her, but haven't settled upon any other changes to the boat.

I would appreciate any advice and support from people who have been in a similar situation.

I am unwilling to stay home, and I am unwilling to tell her that she has to stay home.
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Old 05-02-2018, 07:56   #2
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

I'd take her.

My wife has rheumatoid arthritis and is unable to crank winches or start our outboard etc, yet she has cruised well over 10,000 miles and 6 years with me.

Having a couple electric winches & furling main really help as basically I single hand all the physical stuff.

In a couple of weeks we'll be crossing to was her idea so I'm thinking she likes it lol.
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Old 05-02-2018, 08:06   #3
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pirate Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

I do long voyages with someone who is physically incapable of doing any serious boat work bar pushing buttons and as the lookout when I need sleep.. same age as me but 4ft 10" and weighs in at around 38kgs.. 42kgs when feeling fat.
I would suggest get her on the boat and work out together what works.. where additional handholds may be needed etc.. let her experiment and work out the options/solutions together.
If you go alone your single handing.. if she goes with you your single handing with help.. nothing to stop her being navigator and planner, and as you say a watch keeper.
If you sail with other folk as crew their safety is still your responsibility.


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Old 05-02-2018, 08:13   #4
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

You clearly love her, and she wants to go with you... i say, take it easy, take your time, and enjoy the journey, together.
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not. Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Old 05-02-2018, 08:16   #5
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

I agree with Boatman. Spend the time to work out, together, what changes or additions will be needed and what she can do. You'll probably both be happier she is there and, as you said, there is an "out" for the first few days if she really doesn't like it.
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Old 05-02-2018, 08:39   #6
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

On light air days and motoring, can she not steer, too?

Good luck.
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:17   #7
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

When I’m solo offshore for several days, I would love to have a companion to stand simply a visual watch while I slumber. Just having a pair of eyes and basic knowledge to wake me if anything unusual occurs would be a blessing.
Additionally, one of the more valuable experiences aboard are those moments of nature’s beauty unsoiled by the trappings of man. Share those moments.
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:18   #8
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

I see your problem as not much different than sailing with small kids. Not only are they unable to help, but they require constant supervision.

I sailed with my kids since they were 2 years old. I recall fetching my son after junior kindergarten, heading down to the marina, and going out for a sail on a windy day. Just me and him. So, as a three year old, not only was he incapable of helping in any meaningful way, but I also had to keep him safe, all while single handing the boat. It was awesome, and was to be repeated many, many times.

Its all about planning and preparation. The most important is to have the appropriate boat. There needs to be several places, both on deck and below, where they can be absolutely safe. Its also about how you sail. I became a fair weather sailor at first. But soon I learned to reef the main before leaving the dock, and other skills like sailing with jib alone. I kept sailing times short, just a few hours at a time, and made sure to end up somewhere pleasant and comfortable at the end of each day. I focused on quality time rather than miles covered.

I took my kids on overnight trips, sometimes a week at a time. Yes, it was often exhausting for me...I had to do all the sailing, cooking, washing, steering, and still find the energy to play with and care for 2 little kids. But it was definitely worth it, a billion times over!!!!

So I say YES, you can do it. But plan well, and discuss ahead of time regarding expectations. I wish you many happy sailing days with your wife.
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:24   #9
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

My wife is 411, so in two boats I added some folding steps, which I end up using as much as she does. She also steers and cooks and presses buttons and provides companionship 😊
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:27   #10
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

What the hell! We regularly meet people in the Med in cruches and wheel chairs who sail, some seriously disabled. They simply adapts their ship and cruising plans accordingly. Where there’s a will there’s a way and this is perticularly true in sailing.
So go for it, be in the moment and share the adventure by involving her in what she can and would like to do. It’s crucial that she be involved. Many tasks require little strength. Just do it!
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:35   #11
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

I've met a couple who are actively ruising where the "he" is in a wheelchair and can't walk at all
jobless, houseless, clueless, living on a boat and cruising around somewhere
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:40   #12
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

I really feel for both of you. I don't have really direct experience - my wife and I sailed 10K miles last year - we have very different capabilities but she is not physically impaired.

What does come to mind is how important the particular boat may be to her enjoyment. If you have, and are committed to your boat, that's great. Otherwise, you may think about boats with fewer stairs, more handholds, less heel and more comfort.

If my wife started to have similar difficulties, I'd think about selling our boat and looking at, say, an o'neill trimaran. All one level, really stable and a great sail.

Best of luck, really.
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:41   #13
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

A- you go singlehanding.
B-you go singlehanding with a helper.
Is that really a tough decision?
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:45   #14
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

She should know how to use the radio to get help and how to get your position from the GPS to tell the help where you are. If she can do that she will be a great sailing companion and a good backup to you should you become injured or fall overboard.
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Old 05-02-2018, 10:52   #15
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Re: The unequally capable cruising couple

This is not so much about sailing as limitations and I give you big big points for caring this much.

My dad lost his sight a few years before I was born and so I grew up with what were called limitations by the rest of the world. What it really was a redefining of standard expectations within the "normal" family. There was a list of things he physically couldn't do and then there was a list of things everyone assumed he couldn't do. He welded, he did algebra in his head, he built a small car and had it licensed for the road, he built a 3 story dollhouse and it had running water and electricity, he bowled and his highest score was 160 - not bad for a blind guy in the 1950's. (I still have all the newspaper clippings from our astonished home newspaper.)

He taught me that mostly I limit myself.

Rig your sailboat for singlehanding and with lots of extra handholds. If your wife wants to come along and try it - why not? Not trying would be a shame.

I wish you much good luck and please let us know how it goes!
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